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Jatropha curcas failing to live up to expectations as sustainable biofuel

The UK newspaper, The Independent’s online edition recently reported how jatropha curcas, the oil-bearing plant that has been touted as the remedy for our transport fuel woes of high prices and greenhouse gas emissions, is failing to live up to expectations. The non-edible plant has been promoted as currently the most sustainable source of biodiesel because it supposedly will grow just about anywhere, requires little water and needs little management. The Indepedent article, citing a report by the UK charity, ActionAid, says that actual experiences by farmers in developing countries growing the plant have shown poor results. Cultivating jatropha on poor soil yields low yields that provide no profits for farmers. In India, farmers were enticed to plant jatropha with the promise of a boom in demand but have found no buyer for their oil-bearing seeds. Similar articles have appeared at OneWorld UK. The Philippine government, in its alternative fuel program, has also promoted jatropha as an ideal biodiesel source (instead of expensive coconut oil) but has not progressed beyond experimental plantations and field tests and has built no infrastructure to support the industry.

The debate on the impact of industrial biofuels on the poor and on the climate continues. This is partly due to the EU directive that seeks to require that 10 percent of its transport fuels be sourced from renewable sources by 2020. Locally, the biofuels law already mandates a 5 percent biodiesel blend with producers clamoring to raise that to 10 percent. Such a law is an implicit subsidy on these more expensive fuels and forces motorists to use biofuels even if their supposed social and environmental benefits are are doubtful. ActionAid has two publications on the negative impacts of biofuels, particularly jatropha on farmers and food that may be accessed here and here . A Friends of the Earth report on jatropha in Swaziland is available here . More materials on contrarian views on biofuels are available on these organizations respective websites (ActionAid and Friends of the Earth ). These reports complement AER’s own report on biofuels development in the Philippines and the apparently minimal benefits on the poor farmers who supply the feedstocks.

FOI LAW HANGS IN THE BALANCE. CAN SPEAKER NOGRALES PUT HIS HOUSE IN ORDER ON MAY 31?

LAST February 2 and 3, the last two days before Congress adjourned for the elections, the House of Representatives failed to take up the ratification of the Bicameral Conference Committee Report on the Freedom of Information Act.

The members of the House of Speaker Prospero Nograles were caught up in conflicts largely partisan and personal, that they could not bother with important and urgent public-interest legislation. Repeatedly, the rival camps questioned the presence of a quorum on both days.

In the end, the ratification of the Freedom of Information Act fell by the wayside, collateral casualty to the little wars of the honorable members of the House.

We had hoped to see that, as promised in his press statements earlier, Speaker Nograles would submit the FOI for ratification by the House before the members adjourn to campaign for the elections. We had hoped to see proof that Speaker Nograles could demonstrate leadership and get his House in order.

FOI ON TRACK, WE LOOK AHEAD TO RATIFICATION OF BICAM REPORT

After long struggle, the passage of the Freedom of Information Act is finally near at hand!

At the resumption of session last Monday (18 January), we marched to the
House of Representatives with a rally contingent of 1000 to call on our
House of Representatives to stand for Freedom of Information. With
Committee on Public Information Chairman Bienvenido Abante, Jr., Vice
Chairman Eduardo Zialcita, Committee TWG Chairman Lorenzo “Erin” Tañada
III, and Minority member Rufus Rodriguez, we met with Speaker Prospero
Nograles to appeal for the immediate constitution of the House Panel to
the Bicameral Conference Committee on the Freedom of Information Act.

We
were not frustrated. The final act of Congress before it adjourned for
the day was the naming of the following members to the House Panel:
Rep. Bienvenido Abante, Jr. (Chairman), Rep. Eduardo Zialcita, Rep.
Lorenzo “Erin” Tañada III, Rep. Rodolfo Antonino, Rep. Jesus Crispin
Remulla, Rep. Rodante Marcoleta for the Majority, and Rep. Joel
Villanueva and Rep. Cinchona Cruz-Gonzales for the Minority.