Surely I'm not the only person in the so called "First World" that is both embarrased by our own lack of progress and impressed with Brazils entrpreneurial approach to assisting its Carribean neighbour?
Jamaica is now poised to benefit from bilateral arrangements with Brazil in the area of biodiesel production, which is presenting great opportunities for farmers of the country.
The establishment of two biodiesel plants is being considered with the assistance of Brazil that has over 30 years of experience in the production of fuels.
The arrangement is in the early phase of development, but the exploration of possible crops for the production of biofuel has already begun.
The oil crops presently being grown in Brazil and identified as possible options to be used in the production of biodiesel here, include: soya bean, sunflower, castor bean, cotton seed, peanut - which is used in rotation with sugar for the production of both ethanol and biodiesel, jatropha and macaw palm.
It is not certain whether all of these will be compatible with the Jamaican climate. However, the Scientific Research Council has already done feasability analysis on one of the proposed crops - castor bean, but requires further research to determine which variety to plant.
Brazil's main oil source
The oil content of soya bean is about 20 per cent, with a yield of 3,000 kilogrammes per hectare. It is currently the main source of oil in Brazil. About 34 million tonnes are produced worldwide.
Sunflower's oil content is about 44 per cent of yield, which reaches 1,500 kg per hectare. It can be used for both edible oil and feedstock meal. Production worldwide is about 10 million tonnes.
A it relates to Castor beans, the oil content is 48 per cent. It yields 2,000 kg per hectare. The plant is suitable for growth on marginal lands and under extreme weather conditions.
Jatropha's oil content is 38 per cent with a yield of 4,000kg per hactre and produces inedible oil. Peanut has oil content of 54 per cent and is an attractive market. It produces both edible oil and can be use as meal, with mechanical harvesting possible.
Palm has oil content of 22 per cent with yield of 4,200, the highest of all commercial oil crops. It is however limited to rainy regions with world production of 36 million tonnes.
The production of biodiesel provides the twin goals of reducing petroleum import and supporting the country's agricultural sector.
But production of the biofuel will take an integrated approach, incorporating both the agriculture and fuel industry. The process will also involve small-scale farmers as an integral partner in the process.
Five key concepts
The production of biodiesel includes five key concepts: verticality, demand, competition, coordination and leverage. "These concepts are key to the production process," said Professor Aziz da Silva Jr., who was speaking at a two-day seminar on biofuels organised by the Petroleum Corporation of Jamaica and the Brazilian Embassy at the Pegasus hotel on August 9.
It is anticipated that the demand for biodiesel will increase over the next few years, as it can be used both as an end product and for input in other industries, such as refineries.
Some 500 billion cubic metres of biofuels are produced annually and are presently sold at US$600 per tonne.
A software - biosoft has been developed to conduct sensitivity, and scenario analysis to arrive at the most appropriate production levels using both social and economic indicators.
Brazil's diesel consumption is estimated at 40 billion liters (10.6 billion gallons) per year, with imports accounting for just eight to 10 per cent of consumption.