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It appears that not everyone has given up on biofuels (OK, at least biodiesel). I came across an interesting math in Altenergymag that showed how India could actually become an exporter of crude, yep, exporter.

Here’s how the train of logic runs: “At present India imports around 800 million bbl crude oil per annum. To make this deficit good India needs 8 million more well with an investment of US$ 4 trillion. Contrary to this a plantation of 20 billion biodiesel trees with an investment of US$ 40 billion can produce 900 million bbl crude per annum with amazing other benefit of environment, employment and rural electrification.”

So far, so good. As they say, planning is an enjoyable exercise indeed. When it is time to roll out these plans, the devil crops up from absolutely nowhere.

20 billion biodiesel trees. Nice round number. But what are these trees going to be? Palm or soy? Forget it, those are for food, and anyway I am not entirely sure if we have so much agricultural land for these two crops. Jatropha? Ah well, this tree is yet to provide even a fraction of its expected yield, so let’s hold our horses until we can get some solid real life proof that Jatropha can indeed provide 2 T of oil per hectare per year (right now, the best yields I have heard of are about 0.5 T, and as I said, these are the best yields!). Karanj? Any number of other plants like Jatropha? The bad news is, there is hardly any large scale plantation for any of these trees for us to have any amount of confidence about them.

That really leaves us with the 40 billion dollar question: We have the land and we have the will, but where is the tree?