By Ian MacKinnon

Taken from

Jatropha has been planted across Asia in countries under pressure from the West to reduce emissions from the destruction of rainforests, car exhausts and energy production from coal-burning power plants.

But the study for the anti-poverty agency ActionAid and the RSPB of a proposed 50,000 hectare jatropha plantation development in the Dakatcha woodlands of Kenya, near Malindi, found that emissions in producing the biofuel would be 2.5 to six times higher than the fossil fuel equivalents. The woodland hosts globally endangered bird life.

The research examined the whole "life-cycle" of the jatropha production, primarily the clearance of woodland and scrubland, planting, harvesting, refining and transportation of the bio-diesel destined for heating and electricity production in Europe.

"Biofuels are far from the miracle climate cure they were thought to be," said Tim Rice, ActionAid's biofuel expert. "Like most other biofuels, jatropha could actually end up increasing carbon emissions."

Demand for biofuels is soaring around the globe, especially in developed countries where they are subsidised because they hold out the prospect of lower emissions. New EU targets under the Renewable Energy Directive (RED) requires 10 per cent of transport to be powered by renewable by 2020, almost entirely from biofuels.

The growing demand for biofuels led many Asian countries to plan vast plantations of jatropha, which grows on land unsuitable for food production, to feed the imminent gold rush and counter their own green house gas emissions.

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