Sow a fuel crop

Pakistan is a heavy importer of fossil fuels, the total value of imported fuel running into billions of dollars every year. Given the precarious global economic climate, Pakistan needs to increase its energy security by producing as much energy in-house as it can. One possibility lies in development of the alternative energy sources, of which one option is bio-diesel derived from crop waste, wild plants and trees growing on marginal land. In addition, the focus should be towards non-edible oil producing feed stocks as initiated by the Alternative Energy Development Board. PSO and NED University have identified several non-edible vegetable oils such as castor, pongame and jatropha for further research. These plants can grow very easily on marginal lands and, if planted on a large scale for bio diesel production, can reduce petroleum imports and free up valuable finances that can be invested elsewhere in the economy. Bio diesel is a sustainable, cleaner burning fuel as compared to mineral diesel derived from crude oil. Hence, further research is recommended as is the need to determine a possible marketing and supply chain mechanism for bio diesel production and distribution in Pakistan. In this respect, a university-industry linkage should be taken up on priority basis with backing of the government. -MONA HAMID, Karachi, October 13.