The conservation of conventional energy i.e. petrol, diesel, etc has become a matter of great concern for the whole world. So we are finding different ways to solve this problem. We are trying to shift our dependence on other sources of energy. Jatropha is also an important source of energy for producing biodiesel.

Jatropha curcas is a drought and pest-resistant plant. It produces seeds containing up to 40% non-edible oil. The plant has large green to pale-green leaves with flowering nature. The fruits are produced in winter or throughout the year depending on temperature and soil moisture. The seeds become mature when the capsules change from green to yellow. This shrub is approximately 2 meters in height which can grow almost anywhere including wastelands, gravelly, sandy, and saline soils. It can thrive on even some of the poorest stony soil and will grow in crevices of rocks. The complete germination is achieved within 9 days. It survives and thrives on a mere 250 mm (10 inches) a year. The ploughing and planting are not needed regularly since the shrub will continue to grow for about forty years. The plant responds negatively to organic fertilizers like manure during germination. The use of pesticides is not necessary due the pesticide, poisonous, and fungicidal properties of the plant. It begins yielding after 9-12 months. However, effective yield comes only after 2-3 years. Jatropha is native to Central America but it has now become naturalized to India, Africa, North America and parts of Asia.

The workflow of producing biodiesel plant:-
The jatropha plant is cultivated in the required area. The fruits which contain non-edible oil and protein are harvested. Then the oilseeds are grinded and blended mechanically which produces plant oil and residue. After this the plant oil are processed and filtered. The detoxified proteins are used as animal feed, or the compressed residue as fertilizer. The plant oil are purified as biodiesel.

The bio fuel obtained from jatropha are advantageous than petrol. It results in low emissions and reduction in unburned hydrocarbons, CO, SO2 and particulate matter and there is slight increase in Nitrogen Oxide (NOX). The energy content is also increased from 70% to 94%. This also increases the employment in our country as harvesting is labor intensive. This does not take the place of eating land as these are not grown in agricultural land. The seed oil extracted from this plant are used directly as electricity generators, farm machines, indoor lighting, etc.

A great deal of uncertainties exists when it comes to Jatropha as a biofuel source. These uncertainties can be grouped into two categories:
1. Production and Refinery Uncertainties - The lack of domestication of the plant. The bi-product of the plant are utilized in many ways. The plant seed results into varying estimates of oil.
2. Economic and Political Viability Uncertainties- Viability and differences with large scale production. The subsidy rates fixed by the government wherever it is required.

Jatropha helps in the reduction of dependence on foreign oil. Now, biodiesel is becoming popular as it assist in employment creation and in gaining energy independence. According to the Ministry of Rural Development in India, only 173 million of 306 million hectares of land are used for cultivation, while the remaining land is either eroded farm land or non-arable wasteland. Such barren and unused land can be used for Jatropha production.

India's Planning Commission recommended a national mission on biofuel, specifically Jatropha:
ï‚" Stage 1 - 500,000 hectares of jatropha grown on government land across the country. The fuel would be produced at the village level by local governing bodies.
ï‚" Stage 2 - India's central government would plant a total of 12 million hectares of the plant and privatizing the production of jatropha biodiesel.

In December, 2007, Goldman Sachs identified Jatropha as a potentially strong source of biofuel for the future. The growing investment in India, China and Africa has made this plant to create a lot of hype around the possible fuel source. Even European companies are looking for new fuel sources i.e. Jatroph.

Jatropha is now being considered as the perfect source of energy as it has the capability to defeat the hike in the prices of fuel. This results in a possible long-term alternative to run the automobiles. This motivates people to move towards green energy sources which are environmentally beneficial. It is not going to affect the food prices as it does not trade off with food producing crops. One of the greatest concerns when it comes to biofuels is the cost per barrel of fuel. Recent studies have shown that ethanol, for instance, has huge costs in the refining stages which ultimately render it inefficient without the large government subsidies. The electricity production and various transportation issues can be solved by using Jatropha oil.

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Geetanjali Murari
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