Gov’t eyeing $8b investment in biofuel production


MINISTER of Science, Technology, Energy, and Mining Phillip Paulwell is urging players in the private sector to put their money into the development of biofuel as an alternative to petroleum-based fuel.


The minister, who was speaking last week following a series of workshops billed ‘Sustainable biofuels in Jamaica — Legal and Technical Components’ at the Jamaica Pegasus Hotel in Kingston, said that biofuel is one of the energy sources that, if developed, can provide numerous opportunities for investment and job creation.

PAULWELL... we are now on the right path

PAULWELL… we are now on the right path


He said however, that its development should not be left entirely up to the Government.


“I think we are now on the right path to achieving a tremendous investment in this area and $7-$8 billion worth of investment potential is not something that we should be scoffing at and indeed it should be promoted and it is not the Government alone that should be doing this,” he said.


“We can no longer depend on fossil fuels to meet our energy needs, not least because of the volatility in prices, or the many other factors: geo-political issues in oil-rich nations, the contraction of the number of oil reserves, the seemingly ever-increasing cost and the impact on the environment,” the minister said.


“The truth is,” he continued, “fossil fuels are a finite source of energy and while we foresee them being a part of our energy mix for some time to come, Jamaica must do the work today to wean ourselves off those fuels and towards renewables and other innovative sources of energy.”


The minister pointed out that biofuels are considered among the most promising alternative energy sources of the new millennium, and have been proposed as an ecologically benign alternative to fossil fuels.


“The benefits of biofuels have brought this Government’s attention to biofuel production in the mid-to-long term, expecting to replace partially the use of fossil fuels for transport,” he said.


Youth Crime Watch Jamaica in collaboration with the University of the West Indies, launched a biodiesel pilot project which will convert used cooking oil to biodiesel and glycerol, which is used in a range of products including toothpaste, soaps, hair care products and as a preservative and sweetener in foods. The initiative is financed to the tune of US$500,000 by the Global Environment Programme Small Grants Facility, which is implemented by the United Nations Development Fund.


Biofuel can be produced from sugar cane, corn, castor bean and recycled vegetable oil, among other things. It has been found to have less pollutants than petroleum diesel. Two potential negative effects of its production, however, are reduced access to food and an increased cost of those items.


Against that background, Paulwell said that the workshops were relevant as they sought to guide policy makers to designing a legal framework that avoids the negatives while taking advantage of the well-known benefits of biomass energy.


Paulwell told the meeting that Jamaica’s biofuel programme has been assisted since 2008 by the Brazilian and US governments in the areas of capacity building, knowledge transfer, development of a draft biofuel policy and a study into the feasibility of biofuel development in Jamaica.


For her part, Dr Joan Neil, representative in Jamaica from the Organisation of American States announced the start of two programmes — the Life-Cycle Assessment and Sustainable Biofuel Development and Legal Preparedness for Sustainable Biofuel Development.


“These projects are intended to foster fast-paced sustainable development of biofuel in Jamaica,” she said, noting that the two programmes were part of the recommendation of the pre-feasibility study.


The workshop included stakeholders in the renewable energy sector and looked at the entire process of producing biofuel, its impact on the environment, its contribution to climate change, the amount of energy that can be produced, as well as the legal component which addresses the barriers to the development of biofuel in Jamaica.


Source: Jamaica Observer