lunes, 19 de marzo de 2007

Small fuel project holds big promise

A PROJECT to test crops for their oil yields could further spur agricultural and biodiesel production in Hawaii while reducing imports and use of fossil fuel. The research project lines up groups whose collaboration would be needed for success in making biodiesel here.

Partners represent plant growers through the Hawaii Agriculture Research Center and the University of Hawaii-Hilo forestry and agriculture college, the only biodiesel producer in the state, a construction supply company that will run equipment emissions tests on the fuel, as well as the Oceanic Institute, which will separately study plant leftovers for use as fish food.

Four tree crops -- kukui nuts, avocado, coconut and jatropha -- will be tested to see which ones yield the most oil and which oils are most suitable for conversion into fuel to either replace or blend with diesel.

Identifying the best crops will help farmers and agricultural businesses grow feedstock in sufficient quantities. This will help Pacific Biodiesel -- the Maui-based company that uses virtually all the available waste cooking oil in the state to make the alternative fuel -- expand production, and possibly motivate others to enter the market. Businesses that use diesel to power vehicles and equipment, like project participant Grace Pacific, would benefit. Hawaii's environment would also see fewer harmful pollutants.

If plant residues can be converted for use as aquaculture or livestock feed, ranchers and others who raise food animals could see their costs decrease significantly.

Though small, the one-year project holds great potential for cutting the state's reliance on fossil fuels, adding biodiesel to the tools for sustainability.

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