Paliza Shrestha, Mount Holyoke College
Current ways of energy use is unsustainable
Demand for renewable energy sources is expected to rise in future
Biofuel gaining worldwide popularity since first manufactured in
U.S. promoting industrial biofuel to solve climate crisis
Small scale biofuel projects sprouting in rural communities
What is biofuel?
Liquid fuel produced from plant
Category: Biodiesel, ethanol,
methanol, pure vegetable oil
An alternative to petroleum
Biodiesel feed stocks:
• Rapeseed/ Mustard seed
•Used restaurant oil
Palm seeds Coconut seeds
Sunflower seeds Corn Soybean seeds
Alcohol (Ethanol, Methanol)
Glycerine molecule which
is separated out
Esters of 3
fatty acid chains
How is biodiesel made?
Industrial biofuel and environmental degradation
• Massive deforestation in tropical rainforest in Indonesia to convert to oil palm
– 8% of global CO2 emissions
• 21% of Brazil’s agricultural land converted to soy bean plantation
– Displaced over 300,000 people
• Since Jan 2003, 70,000 km2 of Amazon rainforest cleared for biofuel production
• Forests and soil store 3x the amount of CO2 than does the atmosphere
• High production costs (energy)
• Competition between food crop and fuel crop
• Price increases in world grains, cereals and vegetable oils
Can biofuels work sustainably?
I think so…
At the local level in isolated rural communities with
• intermingled with development projects
• effective government policies to protect farmers from competition
• Small scale biodiesel plants in developing countries had led to
• rural electrification
• improving irrigation & agriculture
• job creation
• women empowerment
• power to local community
• self sufficiency
Biodiesel plant to power butter
processing equipment, Ghana, initiated
by women’s group and UNIFEM
An hour of pedaling activity converts
vegetable oil to biodiesel in an Indian village.
The fuel is used to run irrigation pumps, tillers,
rice hulling mills and generate electricity.
Steps to initiating pilot projects in rural
• Mobilize community groups , e.g. 10 to 15 households
• Awareness workshops including gender sensitivity
• Engage local men and women in interactive dialogue and discussions
• Install irrigation pump and oil expeller for each community group
• Provide skill training and instruction manuals
• Form Village energy committee
• Encourage household to plant jatropha plants in their private wastelands or
in poorer sections of their field, e.g. on the borders of the fields
• Conduct technical and business skill training to women from preparing
organic fertilizer from oil cake to producing vegetable cash crops to sell in
• Establish a small micro-finance bank so villagers can take loans
Greg Pahl. Biodiesel: Growing a new energy economy. 2007. Chelsea Green Publishing Company,
White Rive Junction, VT.
Biofuels for transport: Global potential and implications for sustainable energy and agriculture.
Worldwatch Institute. 2007. Camden High Street, London, UK.
Biofuels for sustainable rural development and empowerment of women. 2009. ENERGIA. The
Vandana Shiva. Soil Not Oil. 2008. South End Press, Cambridge, MA.