Mexico could become leader in biofuels production due to its progress in using Jatropha, study of agave plant as biofuel feedstocks; country has plenty of marginal land, but laws make it difficult to buy enough at competitive prices, experts say

LOS ANGELES , August 15, 2011 () – Mexico’s progress in using Jatropha and studying the agave plant as feedstocks for biofuel production could make it a leader in the sector, but buying land to cultivate the crops at competitive prices is difficult due to the country’s laws, say experts, reported Cable New Network (CNN) on Aug. 13.

An Oxford study recently published supports the use of agave plants to make ethanol. The plant, which is native to Mexico, can be grown on arid land and emits less than half the carbon dioxide of corn-based ethanol, said Oliver Inderwildi, one of the study’s authors.

Mexico would be “absolutely a perfect country” to produce biofuel, except for its practice of collectively holding land in rural areas, known as the ejido system, said James Row, CEO of Houston-based Producers Energy LLC, CNN reported.

The land system makes it hard to locate large stretches of rural land that are available for sale at prices low enough to make the purchase financially feasible for biofuels feedstock cultivation, said Row, who also is part owner of a biodiesel company based in Mexico.

Mexico has plenty of land that is not used to grow food crops and energy demand is high both in Mexico and in the nearby U.S., said Gilberto Lopez Meyer, director of Airports and Auxiliary Services (AAS), Mexico’s agency that oversees biofuels flights, reported CNN.

The AAS wants to commercialize and distribute biofuels, and has partnered with American company UOP LLC, which refined Jatropha grown in Mexico’s state of Chiapas into jet fuel.

The agency, which provides nearly 100% of the fuel for jets in Mexico, aims to have 1% biofuel, or 10.6 million gallons, for all jet fuel by 2015, increasing to 15% by 2020, said Lopez, CNN reported.

Earlier in August, the world’s first transatlantic commercial flight using biofuel took off from Mexico City to Madrid. The fuel used for that AeroMexico flight contained 30% biofuel made from Jatropha. Two other Mexican domestic flights had previously used the same fuel formula.

Biofuel production is not cost-effective using either Jatropha or agave, but technical advances and oil prices could make these options more attractive, experts say, reported CNN.

The primary source of this article is Cable News Network, Atlanta, Georgia, on Aug. 13, 2011.

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