Unleaded Jatropha

This week’s exciting, farm-eating fuel crop is jatropha, a fruit that’s native to South America and traditionally was used medicinally. It’s now believed to have tremendous biofuel potential: China’s betting on it, and there’s a center for jatropha research in India. Also, Air New Zealand is planning a test flight in which jatropha is mixed with diesel. The beauty of jatropha is that it can grow on marginal land, which means that unlike, say, corn it might take over only land where nothing else is growing.

What the story doesn’t mention is that jatropha is toxic. According to an old Reuters article, the plant’s “nuts and leaves are toxic, requiring careful handling by farmers and at crushing plants.” Presumably, the plant would be dangerous to any livestock, too.

Obviously, the solution is to instead turn only tasty fruit into fuel, thus ensuring that plenty of acres are planted. Like mangosteens. Why is no one running for president on the mangosteen-powered-car platform?

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