September 28, 2008

Plant Could Help Meet Haiti’s Energy Needs

A plant long believed by Vodou practitioners in Haiti to have mystic qualities could be a boon for Latin America's biofuel industry.

An indigenous plant believed by some to purge evil spirits and release the trapped souls of the dead, Jatropha could emerge as a new source of biofuel in Latin America and the Caribbean, especially in Haiti, which has shortages of diesel fuel and electricity, The Miami Herald reported Sunday.

The plant's potential will be discussed at the annual Americas Conference in Miami, the newspaper reported.

The United States and Brazil last year signed an agreement to help Haiti, the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, and St. Kitts and Nevis explore the biofuel potential of Jatropha and other plants.

''Jatropha offers a great opportunity for Haiti,'' said Mark Lambrides, chief of the energy and climate change division at the Organization of American States.

Jatropha, which grows up to 13 feet high, also could help reforest a country that has been plagued by clear-cutting.

"There are about (1.5 million acres) of dry and arid land, which is suitable for Jatropha plantations and would create thousands of rural jobs,'' said Reginald Noel, a biofuel pioneer in Haiti.