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Think green to meet our energy needs

By Isaac Kalua | Mar 30th 2014 | 2 min read

By Isaac Kalua

Biofuels are probably the most controversial forms of renewable energy. They are steeped in so much controversy that it seems easier to shelve them and focus on less controversial forms of clean energy. However, we must heed the words of Martin Luther King Jr that ‘the ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.’

The energy challenge is one of the biggest of our time. Biofuels seek to meet this challenge. They are liquid, solid or gaseous energy sources derived from renewable biomass. They include ethanol and biodiesel and are largely controversial because they result from processed feedstock that sometimes ends up displacing food crops or hiking their prices.

Indeed, biofuels should not solve the clean energy problem by creating a bigger problem of food insecurity. Food is a basic human need and should never be compromised or undermined. However, past and present mistakes in biofuel production should not consign biofuels to the dustbin of history. Rather, history should be used as a practical guide towards sustainable production of biofuels.

Global oil consumption is skyrocketing so much that by 2030, it will have increased by nearly 50 per cent. The demand in Africa will be even more since oil consumption is expected to double in this same period. Although previously non-oil producing countries like Kenya and Uganda have now discovered oil, we cannot put all our eggs in one basket. This is because, however abundant they may become, fossil fuels are not renewable.

Thankfully, the world is facing up to the finite status of fossil fuels and is slowly embracing biofuels. From 2000 to 2006, biodiesel production multiplied six-fold from one to six billion litres while global fuel ethanol production almost tripled to 40 billion litres. Legislatively, Kenya’s Energy Act of 2006 calls for an enabling framework towards the ‘efficient and sustainable production, distribution and marketing’ of biofuels and others forms of renewable energy. The new proposed Act is even better. Although more specific biofuel legislation is needed, the private sector needs to take advantage of already existing and proposed legislation and research. Investors should practically explore biofuel opportunities with even more fervor than oil explorers. If they do this, they might just strike localised biofuel solutions that will give them returns on their investments and energise Kenya in a renewable manner. If this happens, Kenya will successfully ‘plant energy’ through oil-bearing plants such as cottonseed, croton, candlenut, castor, coconut, jatropha, rapeseed and sunflower.

Think green, act green.

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