At VerdEnergia, we live by the philosophy that if it doesn’t work on a small scale, it’s not going to work on a large scale. With this in mind, we take a more practical and holistic approach to biofuel production:
Initially, we viewed biofuels as a clean alternative to petroleum production; something we could export to help the petrol problem. Over the years, however, we have come to understand that oil production at our current consumption rate, no matter which type, is entirely unsustainable. The truth is, we need to focus on cutting our addiction to consumption and high-energy usage rather than finding a “greener” supply.
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We work with the Jatropha plant, a drought-tolerant perennial with high-oil content seeds and high-caliber medicinal properties. In 2009, Verdenergia was awarded a grant to help plant 35 local farms with Jatropha, including our own.
Biofuel production is a way to help local family farms support themselves sustainably while also restoring the jungle in Costa Rica. For the past few decades, farmers have turned to logging and cattle-ranching to keep up with high inflationary rates and cost of living. These destructive practices destroy vital ecosystems, create erosion, and poison waterways. Cutting down the jungle also increases urbanization, a serious problem throughout the country.
Our original plan was to roll out a biofuels program in partnership for local communities and farmers with CooPuriscal, the local farmers’ co-op. But in the present economy, it no longer makes sense to concentrate on biofuels as a sole use for jatropha oil. We’ve since diversified our jatropha plan to include and focus on the production of natural soaps.
We view biofuel and soap production as a byproduct of reforestation, not a means to an end. We’ve learned to use Jatropha and other oil-bearing plants such as the Castor bean to beat back invasives and regenerate topsoil, stacking functions in true Permaculture form. It’s a hands-off regenerative model.
The truth is, we won’t export biofuels to the North. Whatever we produce, we sell and trade within the local community. This is sustainable biofuel production. We will not cut down the jungle, release methane, destroy biodiversity, and lessen the planet’s ability to sequester carbon to support a centuries-old relationship of extraction and exploitation.
The Industrial world needs to find solutions within their own communities for their energy needs, even if this means lifestyle and consumption changes. Local, sustainable energy models are possible. Its a matter of working with the resources present in your bioregion and building strong alternatives, partnerships, and empowered communities.
For us, its all a part of the larger system.
Some quick facts:
- On average, each American uses a barrel of oil per week.* One barrel is equal to 42 gallons.
(*This number is only counting what Americans import and use directly.
This does not count the oil used by other countries such as China for production of goods that America imports.)
- Each barrel of oil is equivalent to 11 years of human labor.
- Industrialized countries put more energy into extracting oil than they are able to use the oil for.