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A cautionary note: undertake research first

Based on the responses to this forum, islanders in the Pacific are especially innovative in developing alternatives to the use of fossil fuels. Jan Cloin from the Secretariat of the Pacific Applied Geoscience Commission in Fiji (Pacific) has sent a very informative overview about the use of biofuels in the Pacific islands. For example, remote island electrification using locally produced coconut oil is being investigated in the Marshall Islands, while in the Solomon Islands a number of buses are running on Cocoline, a blend of 80% coconut oil and 20% kerosene. The overview can be seen at http://www.unesco.org/csi/smis/siv/Forum/keyissues15b.htm

Humphrey Chang from Fiji (Pacific) writes: Your recent article covering biofuel attracted my attention. This is a much talked-about issue, but whilst its importance is seen as a national saviour, the Government machinery is rather slow in implementing or even raising the issue. We know that within all the island regions, without exception, there is more than enough unused or under-utilized waste land where palm oil plants could be introduced. Within a short time, say only 4 to 5 years, the benefit generated from such plants would provide enormous return for a small initial capital investment. The entire island community could play a part in such a project, which could also address poverty alleviation. It should be the responsibility of the Government of the day to seek and provide the initial seed funding to get such a project off the ground. Information is available on the web about biofuel, palm oil, jatropha, etc as alternatives to fossil fuel. We are more than sure, that the Chamber of Commerce in any island state is more than willing to disseminate such information to the community. There is perhaps a need for a wider consultation with the Pacific Island Forum Secretariat and other similar island regional organisations elsewhere. We (Fiji Chamber of Commerce and Industry) on our part can commit to such a programme with assistance from the State.

Thomas Goreau writes: We are working on a technology, which uses the husk and shell left behind when copra is converted to biodiesel, to make charcoal, not for burning, but to store carbon in the ground as a fertilizer to greatly increase the nutrient and water holding capacity of poor sandy soils. Our islands could turn coconuts that we have by the billions with no market for them, into energy sources that simultaneously enrich our soils and store carbon permanently.

However, a word of caution about biofuels comes from Leslie Farnel from Hawaii (Pacific): I was teaching dive safety in Tuvalu some time ago. On arrival the Director of Fisheries requested that I teach his staff the basics of diving. I was to spend a lot of days underwater in training programmes. They showed me their new compressor. They were very proud of it. The supply boat was late arriving so they had been running the compressor with coconut oil instead of the proper compressor oil stated in the users manual. The first day we were using scuba tanks, many students didn’t show up after lunch, claiming headaches and feeling ill. What was happening was the coconut oil had a lower flash point than the specialized oil required by the manufacturer for the compressor. It was combusting on top of the pistons and driving pure carbon monoxide into the scuba tanks. Fortunately our dives were short and shallow. On deeper longer dives this would have been life threatening. So while alternative products are good it is also wise to do research before using them to make sure they are safe.

http://babelfish.altavista.com/tr allows for translation into other languages. For those who prefer, you may respond to this forum in Español, Français or Português.

Messages In This Thread

Alternatives to rising oil prices
T. Deamer, K. Etuati -- Wednesday, 24 August 2005
Using coconut oil as an engine fuel
R. Early and M. Font -- Tuesday, 6 September 2005
Pacific islands showing the way with coconut oil
A. DeTerville, U. Hertel, G. Johnson, H. Probert, D. Williams -- Tuesday, 20 September 2005
Getting started with coconut oil
J. Currie, P. Hohepa, P. Innocent, T. Marjoram, D. Mitchell, I. Mohammed, Sitiveni -- Tuesday, 4 October 2005
Energy sources in our own backyard
L. Fox, L. Hamlet, Sabra, Sahayam, J. Seeto, M. Voi -- Tuesday, 18 October 2005
Using our sugar and coconut plantations wisely
T. Deamer and Newspaper article -- Thursday, 3 November 2005
From frying oil to car fuel
websites -- Monday, 2 October 2006
A cautionary note: undertake research first
H. Chang, J. Cloin, L. Farnel, T. Goreau -- Thursday, 19 October 2006
Can tidal currents supply future energy needs?
Father Api, H. Baral, T. Goreau, P. Jacobs -- Thursday, 2 November 2006

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