The issue of Ethanol driven cars in Malawi is very close to my heart. In case, you want to refer to the previous articles that I have written on this issue, here is Part 1, Part 2, Part 3 and Part 4. This series will continue, albeit with different titles depending on the nature of the post. It is now close to 6 months since my last post in this series. In that post, I promised to come back with another post but I could not manage to do so instantly because I did not have any new information to bother you with. Before I go any further, I would like to find out if there have been any latest developments on this issue. I fear that I may be overtaken by events as I continue with my sojourn in Japan. If you are aware of the latest developments, please feel free to share them with me and others in the comment section.
My last post is attracting a lot of good comments from which I am learning a lot. My understanding of this whole issue is getting better and better by the day. For in stance, a number of people have pointed out that the production of ethanol should not be in conflict with food security. These people also say that one of the reasons for the increase in the price of grains on the world market is the increased demand for ethanol. Suite.com, a highly rated site, also agrees with these observations. In Malawi’s case, ethanol is not produced from grains but from molasses which are a by-product of the sugar production process. I do not think that there will be any negative effect on the cost of sugar. Actually, the increased demand for ethanol will lead to increased sugar production thereby driving the cost of sugar downwards. In a related development, a recent journal publication shows that the production of ethanol from sugarcane is much cheaper than that from crops such as corn, wheat and sugarbeet. Therefore, Malawi seems to be heading in the right direction. Furthermore, as sugar and ethanol production increases, the amount of bagasse, a fibrous residue remaining after sugarcane stalks are crushed to extract their juice, will also increase. Brazil uses bagasse for power generation. It is reported that sugarcane bagasse cogeneration accounts for 3% of the total Brazilian energy matrix. Bagasse is also used as a renewable resource in the manufacture of pulp and paper products and building materials. As you can see, the sugar-ethanol industry in Malawi has huge potential.
The only conflict between the sugar/ethanol industry and other food crops and pasture willbe in the area of land use. Once demand for ethanol starts soaring, there will be a need to increase the land area for sugarcane plantation. This will lead to stiff competion for pasture lands and dambos, which are traditionally used for feeding our ruminant livestock and cultivation of rice and vegetables. The government will need to come up with a good plan for the management of these lands. Otherwise, the supply of rice, vegetables and meat will be affected. Other methods for producing ethanol must also be explored. For in stance, casualblogger, who finds it unethical to make ethanol out of food to fuel cars, blogged about Fulcrum Bioenergy, Pleasanton, CA based company, which has announced plans to build one of the first commercial-scale ethanol plants that will use Municipal Solid Waste (MSW) as feedstock. The authorities in Malawi should be on the lookout for innovative developments like these.