Just months after India’s finance minister called converting food crops to biofuels “a crime against humanity,” the government has launched a program that aims to get 20% of India’s diesel from plants by 2017, relying heavily on hardy plants that won’t keep rob needed land. But the biofuel crops take years longer to yield much of value, making it a tough sell, the Economist reports.
Jatropha, a hardy shrub, and pongamia pinnata, a tree whose seeds yield 30% of their weight in oil, are the centerpiece plants of the effort to wean India from its growing thirst for oil. Both plants grow in rocky soils and require a fraction of the water of food crops, but their yields are unreliable. (Read more biofuel stories.)