"How A Biofuel Dream Called Jatropha Came Crashing Down"

" ... wouldn't it be lovely if somebody came up with a biofuel that didn't take food out of people's mouths? A few years ago, some people thought they'd found it: A miracle tree called Jatropha. Unfortunately, the miracle turned out to be a mirage."

"Jatropha does not, at first glance, seem all that enticing. It's a big bush that can grow into a small tree. Its leaves are poisonous. So are its little football-shaped fruit pods. But inside those pods are several black seeds, each one about twice the size of a coffee bean. Crush those seeds, and you get oil. The oil is good for making soap, burning in lamps — or converting into diesel fuel.

Ywe Jan Franken, an expert on biofuels for the FACT Foundation, a research group in the Netherlands, says this plant grows all over the tropics, including Indonesia, the Philippines, Cambodia, India, and Latin America. (It originated in Central American, and Europeans spread it to their various colonies several centuries ago.)"

Dan Charles reports for NPR's The Salt food blog August 21, 2012.

Source: NPR, 08/21/2012