August 11, 2006

SOUTH AFRICA: Beating Poverty with Biofuel Jobs

In Los Angeles, state officials are calling them "green collar" jobs estimated to be worth seven times their current counterparts in the waste management business.

In South Africa, the biofuels sector is seen as a source of salvation that could halve poverty by 2014 (according to this report from BioPact). Thousands of well-paying jobs could be created producing a much needed resource in response to the skyrocketing world price for petroleum.

An in-depth look at South Africa's nascent biofuels sector

South Africa is leading the development of biofuels in Africa. Today, we have a look at the potential, the production facilities being built and planned, the government policies being crafted, and the social, economic and environmental effects of the country's transition to the biofuels economy. Biofuels are considered to be the biggest single economic opportunity for South Africa, comparable to that of its vast mining industry which was established early last century.

Southern Africa Biofuels Association (Saba) CEO Erhard Seiler tells Engineering News that the country's biofuels industry has the potential to produce 10% of South Africa’s petrol and diesel needs by 2010. South Africa currently consumes about 11 bn litres (2.9 bn gallons) of petrol and 8 bn litres (2.1 bn gallons) of diesel a year.

Like Brazil, Malaysia, Indonesia and other developing nations, South Africa's initiative to develop the local biofuels industry is part of a larger framework aimed at poverty alleviation and socio-economic development. Biofuels are a priority sector of South Africa's Accelerated and Shared Growth Initiative (Asgisa), which aims to stimulate economic growth, create a large number of new jobs and halve poverty by 2014.

Another economic benefit of bioethanol production is the sale of carbon credits under the Kyoto Protocol. Environmental finance group Sterling Waterford Securities, which owns 50% of Ethanol Africa, listed one of the world’s first carboncredit investment products on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange last year. One litre of bioethanol produces half the greenhouse-gas emission of a litre of conventional petrol. Hence, the production and use of bioethanol could assist South Africa to earn valuable carbon credits by reducing greenhouse-gas emissions.

South Africa is the third-worst offender in the world concerning the per-capita production of greenhouse-gas emissions and the use of cleaner fuels will improve air quality in urban areas.

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