A biochemist and expert in biofuel technology, Chief Obiora Ogonsiegbe, has canvassed the need to embrace biofuel to position it as a veritable foreign exchange earner.
Ogonsiegbe said it was imperative to embrace biofuel because Nigeria could run out of fossil fuels. He said biofuels are made from plants that could be replanted.
Biogel, a product of biofuel, according to him, when used for domestic cooking is clean, safe and burns better than kerosene, firewood and charcoal, which are harmful to the body.
In an interview in Lagos, he advised the government and development banks to support small and medium enterprises (SMEs) engaged in biofuel by supporting them with adequate funds for machinery and materials.
He said diversification could help Nigeria to come out of the recession.
Ogonsiegbe noted that biofuel has other advantages, including emission of less pollution, which reduces respiratory ailments and cancer.
He said: “Firewood has been dubbed “the killer in the kitchen” as it has been estimated that cooking indoors with firewood and charcoal is equivalent to each child in the household smoking two packs of cigarettes a day.”
He said less reliance on firewood and charcoal reduces the drudgery of looking for firewood and slows deforestation and erosion, global warming and climate change, which is fast creeping into the country.
On the economic benefits of biofuel, Ogonsiegbe said if the government or a development bank would partner him, the biofuel project had enormous multiplier effects. “It will produce a lot of the much-needed food and use the associated wastes to produce biofuel with its attendant benefits to the economy. These include job creation, increased food production, increase in rural incomes and a massive contribution to the global efforts to slow the emission of greenhouse gases. It will also reduce Nigeria reliance on imported petroleum products.”
Statistics by Nebraska Ethanol Board, he said, shows that biofuels reduce green house gases emission by about 60 per cent compared to fossil fuels.
Nigeria, the world’s largest producer of cassava, he said, could produce all the starch and ethanol she needs for domestic consumption and export, that but unfortunately she doesn’t. Rather she imports them.
He advised that the country’s huge cash spent on food import could have been deployed to meeting its enormous developmental needs.
He said he was canvassing biofuel to produce biogel from it for domestic cooking because the price of gas and kerosene has been astronomical in recent times and beyond the reach of the average Nigerian.
On the raw material for biofuel, he said, it is cassava, which will be grown on a captive farm annexed to the project. He said the Federal Government’s policy on agriculture would not be complete if the processing side is not linked to having a by-product that would be useful for other sectors.
He advised the government to resist the mistake it made in the oil and gas sector, where the country has no viable petrochemical industry to serve related industries.
The expert added that cassava by-products are useful. He said: “All the cassava produced on the captive farm will be used solely for garri production in a near-by garri factory attached to the proposed project. Only the wastes, such as peels, particles of cassava that escaped milling and the starch that sediment in the water when the milled cassava is pressed, that will be used in the production of the ethanol gel.
According to him in 2009, Nigeria spent N291 billion on fuel subsidy alone. By 2011, it had shot up to N2.7 trillion. He promised the project would be scaled up steadily, if a development partner took interest.
He said the project is located in three disciplines, namely, biological sciences, engineering and general management, adding that the promoter should be well-grounded in these areas to ensure a successful execution.