Johnston emphasizes, however, that the set of criteria he and Holloway used is just one among many.
"As long as they're profitable and have large volumes of vegetable oils, all the countries on our list - even if they aren't on our top ten list - they could do this," he says.
The idea for the analysis first struck Johnston on a visit to a remote island of Fiji, where people rely primarily on petroleum diesel to run generators for electricity. Transported in by boat, the fuel cost the equivalent of $20 per gallon. Meanwhile, the islanders were growing coconuts and processing them into oil that sold for 50 cents a liter.
"The price disparity was just incredible," says Johnston, "and it prompted me to think about where else in the world countries might have this biofuels potential, but not necessarily realize it."
At the same time, many agencies - chief among them the United Nations - have raised concerns about the biofuel industry's possible impact on the world's poor, as vegetable oils, now used for food, are increasingly diverted to fuel production. Rampant growth of biofuels could also negatively affect the environment; a soaring demand for palm oil, for example, has already led to deforestation in Southeast Asia.
By highlighting the places in the world where biodiesel development will likely happen, Johnston and Holloway hope their analysis will help people foresee these problems and make plans to mitigate them.
"We're not saying, 'There's all this potential out there, go get it,'" says Johnston. "Instead, we're looking at which vegetable oil feed stocks are most likely to be affected and which countries will most likely be doing this at a large-scale. That way, we can anticipate some of the impacts, as opposed to having to react after the fact."
Of all the vegetable oils and animal fats examined in the study, soybean and palm oil were by far the most
|Contact: Matt Johnston|
University of Wisconsin-Madison