14 May 2007 - 09:31
  • News Code: 104573

Plans by Triangle Sugar Corporation to reopen its Lowveld ethanol plant in October this year are laudable, especially as they come at a time when the country is facing fuel supply shortages.

Ethanol fuel, which is produced by fermenting and distilling starch crops like sugar, is a cheap and easy alternative to high-priced petroleum fuels.

However, the volumes of ethanol production at Triangle will largely depend on the availability of sugarcane in the Lowveld.

And if the volumes are large, ethanol fuel is no doubt going to be the silver bullet that will help get us out of our energy woes.

Triangle stopped production of ethanol more than a decade ago owing to the acute droughts of the 1990s.

However, the company must be commended for heeding to the growing calls to revive its plant, which was commissioned in the 1980s.

Besides complementing the country’s fuel needs, the revival of ethanol fuel production will no doubt create many jobs at the plant and also trigger a supply response of sugarcane.

Sugarcane farmers will also realize that a fuel-generating crop, like sugarcane, could become a huge revenue earner.

The development should also go a long way in saving the much-needed foreign currency that the country is using to import petroleum fuels.

Zimbabwe needs US$120 million to import its monthly fuel needs. But with ethanol, which will be blended with petrol, the country’s fuel import bill can be cut down significantly.

This will bring us to a point of not wholly depending on oil imported from other countries, and that we can produce all the ethanol that we need and ease the fuel shortages.

It must however, be emphasized that the country cannot depend entirely on ethanol fuel as not every vehicle can run on one hundred percent ethanol, but most run on percentages of ethanol blends which are common at most service stations in some countries.

It is therefore expected that local oil companies will buy the ethanol fuel for blending into fuel.

Ethanol blends are increasingly used in countries such as South Africa, China and the United States, while Brazil, the world leader, produces four billion gallons of ethanol a year.

Experiences in these countries has shown that ethanol is a high-performance motor fuel that cuts poisonous exhaust emissions and is better for the environment.

The Iraq war and higher oil prices have since put ethanol and other alternative fuels at the forefront in several developed countries.

Now, with the oil prices rocketing and the Kyoto protocol setting limits for countries’ carbon emissions, ethanol is increasingly gaining favor across the world.

We feel that with these unstable developments in the crude oil market and the energy markets in the world Zimbabwe, using the Triangle ethanol plant, can start establishing a viable renewable fuels sector. It is therefore our utmost hope that the Triangle ethanol plant will reopen in October as scheduled and help ease the country’s fuel challenges.

 

PIN/ ALLAFRICA.COM

News Code 104573

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