Discussions on why Nigeria should look beyond oil as its major source of revenue are never in short supply. The call for economic diversification remains a topical issue in Nigeria. Concerned Nigerians are of the belief that our single-resource economic structure accounts for why important national goals remain largely unachieved.
While successive administrations did trumpet the need for Nigeria to meaningfully harness her abundant natural resources, the political will to bring their pronouncements to fruition remains the problem.
Nigeria cannot afford to be anywhere else at a time other nations are putting plans in place to maximise their natural potential, especially as it relates to renewable energy resource.
Countries have since realised the need to focus attention on Biofuels or ethanol production as a reliable substitute for gasoline. Debates have been on, on the need for countries to embrace this largely untapped natural resource whose benefits far outweigh its hazards.
Biofuels are fuels made from cellulosic biomass resources and they include ethanol, biodiesel and methanol. Biomass processes can be designed to produce solid fuel, liquid fuel, gasses or even electricity. Commercially viable sources of biofuel include some crops, such as sugarcane, sugar beets, cassava etc, also from vegetable oils derived from plant seeds, such as sunflower, linseed and oilseed, as well as animal waste. Development of “Second generation” or “advanced” biofuel using practically any available lingo-cellulosic materials such as trees, Stover, crop wastes, are also gradually becoming commercially viable.
Since primary feedstock of these fuels are plants which are subjected to bio-chemical or thermochemical processes, they are also regarded as bio-renewable energy or fuels since the plants could be grown as often as required.
In meeting the huge current and future energy needs of the world, biofuels are very crucial ingredients for sustainable development and have become a vital and indispensible input to the economic needs of our present civilisation. Many countries across the world have realised this and are churning out policies and programmes designed to make them energy self-sufficient. It is therefore worrisome that Nigeria seems to be missing in action, in all of this.
The Nigerian government had, way back in 2005, conceptualised the bio-ethanol development initiative, but little has been done, in terms of providing necessary legal framework to make it work. It is, however, surprising that Nigeria, which is home to most raw materials needed to produce biofuels, hasn’t embraced it long time ago. If that initiative had been pursued, by now, Nigeria would have developed the required capacity and joined other nations exploiting this renewable energy resource to help offset falling revenues from its declining oil output.
Heightened advocacy on the usage of ethanol for industrial and other purposes is gaining popularity, as a result of the concerns by environmentalists, who claim that the production and usage of gasoline fuels and other petroleum products are causing harm to natural environment. Global warming and its effects like flooding are being directly linked, by scientists, to the fact that vehicles and industries using petroleum products are emitting gasses that are damaging the ozone layer and thereby harmful to the atmosphere.
South Africa has not only realized the enormous benefits in ethanol production, in terms of job creation, curtailing environmental hazards linked to gasoline, boosting business and encouraging economic diversification, but has since designed a legal framework to ensure it succeeds.
There is nothing wrong in Nigeria understudying South Africa in this regards. The ethanol production legal framework designed by the South African government took note of issues relating to local content, job creation for citizens, technical requirements, raw materials, environmental regulations, subsidy as well as other incentives for investors.
It is obvious that there is need for Nigeria to explore alternative source of energy, especially to create jobs for its citizens, strengthen its energy capacity and address Nigeria’s acute power/fuel energy supply deficit.
Busari wrote in from Abuja.
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Source: New feed