DETROIT, March 31 (UPI) -- Using the drought-resistant jatropha plant as a biofuel energy crop in India has the potential to transform the renewable energy sector, executives said.
Michigan automotive company General Motors announced a five-year partnership with the U.S. Department of Energy to explore the use of the jatropha plant at test sites in India for use as a sustainable biofuel energy crop.
Test sites in India will examine whether jatropha can produce enough oil for biodiesel. Farms with more than 200 acres of the drought-resistant, non-edible plant will host life-cycle studies near GM plants in India.
"In the long term, if jatropha is commercially viable, it will reduce dependence on petroleum as well as reduce greenhouse gas emissions and promote economic growth," said Mike Robinson, GM vice president of environment, energy and safety policy.
GM said biodiesel based on the jatropha plant could address energy security concerns in Asia. The use of a non-edible plant, meanwhile, tackles many of the food crop issues with conventional biofuels.
"Discovering new sources for biodiesel production is an important part of (Energy Department) research and development efforts," said Secretary of Energy Steven Chu.