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GM, Energy Dept. to Develop Biodiesel Project

March 30, 2010

DETROIT - General Motors Co. announced a five-year partnership with the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) to help develop the potential of the jatropha plant as a sustainable biofuel energy crop.  

Traditionally considered a weed, jatropha plants produce an oil that can be refined into biodiesel. The goal of the project is to demonstrate that jatropha can produce significant quantities of oil for conversion to biodiesel and to develop new varieties of the plant that have high yields, can withstand frost, and grow in temperate climates such as the United States. The drought-resistant, non-edible plant can be grown commercially with minimal care on marginal land. 

"Discovering new sources for biodiesel production is an important part of DOE research and development efforts," said Secretary of Energy Steven Chu. "The expertise of this team can help speed the pace for the development of jatropha as a biofuel crop." 

Two jatropha farms will be established in India: a 16-hectare (39.5 acre) plot in Bhavngar and a 38 hectare (93.9 acre) plot in Kalol, near GM's India car manufacturing plant. An existing 30 hectare (74.1 acre) jatropha farm in Bhavnagar also will be managed under this project. 

Lab-optimized strains of jatropha, produced through selective and marker-assisted breeding, will be cultivated at these farms. The joint DOE-GM funding will enable the Central Salt & Marine Chemicals Research Institute (CSMCRI) -- an India-based research facility falling under Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, Ministry of Science & Technology, Government of India -- to manage all of the 84 hectares (840,000 m2). A complete lifecycle analysis will be conducted to evaluate the environmental impacts, starting with fertilizer production from raw materials and ending with the harvesting of jatropha fruits. 

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