The world’s leading fossil fuels consuming nations are bent on shifting towards developing and consuming cleaner and less environmentally damaging fuel products that a now labelled “Green Fuels”. For example, during the 2008 presidential election campaign season in the United States of America (USA), the
Democratic Presidential contender, Senator Barack Hussain Obama, now the first African American to be elected US President, promised his country and the World, that the United State will depend less and less on fossil fuels to drive its economy and social progress. He seems to keep to this promise since he was inaugurated on January 20th, 2009. His new US Energy Policy attests to this fact.
This shift in energy policy being waged across almost all members of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), an elite club of the world’s leading industrialized nations, is not without a historical antecedent. For example, the discovery of fossil oil in the later era of industrial revolution led to the phenomenal new innovations in the design and development of modern automotive industry.
During those epochal periods, gold was also a major God’s given highly valuable solid mineral resources among others such as Silver, Bronze, and Titanium etc. Of all the discovered solid minerals, gold played the most important role in terms of local, regional and international trade as object of value. It is a highly sought-after precious metal with a number of uses both in jewelry and other high value industries since the beginning of recorded history.
Gold metal is mined from rocks as it occurs as nuggets or grains, in veins and in alluvial deposits. The grains can be collected from flowing rivers and streams. It is one of the coinage metals and formed the basis for the gold standard, a monetary system used for many years before its substitution in 1971 with the collapse of the Bretton Woods system. Under a gold standard, paper notes are convertible into pre-set, fixed quantities of gold.
The gold standard is not currently used by any government, having been replaced completely by fiat currency (i.e. money declared by a government to be legal tender, for example, the United States dollar or the Nigerian naira). However, over the years, fossil oil (which is typically black in colour hence the sobriquet “Black gold” and comes with a pungent smell compared to pure gold which has a bright yellow colour and luster traditionally considered attractive) became the most highly priced commodity in local, regional and international trade.
Over the years, fossil fuels have replaced gold in importance in regional and international commerce and trade. Therefore fossils fuels are the most highly sough after convenient, technically and economically efficient liquid fuels for transportation, industrial and home energy uses. Hence, the discovery of “Black gold” in commercial quantity fifty years ago in Nigeria was considered a “blessing from God” by Nigerians. However, whether this is true or not, is a matter that has been debated all the times by both Nigerians and non-Nigerians alike to date.
Nevertheless, the advantages associated with fossils fuels were later found to have huge social and environmental costs that have not been internalised by the producers and consumers of the products. The hidden social and environmental costs are now linked to Climate Change and Global Warming – arising from the release of environmentally harmful Greenhouse Gases (GHG) associated with the development and consumption of fossil fuels.
This later discovery is responsible for the current international campaign and lobby for a shift away from exploration, development and consumption of fossil fuels especially by member nations of the OECD. For example, global concerns regarding the negative consequences of Climate Change and Global Warming necessitated the crafting of an international convention – The Kyoto Protocol by the United Nations. It is a protocol to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC or FCCC), an international environmental treaty produced at the United Nations Conference intended to achieve “stabilization of greenhouse gases concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system”
Attempts to comply with the provisions of the treaty especially by the industrialised nations (i.e. the Annex 1 countries of the Kyoto Protocol) necessitated the shift from “Black gold” consumption to “Green fuels” (i.e. Biofuels) consumption. This shift is still at a very limited proportion compared with the conventional fossil fuels consumption up to the moment.
The shift, even though very insignificant at the moment, poses great challenges and or opportunities for Nigeria and the rest of the major oil producing developing and transition economies that depend solely on fossil fuels exports as their primary source of revenues. For example, top-level Nigerian government officials have expressed apprehension against President Obama’s new US energy policy that places emphasis on reduction of consumption of fossil fuels and encouraging development and consumption of alternative fuels – specifically, “Green fuels” (i.e. Biofuels), solar and wind energy.
But faced with this rather disturbing situation, instead of throwing our hands up in the air, lamenting and crying out, saying that Obama’s new energy policy is against Nigeria’s economic interest, some far-sighted Nigerians are seeing a golden opportunity in president Obama’s new US energy policy framework for Nigeria to lurch upon and benefit tremendously from it. For example, a Lagos-based upstart renewable energy company – Shahswat Jatropha Biodiesel Limited has developed a far-reaching ambitious national investment portfolio for promotion and development Jatropha-based biodiesel in Nigeria.
This local endeavour is bolstered by scientific research that shows biodiesel produces lower emissions of the GHGs that cause climate change. Also, strategically and economically, biodiesel and other biofuels offer greater security of supply by reducing dependence on supplies of fossil mineral oil. Furthermore, the most promising sustainable biodiesel energy crops grow in the tropical developing world, and the growing and harvesting of these crops offers a means for developing countries to achieve sustainable growth and tremendously reduce rural poverty and unemployment among other numerous opportunities associated with biofuels development and consumption.