ANY well-meaning Ghanaian appreciates that so long as we have no control over the most vital commodity to the economy – fuel, any attempt to force control against the market would only destabilise our struggle to develop the country. In this vein, we would advise the “Wahalians” and their paymasters, to exhibit their patriotism by attacking the operators of public transport whose fares have gone up higher than the announced increases in petroleum product prices, rather than train their guns on Government, if indeed they have the nation's welfare at heart.
In light of our present difficulties, there are two things we can do as a nation to ease the burden imposed by the necessary increases. We need to be conscious about the use of fuel. Car pooling, among other energy conservation activities, should now be the norm. We would urge Government to give incentives and penalties to promote the economic use of fuel. The other alternative, which is long term and sustainable, is to do what all other responsible nations are working on, which is to pursue alternative sources of energy.
Fortunately, research has shown that maize, millet and tubers like Cassava abound in Hydrogen, Carbon and Oxygen in varied proportions necessary for the production of ethanol, an alternative energy. The setting up of an Agri-refinery or Bio-refinery, which is a factory that would break down the cellulose and lignin contained in these carbohydrates and convert them into chemicals, fuels and fibres, should therefore be a priority.
While the chemicals and fuel by-product of this process are separated as ethanol bio-fuel, the fibres can be processed further into fertilisers. The ethanol bio-fuel can be blended with gasoline in a 10/90 or 85/15 ratio-mixture, and would thus reduce the gasoline requirement of the nation. This 10% or more mixture (substitution) of ethanol to the traditional petrol or diesel will save our nation enormous amounts of foreign currency.
Global ethanol production is estimated at 41 million tonnes, valued at over $16 billion, with a growth rate of 3 percent per year.
It is worthy to note that cassava is the cheapest feedstock for ethanol production, which we have in abundance here in Ghana. It is cheaper than using sugar, molasses and maize, which are currently the key feedstock. Also, ethanol is considered a renewable fuel and its blending with conventional gasoline will reduce hazardous emissions into our environment, thus making it environmentally friendly, a property we all hold dear.
Apart from local utilisation of Ethanol as clean renewable energy, it is used severally in distilleries, chemical and pharmaceutical industries. SJH & Company, a US consultancy firm, found in a 2002 study “Ethanol and the local community,” that nearly 700 permanent jobs could be created in the area near an ethanol plant of even a small capacity. And at full operation, up to 4000 local jobs could be created, apart from the financial gains to farmers. We affirm that Ghana-made renewable bio-energy ethanol fuel will directly reduce the amount of crude oil we need to import, thus offering our nation the critically needed independence and security from foreign-controlled sources of energy.
A bio-based energy source seems to be the best option in our case.