Some of the major developments in the Zambian energy industry in the last one month included the award of the oil and gas exploration licence to Barotse Petroleum Limited, announcement by the Zambian Head of State Rupiah Banda of government's intention to set up an ethanol plant in Chipata and the decision by Copperbelt Energy Corporation (CEC) to buy about 200,000 litres of crude Jatropha from peasant farmers from my birth place, Kapiri Mposhi.

I have commented at length on Barotse Petroleum and on the presidential policy announcement to set up an ethanol plant.

I have written before that issues of oil and gas exploration, and the desire to pursue renewable energy ought to be on the lips of every political party and must occupy priority position regardless of who sits in power.

If a political party cannot develop a clear policy about this matter, such a political party cannot get my vote.

The issue of fuel security is not a small matter that leaders can just gross over. It is no longer child play.

With all known statistics on available global oil reserves and the increasing rate of global consumption, it is no longer in dispute of what will start happening around 2025 all things being equal.

Not that the world will completely run out but the terminal decline of output from major producing countries would be capable of plunging most countries in catastrophic crises.

To be forewarned is to be forearmed. I can assure my readers that the above situation will take some ill-prepared countries by storm.

The pain will be too much but it may also be too late. They say that when the pain of maintaining the status quo becomes more that the pain of change, change becomes inevitable.

The pain will be so much that even some of these NGOs taking a stand against biofuels will change their tunes.

While we may not be where we need to be as a country but when I compare the structural arrangement of our energy industry with several countries, Zambia is quite well off. Until you travel, you may not appreciate our comparable advantage.

Take South Africa for instance, did you know that they get more that 85 per cent of their electricity from coal; an exhaustible resource.

Our brothers and sisters have dug holes and holes for coal and they know it will run out and that in the next 20 years, things may get extremely ugly in Africa's biggest economy if they do not take appropriate decisions now.

That's why they recently came up with an energy mix out look of where they would like to be 20 years from now and recently Eskom the national electricity company congratulated its customers for saving mega watts of power after going on more than 43 million energy savers.

I mean our brothers and sisters have bought more than 43 million energy saver elements.

I remember how my former landlord Mr Rodney Sisala would plead with consumers to shift to energy saver bulbs. There had been so much resistance.

At one time while we stood in the residential car park, he expressed his frustration and told me that the electricity shortage the country was experiencing was foreknown and strategic plans put in place and submitted to government but the implementation.

My position is that whether a country likes it or not, it will be forced to do something about this.
Back to the structural arrangement of the energy sector, at least we have commenced explorations; at least we have a government that can even talk about ethanol plants and last year the Minister of Finance Hon Situmbeko Musokotwane was quoted as having said there are some German investors who want to invest in Jatropha plantation in Mpika if I am not mistaken.

To me it gives me a sense of pride that I have at least some leaders with capacity to appreciate what I am talking about regardless of their individual weaknesses.

Further, we as a country do even have an association of biofuels; the Biofuels Association of Zambia.

I have planned to host them on this platform soon.

Last year, in one of my articles, I prodded some major consumers of fuel/energy to spend some time imagining a Zambia without crude oil and what would happen to their investments.

Oh if they could embrace a moment of silence and imagine the future, they would unleash excellent initiatives that would save us a lot of pain.

That is why I got extremely delighted at the news that the Copperbelt Energy Corporation (CEC) would this year buy 200,000 litres from peasant farmers in Kapiri Mposhi.

It's an excellent forward-looking initiative of starting with a pilot project for processing Jatropha oil into bio-diesel. This is what I call progressive thinking.

Congratulations to the Board, Management and staff of CEC. Let's show the world of our seriousness about renewable energy. We are smart people.

The author is a Petrochemical Consultant

www.perfecthydrocarbon.co.za (external link)
Johannesburg, South Africa.