Money may not grow on trees but they could help power cars, thanks to a path-breaking effort to develop biofuel from forests.
By 2010, China plans to plant an area the size of England, or 13 million hectares, with trees from which biofuel can be extracted as a source of clean energy, according to the State Forestry Administration (SFA).
Jatropha, also called physic nut, is currently grown on around 2 million hectares across the country and produces non-edible oil for making candles and soap.
Now, it will be the main ingredient in the production of biodiesel.
The 13-million-hectare forest mostly spread over southern China is expected to produce nearly 6 million tons of biodiesel every year.
Vehicles account for a third of all oil use in the country.
Biodiesel is a clean-burning diesel made from natural, renewable sources such as agricultural products like palm oil, soybeans and sugarcane with Brazil, in particular, being a global leader.
The jatropha trees can also provide wood fuel for a power plant with an installed capacity of 12 million kilowatts about two-thirds the capacity of the Three Gorges Dam project, the world's biggest.
This amount of bio-energy will account for 30 percent of the country's renewable energy by 2010, according to the SFA.
Cao Qingyao, spokesman for the SFA, said: "This plan will not only help the country enlarge its green coverage (currently at about 130 million hectares) but also meet increasing demand for energy."
"And most importantly, it provides clean energy to meet the country's target of sustainable development," he said.
Currently, the country relies mainly on fossil fuels for energy production. To ease the pressure and reduce pollution and greenhouse gas emissions, a renewable energy target has been set: By 2010, it will make up 10 percent of the energy structure; and 16 percent by 2020.
China National Petroleum Corporation, one of the country's three energy giants, has started collaboration with the SFA to develop biofuel.
Jiang Jiemin, head of the corporation, said last month that the group would, by 2010, build a commercial production base with an annual capacity of 200,000 tons of biodiesel by planting more than 400,000 hectares of trees.
(China Daily 02/08/2007 page1)