Putting Poppies in the Gas Tank

The global demand for opium fuels poppy production in Afghanistan, which funds the Taliban. For years, the US military worked to eradicate poppy crops. But US veterans doing contract work in Afghanistan pointed out that poppies could be used for biofuel. The veterans drew on research from Tasmania, home to the world’s largest legal poppy fields, reports Michael Schmidle for the Atlantic, and developed an alternative use for the seeds with high oil content – thereby depriving the Taliban of funding and reducing US military fuel costs. Such a biofuel could also provide electricity for rural Afghan villages. Initially US politicians were uneasy about encouraging poppy crops to flourish. But the 2008 election and a shift in US power, combined with concerns about environmentalism, costs and unending war, made biofuel an option in Afghanistan. The project is starting small, relying on less oily cottonseeds. Poppy fuel is under study and could be an option someday as fossil fuels vanish. – YaleGlobal

Putting Poppies in the Gas Tank

One man pursues a quest to tap Afghanistan’s taboo biofuel
Nicholas Schmidle
Tuesday, March 1, 2011
Copyright © 2011 by The Atlantic Monthly Group. All Rights Reserved.

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