Jatropha oil is vegetable oil produced from the seeds of the Jatropha curcas, a plant that can grow in wastelands. Jatropha curcas grows almost anywhere, even on gravelly, sandy and saline soils. It can also thrive on the poorest stony soil and grow in the crevices of rocks.
Researchers at Daimler Chrysler Research explored the use of jatropha oil for automotive use, concluding that although jatropha oil as fuel "has not yet reached optimal quality, ... it already fulfills the EU norm for biodiesel quality". Archer Daniels Midland Company, Bayer CropScience and Daimler AG have a joint project to develop jatropha as a biofuel. Three Mercedes cars powered by Jatropha diesel have already put some 30,000 kilometres behind them. The project is supported by DaimlerChrysler and by the German Association for Investment and Development (Deutschen Investitions- und Entwicklungsgesellschaft, DEG).
Goldman Sachs recently cited Jatropha curcas as one of the best candidates for future biodiesel production. However, despite its abundance and use as an oil and reclamation plant, none of the Jatropha species has been properly domesticated and, as a result, its productivity is variable, and the long-term impact of its large-scale use on soil quality and the environment is unknown. However, because jatropha is not edible, and because it can grow in harsh climates, it can be planted in areas where it won't compete for resources needed to grow food.
Myanmar is also actively pursuing the use of jatropha oil. On 15 December 2005, Head of State, Senior General Than Shwe, said “the States and Divisions concerned are to put 50,000 acres (200 km²) under the physic nut plants [Jatropha] each within three years totalling seven hundred thousand acres (2,800 km²) during the period”. On the occasion of Myanmar’s Peasant Day 2006, Chairman of the State Peace and Development Council Senior General Than Shwe described in his a message that “For energy sector which is an essential role in transforming industrial agriculture system, the Government is encouraging for cultivation of physic nut plants nationwide and the technical know how that can refine physic nuts to bio diesel has also identified.” He would like to urge peasants to cultivate physic nut plants on a commercial scale with major aims for emergence of industrial agriculture system, for fulfilling rural electricity supply and energy needs, for supporting rural areas development and import substitute economy.
In 2006, the chief research officer at state-run Myanmar Oil and Gas Enterprise said Myanmar hoped to completely replace the country's oil imports of 40,000 barrels a day with home-brewed, jatropha-derived biofuel. Other government officials declared Myanmar would soon start exporting jatropha oil. Despite the military's efforts, the jatropha campaign apparently has largely flopped in its goal of making Myanmar self-sufficient in fuel.