Now that Congress passed legislation averting the “fiscal cliff,” which included extensions of tax credits for cellulosic biofuels and renewable biodiesel, the handful of biofuel refinery projects in the late stages of design or early construction will proceed.

Industrial Info Resources reports that “eight projects are expected to see major advances this year, and two of these projects already have moved from pre-development into the field.”

The news brief didn’t include insight on whether any of the projects involved include jatropha as a feed stock, but reports from back to 2010 indicated biodiesel from jatropha was on the front burner for the U.S. in south Florida and the southern most southwest. It is highly likely that jatropha will prove itself as a biodiesel feed stock in the U.S. if results in Cuba are any indication.

What makes jatropha of interest in the U.S. is why Cuba is ahead of the U.S. by being able to produce biodiesel from the jatropha plant seed. One Cuban biodiesel plant is reportedly operating and a second biodiesel plant to use jatropha exclusively is undergoing trials in the country's central province of Matanzas.

“The Cuban government is planning to build three more biodiesel units, which will be fed with inedible plants. Cuba has some 110 hectares of land cultivated with jatropha curca, an oil-rich plant, which will provide the feed for the new plant. The seeds of the shrub, also known as "milk nut," are rich in oil but toxic for human consumption. It also has the advantage that it can be grown in harsh terrain, which does not offer any value to general agriculture,” according to Industrial Info Resources.

The use of land that isn’t of value for food production is a major consideration for Cuba, which is hard pressed to be anything close to food secure from its own farming. The success of using land in the Southwest U.S. that doesn’t have value for food production or doesn’t turn a profit for farmers is extremely important for jatropha to be a successful biodiesel feed stock in the U.S.