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By Winston Tarere

PORT VILA, Vanuatu (June 21, 2001 - Port Vila Presse/PINA Nius Online)---He may go down in the history books as the coconut fuel man. The inventive efforts of Thai farmer Yuthachai Wiwatkulthorn are enabling Vanuatu to lead the way in the Pacific with coconut fuel.

Copra Oil Production Vanuatu Limited (COPV) is now a few stages away from producing on a small-scale environmentally friendly coconut oil as a fuel extender, or BIO-DIESEL, for general use.

One vehicle in the capital, Port Vila, is already successfully running with coconut fuel. Owner, mechanic and motor dealer Tony Deamer says his Range Rover has no problems with coconut fuel supplied by COPV.

Mr. Deamer said he mixes coconut oil with diesel on a ratio of 2:1 or 20 liters of coconut oil and 10 liters of diesel.

He said mixing it with diesel prevents the oil from freezing overnight in lower temperatures.

Copra Oil Production Vanuatu Limited General Manager Rex Evans said: "COPV has already, successfully, substituted the use of diesel oil with coconut oil for the operation of its boilers. It now plans to install its own power generation facility fuelled exclusively by coconut oil within two months."

This will enable the company to double its normal oil production, currently valued at US$ 300,000 per month, and coco meal at US$ 35,000 per month.

The economic benefits for the country will include cheaper power and transportation costs, and a reduction in expenditure of the country's foreign currency reserve on fuel imports.

COPV's general manager has indicated that future demand for copra would warrant importation of additional stock if the local supply cannot meet the demand.

A Thai family using a pick-up truck and a lorry in Samut Songram province, 75 kilometers (45 miles) south of Bangkok was reported by India as saving 5,000 baht ($115) a month.

A gas station in the province already sells coconut oil for vehicles running on the fuel.

The fuel is suitable for trucks and industrial engines, gets more miles to the gallon, and costs 30 percent less than diesel fuel.

Pioneers of coconut oil say the fuel does not produce carbon dioxide. These claims are backed by some environmentalists who say coconuts offer cheap and clean fuel, which could be copied by others to help millions of poor farmers across Southeast Asia and the tropical regions.

Where does Mr. Yuthachai come in?

As reported by the Bangkok Post, it seems one day in 1983 Mr. Yuthachai observed a Chinese food court using coconut oil in lanterns to replace kerosene. He basically took the idea from there and invented coconut fuel. But coconut oil alone doesn't power vehicles; it is blended with kerosene in a ratio of 20 to 1.

The prospect of having coconut oil to fuel cars instead of fossil fuels will make any Pacific Islander whose ever been called a "coconut" proud.

Now we can no longer just laze around underneath the coconut tree, drink its juice, eat the flesh or throw it to the pigs. We can make money from it - and help the environment.

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