Research — Palm oil as bio-diesel
The Malaysian government is refocusing the use of palm oil to the production of bio-diesel to cater for the huge demands from European countries; it has encouraged the building of bio-diesel plants. This is due to the higher prices of fuel and increasing demand for alternatives sources of energy in the Western world.
The plants, which will start operating middle of next year and produce 100,000 tonnes of bio-diesel annually. Strong demand for bio-diesel from Europe as well as Colombia, India, South Korea and Turkey was fuelling the industry’s growth, as more countries sought to reduce their reliance on oil.
Malaysia has already begun preparations to change from diesel to bio-fuels by 2008, including drafting legislation that will make the switch mandatory. From 2007, all diesel sold in Malaysia must contain 5% palm oil. Being the world’s largest producer of crude palm oil, Malaysia intends to take advantage of the rush in finding cleaner fuels.
With the growth of emphasis on bio-diesels presenting a sustainable alternative to fossil fuels its important to recognize that these benefits are partly negated when forest is cleared to make room for bio-diesel crops such as oil palm. NGOs are now alerting the international arena to the fact that despite millions of hectares of land standing unplanted in Indonesia there is still clearance of tropical hardwood forest for palm oil plantations. Furthermore, as the remaining unprotected lowland forest dwindles, developers are looking to peat swamp for conversion, which causes a draining of the peat and this not only unlocks the carbon in the surface covering of trees, but begins an oxidation process of the carbon in the peat reserves which can be between 5,000 to 10,000 years worth of carbon locked into the ground. Drained peat is also at very high risk of forest fire, and there is a clear record of fire being used to clear vegetation for palm oil development in Indonesia.
Article excerpted from www.earthandgarden.com