China invests in $5.5B biofuels project in Borneo, New Guinea
Rhett A. Butler, mongabay.com
January 18, 2007
China has agreed to invest in a $5.5 billion biofuels project on the islands of New Guinea and Borneo. The plan promises to be controversial among environmentalists who say that it will destroy some of the world's most biodiverse -- and threatened --ecosystems on the planet.
According to The Wall Street Journal, one million hectares (2.5 million acres) have been reserved for the eight-year plan, which would convert tropical forest for oil palm, sugar, and cassava plantations. China National Offshore Oil Corp (CNOOC), Indonesia's Sinar Mas Group, and Hong Kong Energy (Holdings) Ltd. are funding the project.
Oil palm plantations in and around Tanjung Puting National Park in Kalimantan, Indonesian Borneo, satellite image courtesy of Google Earth. At $400 per metric ton, or about $54 per barrel, palm oil is competitive with conventional oil. In the future, palm oil prices are expected to fall further as more oil palm comes under cultivation. With cheap land, abundant labor, and ideal climate, investors and developers are eyeing tropical Africa as the next major producer of palm oil.
The new announcement was met with criticism by Palm Oil Watch, an environmental lobby group that monitors biofuel development in Indonesia.
"We are also worried about the impact these vast monoculture plantations will have on the environment, particularly as the Chinese don't have much experience in the sector," The Financial Times quoted Achmad Surambo of Palm Oil Watch (Sawit Watch) as saying.
Why is oil palm replacing tropical rainforests? -- 4/25/2006
Recently much has been made about the conversion of Asia's biodiverse rainforests for oil-palm cultivation. Environmental organizations have warned that by eating foods that use palm oil as an ingredient, Western consumers are directly fueling the destruction of orangutan habitat and sensitive ecosystems. So, why is it that oil-palm plantations now cover millions of hectares across Malaysia, Indonesia, and Thailand? Why has oil palm become the world's number one fruit crop, trouncing its nearest competitor, the humble banana? .
Saving Orangutans in Borneo -- 5/24/2006
A look at conservation efforts in Kalimantan, on the island of Borneo. I'm in Tanjung Puting National Park in southern Kalimantan on the island of Borneo. At 400,000 hectares (988,000 acres) Tanjung Puting is the largest protected expanse of coastal tropical heath and peat swamp forest in southeast Asia. It's also one of the biggest remaining habitats for the critically endangered orangutan, the population of which has been great diminished in recent years due to habitat destruction and poaching. And orangutans have become the focus of a much wider effort to save Borneo's natural environment. We are headed to Campy Leakey, named for the renowned Kenyan paleontologist Louis Leakey. Here lies the center of the Orangutan Research Conservation Project. Established by Birute Mary Galdikas, a preeminent primatologist and founder of the Orangutan Foundation International (OFI), the project seeks to support the conservation and understanding of the orangutan and its rain forest habitat while rehabilitating ex-captive individuals. The Orangutan Research Conservation Project is the public face of orangutan conservation in this part of Kalimantan, the Indonesia-controlled part of Borneo. Borneo, the third largest island in the world, was once home to some of the world's most majestic, and forbidding forests. With swampy coastal areas fringed by mangrove forests and a mountainous interior, much of the terrain was virtually impassable and unexplored. Headhunters ruled the remote parts of the island until a century ago.
52 species discovered in Borneo rainforest -- 12/18/2006
In 2006 scientists discovered 52 species in the highly threatened rainforests of Borneo according to a new report from WWF, an environmental group working to preserve the biodiverse 'Heart of Borneo' from further destruction.
Borneo governor arrested in rainforest for palm oil fraud -- 12/20/2006
The governor of East Kalimantan on Indonesian part of the island of Borneo has been suspended and faces life in prison for his involvement in an oil palm plantation scheme that caused the deforestation of a million hectares of tropical rainforest.