May 18, 2012
Palm oil facility in Sumatra, Indonesia.
"Lobbying disclosure records show that the Malaysian Palm Oil Council, the Indonesian Palm Oil Board and Neste Oil have brought on Holland & Knight, which is among K Street’s highest revenue lobby shops," writes Ben Geman on The Hill's Energy and Environment Blog. Holland & Knight is a law firm.
The move comes after Wilmar International, the world's largest palm oil producer and trader, hired lobbying firm Van Ness Feldman on the same issue.
The EPA based its January decision on analysis of lifecycle emissions from palm oil production, which at times occurs at the expense of carbon-dense rainforests and peatlands. The palm oil industry rejects the findings, which indicate palm oil-based biodiesel reduces emissions 11-17 percent compared with conventional diesel. The Renewable Fuels Standard requires fuels to meet a 20 percent emissions reduction threshold. Under the ruling, palm oil biodiesel can still be used in the U.S., but it won't count as a low carbon fuel.
Environmentalists say the EPA's ruling is actually conservative, noting that a larger area of rainforest and peatland has been converted for oil palm plantations than assumed by the EPA. Clearing of these ecosystems produces substantial carbon emissions, which outweigh the climate benefits of oil palm plantations established in their place.
The renewable fuels standard targets 7.5 billion gallons of 'renewable' fuels to be blended into gasoline by the end of 2012. The initiative aims to reduce dependence on foreign oil and cut emissions from transportation, but some analysts have questioned the effectiveness of the program, since the bulk of 'renewable' fuel is expected to come from corn ethanol, which environmentalists say has mixed climate benefits.
Palm oil is a major driver of peatlands destruction in Indonesian Borneo, finds new study
(04/27/2012) Developers in Indonesian Borneo are increasingly converting carbon-dense peatlands for oil palm plantations, driving deforestation and boosting greenhouse gas emissions, reports a new study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The research concludes that nearly all unprotected forests in Ketapang District in West Kalimantan will be gone by 2020 given current trends.
Emissions from palm oil biodiesel highest of major biofuels, says EU
(01/30/2012) Greenhouse gas emissions from palm oil-based biodiesel are the highest among major biofuels when the effects of deforestation and peatlands degradation are considered, according to calculations by the European Commission. The emissions estimates, which haven't been officially released, have important implications for the biofuels industry in Europe.
Palm oil does not meet U.S. renewable fuels standard, rules EPA
(01/27/2012) The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) ruled on Friday that palm oil-based biofuels will not meet the renewable fuels standard due to carbon emissions associated with deforestation.
Carbon debt for some biofuels lasts centuries
(11/30/2011) It has long been known that biofuels release greenhouse gas emissions through land conversion like deforestation. But an innovative new study by the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) published in Ecology and Society has computed how long it would take popular biofuel crops to payoff the "carbon debt" of land conversion. While there is no easy answer—it depends on the type of land converted and the productivity of the crop—the study did find that in general soy had the shortest carbon debt, though still decades-long, while palm oil grown on peatland had the longest on average.
Palm oil biofuel from peatlands has big climate impact, finds study
(11/08/2011) Biofuels produced from oil palm plantations established on tropical peatlands are a substantial source of greenhouse gas emissions, reports a comprehensive new assessment conducted for the International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT).