Palm oil industry hires lobbying powerhouse to overturn EPA ruling on biofuels

May 18, 2012

Palm oil facility in Sumatra, Indonesia.

The palm oil industry has hired lobbying powerhouse Holland & Knight to help overturn the Environmental Protection Agency’s finding that palm oil-based biodiesel fails to meet greenhouse gas emissions targets under the country's Renewable Fuels Standard, reports The Hill.

"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.

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mongabay.com (May 18, 2012).

Palm oil industry hires lobbying powerhouse to overturn EPA ruling on biofuels.