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Palm oil does not meet U.S. renewable fuels standard, rules EPA

Oil palm plantations and rainforest in Malaysia

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, reports The Hill.

According to a notice published Friday in the Federal Register, palm oil-based biodiesel fails to meet a requirement that renewable fuels offer a 20 percent reduction in emissions relative to conventional gasoline:

The decision means that palm oil-based biofuels can’t be used to meet national renewable fuel standards. It therefore won’t win favorable treatment relative to other fuel sources.

The EPA’s ruling comes after extensive lifecycle analysis of palm oil production. While oil palm has the highest yield of any commercial oilseed its production is at times linked to conversion of tropical forests, which is a large source of greenhouse gas emissions. A number of studies have shown that deforestation significantly undercuts the climate benefits of palm oil as a biofuel source.

The EPA has opened a comment period on the decision. The palm oil industry is expected to weigh in on the findings.

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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Greening the world with palm oil?

(01/26/2011) The commercial shows a typical office setting. A worker sits drearily at a desk, shredding papers and watching minutes tick by on the clock. When his break comes, he takes out a Nestle KitKat bar. As he tears into the package, the viewer, but not the office worker, notices something is amiss—what should be chocolate has been replaced by the dark hairy finger of an orangutan. With the jarring crunch of teeth breaking through bone, the worker bites into the “bar.” Drops of blood fall on the keyboard and run down his face. His officemates stare, horrified. The advertisement cuts to a solitary tree standing amid a deforested landscape. A chainsaw whines. The message: Palm oil—an ingredient in many Nestle products—is killing orangutans by destroying their habitat, the rainforests of Borneo and Sumatra.

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Smart biofuels that don’t hurt people or the environment are possible

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Is the oil-palm industry using global warming to mislead the public?

(11/23/2007) Members of the Indonesian Palm Oil Commission are distributing materials that misrepresent the carbon balance of oil-palm plantations, according to accounts from people who have seen presentations by commission members. These officials are apparently arguing that oil-palm plantations store and sequester many times the amount of CO2 as natural forests, and therefore that converting forests for plantations is the best way to fight climate change. In making such claims, these Indonesian representatives evidently are ignoring data that show the opposite, putting the credibility of the oil-palm industry at risk, and undermining efforts to slow deforestation and rein in greenhouse gas emissions.