Deforestation in Borneo for palm oil production.
British Parliament has approved new government subsidies for biofuel use in U.K. power stations.
In a vote held yesterday, Parliament approved a Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) proposal to allow the burning of palm oil and wood pellets for power production.
Controversially the new measure would potentially subsidize fuels produced from palm oil, a move environmentalists warn could exacerbate deforestation in Africa and Southeast Asia.
“The fate of endangered species and rainforests is directly linked to the decisions we make about where our energy comes from,” said Helen Buckland, Director of the Sumatran Orangutan Society. “DECC have been warned about the consequences of this policy, but have disregarded the multitude of scientific studies which show that burning palm oil for energy is worse for the climate than fossil fuels.”
Most palm oil is currently used for cooking oil, processed foods, cleaning products, and cosmetics.
The DECC has introduced sustainability criteria for palm oil to qualify for subsidies, but campaigners fear that creating further demand for palm oil — even if it is “sustainably produced” — would encourage overall expansion, putting rainforests, peatlands, and endangered wildlife at risk.
“The problem is, the cap is so high that it could lead to a doubling of the UK’s annual palm oil imports, and the sustainability criteria completely fail to take into account the well-documented impacts on ecosystems, biodiversity, communities, food security and the climate that arise from diverting agricultural land from food to fuel production,” said Buckland.
Britain doesn’t currently burn any palm oil in power plants. Most of its palm oil consumption comes in the form of processed foods, cooking oil, and cosmetics.
Research has shown that palm oil production is one of the biggest drivers of deforestation and largest sources of greenhouse gas emissions in Indonesia, which has one of the world’s highest rates of forest loss.
(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.
(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.
(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).
(11/29/2010) Converting peatlands for wood-pulp and oil palm plantations generates nearly 1,500 tons of carbon dioxide per hectare, making these ostensibly “green” sources of paper, vegetable oil and biofuels important drivers of climate change, reports new research published by scientists at the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR).