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Indonesia’s national airline to start using palm oil biofuel

Aposphragisma brunomanseri goblin spider
Oil palm fruit. Photo by Rhett A. Butler

Indonesia’s national airline, Garuda Indonesia, says it will start mixing palm oil-based biofuel with its jet fuel as part of an initiative to “reduce” carbon emissions, reports The Jakarta Post.

Novianto Herupratomo, Garuda’s operational director, said crude palm oil would be mixed into avtur — aviation turbine fuel — starting in 2016.

“We hope that the biofuel can be produced on a large scale so the price will be relatively the same as avtur,” was quoted as saying. “Hopefully [biofuel can be] cheaper than avtur.”

Garuda claimed the measure is intended to help the environment, but the Indonesian government has recently been pushing palm oil use for biofuels to counter slackening demand.

According to The Jakarta Post, Garuda currently uses 1.8 billion liters of avtur a year. Consumption is expected to reach 2 billion liters in 2016.

Last year the Indonesian government established a target of 2 percent biofuel in aviation fuel by 2016, suggesting Garuda’s palm oil consumption may reach 36 million liters of palm oil if it meets that goal.

Illegal deforestation for palm oil production in Sumatra.

The palm oil target is likely to be met with criticism from environmentalists, who say that palm oil-based biofuel is no greener than conventional fossil fuels when produced at the expense of carbon dense rainforests and peatlands. That argument is supported by a growing body of academic studies that have measured the so-called “carbon debt” of palm oil-based biofuels.

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