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Indonesia seeks to get palm oil used as jet fuel in U.S., France

Oil palm fruit in Indonesia, the world's top palm oil producer. The commodity is used in everything from detergents and cosmetics to breakfast cereals and ice cream. Photo by Rhett A. Butler

  • Indonesia wants the U.S. and France to let Indonesian companies build palm oil jet fuel plants in the Western countries.
  • Indonesia’s trade minister said he had conveyed this request to the U.S. and French governments, and made it a condition for future purchases of Boeing and Airbus planes.
  • The request comes amid a wider campaign by the Indonesian government to prop up demand for palm oil, of which it is the world’s top producer.

Indonesia, the world’s top producer of palm oil, wants the U.S. and France to use it to fuel their airplanes — and may be willing to play hardball in order to achieve its aim.

The Indonesian trade minister told reporters in Jakarta this week that he had asked the U.S. and French governments to allow the construction of palm oil jet fuel plants in the Western countries, as a condition for continued Indonesian purchases of Boeing and Airbus planes, Reuters reported. Boeing is a U.S. company and Airbus is a French company.

“We have asked that Indonesian companies be allowed to produce jet biofuel in the U.S.,” said the trade minister, Enggartiasto Lukita. He added that palm oil for the plants would ideally come from Indonesia.

The Indonesian government has lately stepped up its efforts to prop up demand for palm oil through biofuel schemes, including by increasing the biofuel blending requirement for vehicles in the Southeast Asian country.

Meanwhile, policymakers in Europe are seeking to cut the use of palm oil in biofuels, citing environmental concerns. The rapid expansion of oil palm plantations, mainly by large companies, has driven the destruction of rainforests in Indonesia and other tropical countries.

Last year, a proposal by the International Civil Aviation Organization, a UN agency, to achieve “carbon-neutral growth” by using biofuel in airplanes, likely from palm oil, prompted an outcry from observers who said it would only serve to fuel environmental destruction. A petition against the plan was signed by more than 180,000 people, before the ICAO rejected the plan.

Banner: Oil palm fruit in Indonesia. Image by Rhett A. Butler/Mongabay.