Thursday, March 25, 2010


When I flew back to Sarawak last couple of years, I know it is slowly becoming Johor. Acres and acres of land are being cleared for oil palm plantation. How green is this biofuel? There is a heavy price to pay for going green. If you think about it, the amount of jungle to clear, the amount of biodiversity that is lost, the amount of animals that are extinct, the amount of water consumption and waste generation that goes through the whole chain of getting the tree to bear the fruits, it is not worth it. You might as well just go drill for normal fuel, which has less impact.

Recall the National Geographic article titled Borneo's Moment of Truth and look through the images of the landscape. It is very real. I remember driving between Bintulu and Miri about four years back and was shocked by the amount of land cleared for oil palm plantation. I thought I was driving in Johor. Read through the article by Suhardi for more complete picture of the devastation oil palm is causing to the nature.

I had a conversation with an engineer friend the other day. He told me the amount of water needed to grow an oil palm tree and the amount of waste generated is making the whole thing unsustainable. It is not worth it for the ecosystem. It is like the X amount of water and energy you need to generate that Y amount of oil is not economic at all. For the businessmen, it is worth it for the good market price. The price is of course paid by people living near all these land that has been cleared for oil palm plantation.

Today, I read the news headline MALAYSIA TO SWITCH TO BIOFUEL NEXT YEAR and was caught with the statement:

The policy "will benefit the country as biofuel is environmentally friendly and it will reduce our dependence on petroleum diesel," the ministry said.

I am not so convinced about environmentally friendly part anymore. All I want to say is to enjoy green fuel, the price to pay is too high and is always paid by other countries where the sacrifice is too much to bear. There is just too much water and land wasted and waste generated.

Water hungry: the innovative use of irrigation could help the palm oil industry address sustainability issues which are likely to attract increasing attention from environmentally-concerned consumers, governments and food industries. (Oil Palm)

Minimization of water consumption and process optimization of palm oil mills

Malaysia to switch to biofuel next year
(AFP) – 20 hours ago

KUALA LUMPUR — Malaysia, the world's second-largest palm oil producer, will make it mandatory for all vehicles to use biofuel from next year, the government announced Wednesday.

Malaysia's plans to shift to biofuel -- a mixture of diesel with five percent processed palm oil -- have been delayed over the past few years due to price fluctuations.

The plan will now be implemented in stages in several central states from June 2011, the Plantation Industries and Commodities Ministry said in a statement, adding that the extra cost will be borne by petroleum companies.

The policy "will benefit the country as biofuel is environmentally friendly and it will reduce our dependence on petroleum diesel," the ministry said.

"It will also strengthen the palm oil prices and enable the planters, especially smallholders, to benefit from the stronger palm oil price."

The ministry said it will discuss the implementation mechanism with petroleum companies, while the government will set up six petroleum depots with blending facilities.

The government has said the switch to biofuel will help reduce the cost of fuel in Malaysia, where petrol is subsidised, but conservationists have criticised oil palm plantations for destroying wildlife habitats.

Commodities Minister Bernard Dompok defended the move, although he conceded the biofuel industry is facing "increasing pressure from negative public opinion on biofuels".

"One of the challenges is meeting the sustainability criteria that are being debated worldwide," the minister said in a separate statement.

"Many studies have shown that the use of biodiesel reduces greenhouse gas emissions as compared to the use of petroleum diesel," he said.

"It is universally recognised that fossil fuel reserves are finite and fast depleting. As such, renewable energy sources need to be found to complement the needs of energy requirements."

Dompok said Malaysia -- which aims to be the global leader in biodiesel -- has approved 56 licences for biodiesel production, which account for a production capacity of 6.8 million tonnes.

The fortunes of Malaysia's biofuel industry waned in late 2008 when the price of crude oil tumbled, triggering a crash in the palm oil price which made supply uncertain, jeopardising the long-term contracts the industry needs. Malaysia is the world's second-largest exporter of palm oil after Indonesia, and the two countries account for 85 percent of global production.

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