Mainstream Media Discovers that Palm Oil no Panacea


Bazuki Muhammad/Reuters: Oil palms are delivered for pressing in Malaysia.

Elisabeth Rosenthal in The New York Times says that palm oil "may be an eco-nightmare." We have previously complained about it causing rainforest deforestation, habitat destruction for orangutans, and bird habitats. We did not know that the Indonesians were draining and burning peatlands, which produced huge amounts of CO2, making Indonesia the third biggest CO2 producer in the world. Dutch conservationists who supported biofuels were surprised. "It was shocking and totally smashed all the good reasons we initially went into palm oil," said Alex Kaat, a spokesman for Wetlands, a conservation group. Experts point out that biofuels all differ and you have to know its provenance. "If you make biofuels properly, you will reduce greenhouse emissions," said Peder Jensen, of the European Environment Agency in Copenhagen. "But that depends very much on the types of plants and how they're grown and processed. You can end up with a 90 percent reduction compared to fossil fuels — or a 20 percent increase."The peat CO2 contribution is stunning. We quote the Times:

Peat is an organic sponge that stores huge amounts of carbon, helping balance global emissions. Peatland is 90 percent water. But when it is drained, the Wetlands International scientists say, the stored carbon gases are released into the atmosphere.

To makes matters worse, once dried, peatland is often burned to clear ground for plantations. The Dutch study estimated that the draining of peatland in Indonesia releases 660 million ton of carbon a year into the atmosphere and that fires contributed 1.5 billion tons annually.

The total is equivalent to 8 percent of all global emissions caused annually by burning fossil fuels, the researchers said. "These emissions generated by peat drainage in Indonesia were not counted before," said Mr. Kaat. "It was a totally ignored problem." ::New York Times

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