Pay No Attention to the Whining Indonesian Palm Oil Industry: The Deforestation, Climate Change & Biodiversity Concerns Are Genuine

palm oil protest photo

Protesters in Finland, the banner says it all... Greenpeace Finland

Sometimes you read an industry statement that is so ludicrous that you you can't help but laugh. Such are the remarks in Reuters by the head of the Indonesia Palm Oil Growers Association that environmental NGOs pointing out the unmitigated climate change and biodiversity nightmare of plantation palm oil production might be pawns of Western business interests wanting to gain an advantage in the international biofuels market:Joefly Bahroeny said,

It's all about business. Palm oil has become a competitor as biofuel not only with rapeseed products but also a real competitor to fossil fuels controlled by Western interests. Do these other people truly care about global warming? Or do they also want to get rich with the excuse of climate change?

Bahroeny went on to say that first is was concerns about orangutans and biodiversity, and now it's climate change. You wonder if Bahroeny inhabits the same planet as the rest of us.

In fact it's all of those things which make the ongoing and accelerating wholesale rape of Indonesia's forests (largely for agriculture, of which palm oil plantations make up a large part) such a pressing problem.

Not to mention that many of the same NGOs criticizing Indonesia's palm oil industry also take issue with the biofuel industries in Western countries on similar climate change and biodiversity grounds. Or that (as in the photo above) they criticize Western companies for dealing with palm oil.

Planting Plantations on Peat a Climate Change Nightmare
A new piece in Mongabay lays out the situation of planting palm oil plantations on the peaty soils underlying the forests of much of Kalimantan in more specific terms, in case you don't already know the story.

But this is the really short version in regards to climate change: When you chop down the forests grown on peat and drain the land to depths sufficient for oil palm cultivation, the soil starts oxidizing and releasing massive amounts of CO2. The plantations replacing the forest do absorb some carbon, but at a vastly lower rate than an intact forest. When all of this is taken into consideration, biodiesel from palm oil grown in these areas has net carbon emissions 8-10 times greater than fossil fuel-based diesel.

Preserving Forests More Profitable Than Palm Oil
Mongabay also points out another twist on why preserving these forests is better than producing palm oil:

conversion of Indonesia's most carbon-dense ecosystems reduces the country's potential to earn compensation under the proposed REDD mechanism for reducing carbon emissions from deforestation and forest degradation. Forest conservation for REDD could prove to be an attractive form of land use on peatlands, competitive economically with returns from palm oil production.

Palm Oil, Deforestation
Southeast Asia Paying High Environmental Cost for Palm Oil
Greenpeace Activists Detain Palm Oil Tanker: Where Do Readers Stand on Direct Action?
WWF to Publish Palm Oil Buyer's Scorecard: Will Out Companies Not Meeting Their Sustainability Commitments
Orangutans' Fingers Mutilated by Oil Palm Plantation Workers

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