Once A Dream Fuel, Palm Oil May Be An Eco-Nightmare

Posted on Wednesday, January 31 at 17:27 by Ed Deak
Worse still, the scientists said, space for the expanding palm plantations was often created by draining and burning peatland, which sent huge amounts of carbon emissions into the atmosphere. Considering these emissions, Indonesia had quickly become the world’s third-leading producer of carbon emissions that scientists believe are responsible for global warming, ranked after the United States and China, according to a study released in December by researchers from Wetlands International and Delft Hydraulics, both in the Netherlands. “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. The production of biofuels, long a cornerstone of the quest for greener energy, may sometimes create more harmful emissions than fossil fuels, scientific studies are finding. As a result, politicians in many countries are rethinking the billions of dollars in subsidies that have indiscriminately supported the spread of all of these supposedly eco-friendly fuels for vehicles and factories. The 2003 European Union Biofuels Directive, which demands that all member states aim to have 5.75 percent of transportation run by biofuel in 2010, is now under review. “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.” He added, “It’s important to take a life-cycle view,” and not to “just see what the effects are here in Europe.” In the Netherlands, the data from Indonesia has provoked soul-searching, and helped prompt the government to suspend palm oil subsidies. The Netherlands, a leader in green energy, is now leading the effort to distinguish which biofuels are truly environmentally sound. The government, environmental groups and some of the Netherlands’ “green energy” companies are trying to develop programs to trace the origins of imported palm oil, to certify which operations produce the oil in a responsible manner. _ Sent: January 31, 2007 3:35 PM http://www.nytimes.com/2007/01/31/business/worldbusiness/31biofuel.html?ref=worldbusiness http://www.ncpa.org/sub/dpd/index.php?page=article&Article_ID=14138

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