Tuesday, 2 October 2007

The human cost of Palm Oil and Bio Fuels

If anyone ever thought that it was just biscuits that Oil Palm production is used for, then this is wrong, in fact Palm Oil is present in one out of every ten supermarket products. The development of palm Oil plantations has been responsible for nearly 90% of deforestation in malaysia, in Sumatra and Borneo four million hectares of rainforest are being cleared and in Indonesia sixteen million hectares are being cleared. (All the above are Friends Of The earth figures.)
Prior to the planting of the Oil Palms, the felled trees are often burnt, releasing carbon and usually covering the areas in smog. The dryer lands in the regions are rapidly being used up, and so the swamp areas are being drained and cleared. these swamp areas are mainly peat, and as they dry they release the carbon locked into them.
As the clearing of the Rainforests occurs the thousands of indigenous people that live there are evicted and in Indonesia some five hundred people have been imprisoned and tortured when they tried to resist the clearances. In addition to this many of the animals that live in these areas are facing extinction. (Green Peace info.)
Biodiesel is being produced from Palm Oil, and the main Palm Oil refineries will be making Biodiesel from Palm Oil sourced from Malaysia and Indonesia, but there is yet another problem lurking in the wings when this happens. The GM companies are reinventing themselves on the back of Palm Oil 'development.' The worry is that the GM Biodiesel Palm Oil plants will either cross over to the food palm by accident or perhaps, by design!
I often have mentioned to me that the production of Diesel fuel from recycled vegetable cooking oil could be an answer. This is, sadly, not the case. If all the vegetable cooking oil in the Uk was recycled and use as fuel for Diesel cars them it would provide only one 380th (.26%) of our transport needs. (The Guardian.)
Another alternative fuel (for petrol cars) is Bioethanol E85. This is mainly produced by corn distilation providing alcohol. This has resulted in a world corn price increase and the problem of ever increasing starvation for many Third World countries as due to crop shortages because of Global Warming they rely on imported grain to feed their populations.