Palm oil is the second most traded vegetable oil crop in the world, after soy, and over 90% of the world’s palm oil exports are produced in Malaysia and Indonesia. Palm oil is still mostly used in the manufacture of food products and is found in one in ten products sold in UK supermarkets.
However, palm oil is now starting to be used as an ingredient in bio-diesel and as a fuel to be burnt in power stations to produce electricity. This is a new market for palm oil which has the potential to dramatically increase global demand for this commodity.
THE high prices of petroleum have stimulated the rapid development of the biofuel industry in the European Union, United States and to some extent in Malaysia. Biofuel offers strategic advantages for different sectors and stakeholders.
Environmental non-governmental organisations and parliamentarians in the EU and US allege that the new demand for palm oil in their newly developed biofuel industry will lead to deforestation in Malaysia and Indonesia to accommodate the expanding cultivation of oil palm. The alleged conversion of forests is then linked to habitat loss, biodiversity and now global warming.
There are a number of advantages in using palm oil for the production of biofuel. Unlike fossil fuels, the combustion of palm oil biofuel does not increase the level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere as the oil is merely returning carbon dioxide obtained earlier from the atmosphere through photosynthesis. As such, biofuel is regarded as carbon neutral.
Since carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas responsible for global warming, the world benefits by the burning of biofuel instead of fossil fuel. Additionally, the palm trees that produce oil have simultaneously absorbed a lot more carbon dioxide during photosynthesis to form biomass for the other parts of the plant. The tree continues to absorb carbon dioxide throughout its life span of 25-30 years. A consumer of palm biofuel in Europe can therefore take comfort in knowing that palm biofuel is more than carbon neutral.
An added benefit of photosynthesis is the release of oxygen to the atmosphere. The quantity of oxygen released by oil palm, a perennial crop, far exceeds that produced by annual crops such as soybean or rapeseed. The cultivation of palm trees is therefore a huge contributing factor in the reduction of global warming.
In stark contrast, the use of fossil fuels in transport vehicles, generators and power plants results only in greater emissions of carbon dioxide and adds to global warming.
Global warming causes climatic change and results in extreme weather events, including frequent occurrences of long droughts that lead to forest fires which systematically destroy the world’s forests. The real culprits in forest destruction are those responsible for huge emissions of carbon dioxide, especially the industrial countries with the highest use of fossil fuel per capita. The Malaysian palm oil industry cannot be blamed for global warming, for in reality, it slows the process.
In view of the opportunities presented by the biofuel industry, all stakeholders must be aware of the impact of their industries on environmental sustainability and be prepared to research and share experiences in this area. Although Malay-sian palm oil is far ahead of competing crops in terms of sustainability, this has yet to be formalised with a proper certification scheme which will sooner or later be put into place.
The world community may need to introduce an international convention on land exploitation, by fixing the percentage of land allowed for forests, planted forests and agriculture. In Malaysia, 60 per cent of the country is covered by permanent forest, 18 per cent is essentially planted forest and less than two per cent is for traditional agriculture. Although these ratios may pose a high standard for others to follow, it makes an excellent target for the promotion of conservation, biodiversity and environmental sustainability worldwide.
Any proclamation, without reference to agreed international guidelines, asking certain countries to conserve their forests while ignoring their rights to develop a reasonable portion of their land for agriculture will be premature and reflect double standards.
Pertumbuhan kelapa sawit, tebu dan kedelai produksi telah menyebabkan rusaknya beberapa ekosistem yang paling keanekaragaman hayati di dunia, rumah bagi banyak spesies langka dan masyarakat rentan. Permintaan untuk biofuel adalah driver yang signifikan di balik pertumbuhan berkelanjutan industri ini.
Biofuel dihasilkan dari tanaman pangan seperti kelapa sawit benar-benar bisa menyebabkan lebih banyak kerusakan iklim daripada bahan bakar fosil tradisional. Menghasilkan emisi karbon lebih dari deforestasi dan kebakaran gambut daripada yang dihasilkan oleh seluruh sektor transportasi global. Memperlambat laju kerusakan hutan adalah salah satu yang termurah dan paling efektif untuk memerangi perubahan iklim.
Ketika satu hektar hutan hujan primer akan dihapus dan diganti dengan kelapa sawit, ini melepaskan sekitar 65 kali lebih banyak karbon ke atmosfer seperti dapat diselamatkan setiap tahun dengan menggunakan minyak kelapa sawit sebagai biofuel.
Produksi minyak kelapa sawit terkait dengan perusakan hutan hujan Asia Tenggara yang tersisa, pelanggaran hak asasi manusia, dan untuk gambut dan kebakaran hutan. Industri kelapa sawit di Indonesia dan Malaysia bermaksud untuk memanfaatkan permintaan untuk biofuel dengan memperluas perkebunan kelapa sawit dengan mengorbankan hutan dataran rendah yang tersisa di Sumatera dan Kalimantan, benar-benar merusak manfaat lingkungan menggunakan biofuel.