Palm Oil – The Green Development Oil Newsletter – Issue 6, March 2010

10 Million Indonesians Prepare to Strike Back
Indonesian palm oil producers have hit back against the Nestlé ban on Sinar Mas palm oil, stating a willingness to boycott Nestlé products following the company’s capitulation to Greenpeace’s intimidation tactics.

Friends of the Earth – Instrument of European Protectionism
Friends of the Earth (Netherlands) has launched an extraordinary attack against Malaysian palm oil producer and Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) member, IOI Group.

A Plantation is a Forest: European Commission
A campaign by Friends of the Earth to pressure the European Commission to rule “a tree plantation is not a forest” that restricts the recognition of palm oil as a renewable biofuel in the European Union may have failed.

Leaked ‘Report’ on Impact of Indirect Land Use Change
Following the reaction of environmental NGOs to the draft guidelines on the RED sustainability criteria, a ‘report’ has been leaked to the UK media which purports to show renewable fuels do more harm than fossil fuels.

Palm Oil is the Most Sustainable Crop: Wageningen University Report
Wageningen University in the Netherlands publishes research which shows that “palm oil is the most efficient energy crop.”

Action Aid Turns Against the Poor
“Anti-poverty” group Action Aid has recently released a report entitled ‘Meals per Gallon’ which urges developed nations not to buy biofuels from developing nations.

10 Million Indonesians Prepare to Strike Back

Indonesian palm oil producers have hit back against the Nestlé ban on Sinar Mas palm oil, stating a willingness to boycott Nestlé products following the company’s capitulation to Greenpeace’s intimidation tactics.

In a new report entitled “Caught Red Handed: How Nestlé’s use of palm oil having a devastating impact on rainforests, the climate and orang-utans,” Greenpeace claims that palm oil produced by Sinar Mas, which they claim is devastating the Indonesian rainforest, was being used extensively in Nestlé products including Kit Kat.

While Nestlé has been quick to sell out Indonesia’s poor to protect its corporate image, Indonesian palm oil producers may soon return fire.

A recent statement by the Association of Indonesian Oil Palm Farmers (Apkasindo) flagged a possible boycott of Nestlé products by 10 million Indonesians, citing the devastating impact Nestlé’s actions would have on millions of Indonesian palm oil producers.

Nestlé’s capitulation to Greenpeace and refusal to consider the millions of Indonesians living in poverty is an indictment on the company and any claims to be socially responsible.

The claims by Greenpeace and supported by Nestlé are part of a long running campaign against Sinar Mas which is riddled with inconsistencies, exaggerations and misleading information.
Nestlé’s image as a socially responsible corporation also extends to a duty to consider the poverty stricken whose lives are harmed by their PR-driven capitulation, not just western NGOs.

Friends of the Earth – Instrument of European Protectionism
Friends of the Earth (Netherlands) has launched an extraordinary attack against Malaysian palm oil producer and Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) member, IOI Group.

In a report, partially funded by the European Union, entitled “Too Green to be True,” Friends of the Earth (Netherlands) accuses IOI of engaging in “illegal activities” including “illegal deforestation, the encroachment upon protected peat lands, and land-grabbing at the expense of local rice farmers.”Palm oil produced by IOI is currently being sourced as an ingredient for Neste NExBTL oil, which is currently being used to power commercial biofuel plants in Europe, including a new plant under construction in Rotterdam, Netherlands.

The Neste renewable diesel plant in Finland is currently powered by palm oil, rapeseed oil and waste animal fat. Neste has committed to only using certified palm oil by 2015 or earlier if supply is available.IOI has denied the claims and pointed to the fact that at no stage did Friends of the Earth approach the company or allow them to put their side of the story.Once again Friends of the Earth has shown a disgraceful disregard for the poor and poverty stricken of Malaysia and Indonesia by attacking an industry which is central to their economic development.

Moreover, this report is yet another example of environmental NGOs acting as guns for hire in the EU and developed nations attempts to restrict the importation of goods from developing nations.

A Plantation is a Forest: European Commission
A campaign by Friends of the Earth to pressure the European Commission to rule “a tree plantation is not a forest” that restricts the recognition of palm oil as a renewable biofuel in the European Union may have failed.

Media reports of draft guidelinesdeveloped by the European Commission indicate the Commission may classify palm oil plantations as forests which would therefore meet the sustainability criteria of the Renewable Energy Directive (RED).

Under RED, land which contained primary forest prior to 2008 but no longer does cannot be used for biofuel feedstock to meet the EU’s 10 percent target under RED.It has been reported that the draft guidelines define a “forested area” as “areas where trees have reached, or can reach, at least heights of 5 meters, making up a crown cover of more than 30%. They would normally include forest, forest plantations and other tree plantations such as palm oil.

Short rotation coppice may qualify if it fulfils the height and canopy cover criteria.”The document goes on to state “this means, for example, that a change from forest to oil palm plantation would not per se constitute a breach of this criterion.”

In the face of many conflicting, unproven and unsubstantiated figures on the impact of land use change on greenhouse gas emissions, the European Commission appears to have taken a pragmatic and responsible position.

The EC’s position would recognise that the important property of tropical forests for climate change policy is the high sequestering capacity of tropical foliage, tall wooded plants and multi-decade crop rotation – rather than relying on highly variable data which, for instance, simplistically assumes that the entire carbon stock of a tree is released into the atmosphere when it is removed.

It would also seem that the European Commission has recognised the environmental benefits of palm oil as a highly energy efficient, high yield and economically beneficial biofuel, which sequesters more carbon dioxide than other biofuel crops.

It may be hoped that the reported draft guidelines are an indication that the EU has ceased being led by environmental groups and started putting environmental outcomes before misinformation campaigns.

Leaked ‘Report’ on Impact of Indirect Land Use Change

Following the reaction of environmental NGOs to the draft guidelines on the RED sustainability criteria, a ‘report’ has been leaked to the UK media which purports to show renewable fuels do more harm that fossil fuels.

The Times environmental reporter, Ben Webster, has published an article titled “Green fuels cause more harm than fossil fuels, according to report.” The article cites an unsourced and unknown “government report” which found that biofuels can produce more carbon emissions than fossil fuels when ‘indirect land use change’ (ILUC) is considered.

It was reported that the study found that palm oil, rape seed and soy all failed to meet the EU RED target of a 35 per cent saving in carbon emissions. It was reportedly found that biofuel from palm oil actually increases carbon emissions by 31 percent which, in the author’s opinion, was “likely to force a review of the target.”

However, the difficulties associated with quantifying carbon emissions from ILUC are well documented and have led many to conclude that ILUC is an unworkable concept. It has been widely noted that the results from studies into ILUC produce highly divergent results with little, if any, conclusive outcome.

As a result, these claims of a 31 percent increase in emissions from ILUC seem to serve a political campaign to oppose all biofuels rather than expand technical understanding of the carbon footprint of biofuels.

Palm Oil is the Most Sustainable Crop: Wageningen University Report

Wageningen University in the Netherlands publishes research which shows that “palm oil is the most efficient energy crop.”

The report, which was published in Biomass and Bioenergy, found that palm oil, sugar cane from Brazil and sweet sorghum from China are currently the most sustainable energy crops.

The analysis considered nine different energy crops against nine different sustainability criteria. While palm oil came out on top, biofuel from maize from the United States and wheat from Europe scored far lower.

The report also found that palm oil, sugar cane and sorghum all produce “far smaller quantities of greenhouse gases than fossil fuels.”

The report’s author, Sander de Vries, concluded that sustainable sugar canes and oil palms get the most energy per hectare and cause the least environmental damage.

De Vries also highlighted a major advantage of the oil palm crop was that, unlike other energy crops, it produce enough residue to power the oil extraction processes.

This report is a rejection of environmental NGOs and the anti-palm oil lobby who consistently and erroneously claim that palm oil is unsustainable.

Action Aid Turns Against The Poor

“Anti-poverty” group Action Aid has recently released a report entitled ‘Meals per Gallon’ which urges developed nations not to buy biofuels from developing nations.

Action Aid claims that increasing the use of biofuels in developed nations is leading to an increase in food prices, the diversion of land used for food crops to biofuel crops and the large scale appropriation of land from the poor.

The report claims that biofuel targets such as the Renewable Energy Directive will mean that food security is compromised, particularly for the poor.

Action Aid’s Report is another attempt to pressure the European Union to raise barriers to the importation of biofuels from developing nations – this time on social welfare and economic grounds.

The Report fails to mention the highly successful government run programs in Malaysia and Indonesia which have significantly raised the standard of living and now see more than 40 per cent of palm oil plantations owned by small landholders.

Contrary to Action Aid’s claims, it has been widely recognised that biofuel crops, such as palm oil, are a highly effective way to alleviate poverty and provide economic growth in developing nations.

Further, Indonesia has previously imposed domestic restrictions to protect the local supply of palm oil until there is enough supply to meet domestic food demands, indicating that domestic governments can adequately manage the increase in demand.

The Action Aid Report is a misguided and uninformed attempt the lobby against biofuels in the European Union by singling out developing nations simply for trying to develop.

Poverty cannot be alleviated, or food supplies secured, by denying developing nations market access. Nations cannot grow strong and vibrant agricultural sectors if they are not supported to develop – rather than having their means to develop cut off.

For Action Aid to call for the EU to call for a moratorium on the use of biofuels on the grounds of poverty alleviation is both misguided and runs counter to the stated aims of the organisation – to reduce poverty.

Comments are closed.