There is an article came out yesterday saying that the policy-makers in EU is preparing a draft that allow the use of biofuels produced via conversion of rainforests to oil palm plantations. However, there are EU policies to restrict conversion of rain forest to grow annual crops like corn, soy, or rapeseed. In other words, if this law passes, it may open a gaping loophole in its sustainability criteria. It seems to me that their argument is that the palm can grow taller than 5 meters therefore they are considered replacement of the forest trees, which is considered harmless, or at least less harmful. This argument is not persuasive at all because any monkey knows that trees and trees are different and one tree does not equal to many trees. It turned out that a leaked document suggests that the legislation is due to the lobbying efforts by the palm oil industry. The Malaysian Palm Oil Council (MPOC), the state-backed marketing arm of Malaysia’s palm oil industry, and the Indonesian equivalent, the Indonesian Palm Oil Association (GAPKI), have sent several delegations to Europe over the past two years.
The other reason that people are denying the loss of biodiversity caused by oil-palm plantation is that there are almost no biodiversity assessment study done under the context of oil-palm plantation. There is a published paper addressing this concern. Of all the published paper on oil-palm, less than 1% of publications are related to biodiversity and species conservation. In the context of global vegetable oil markets, palm oil and soyabean account for over 60% of production but are the subject of less than 10% of research. Environmental groups and scientists say that oil palm production has driven large-scale destruction of rainforests across southeast Asia over the past two decades, triggering the release of billions of tons of carbon dioxide emissions and imperiling rare species, including the Sumatran tiger and the orangutan. The palm oil industry maintains that its crop is highly productive, requiring less land and costing less than other oilseeds like soy and canola, and has improved living standards for millions. Industry representatives have tended to dismiss environmental concerns as “colonialism” or masked trade barriers.
My question is that compared to other bio-fuel feedstock, what are the advantages and disadvantages of oil-palm? Even if it is an ideal plant biofuel, is it worth it to sacrafice biodiversity to fill in our oil tank?