Greenpeace and the threat to Orang Utans

I’ve written a bit about the threat to orang utans from biodiesel made from palm oil in southeast Asian countries. There is a really powerful video from Greenpeace that makes the point more eloquently than I can. Here it is.

hattip to Its the only one we have

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7 Responses to Greenpeace and the threat to Orang Utans

  1. rob 21 June, 2007 at 12:45 pm #

    Doesn’t biodiesel only use less than 0% of palm oil – rest is food industry

  2. Biofuelsimon 25 June, 2007 at 4:43 pm #

    Hi Rob, I think it uses a bit more than that, and the proportion is going to grow if the European Union decides that it needs palm-oil-based biodiesel in its fuel mix.

  3. Jon 27 June, 2007 at 3:59 am #

    It’s a bit hypocritical of us Europeans to point the finger at Asian or South American rainforest countries.

    How much of Europe’s forests are still standing? Less than 6% was the number I found, compared with SE Asia where greater than 85% is still present.

    Whilst we run around in our luxury lifestyles in our developed economy – how can we point the finger at other countries and say ‘don’t use your natural resources – oh and by the way I want the cheapest this and that possible and you are not allowed to kill any orangutans whilst making it…’

    Incidentally Palm Oil is the highest yielding calorie per hectare crop in the world. Global vegoil production is something around 150 Million MT per year, Palm Oil is the largest vegoil and accounts for 35% of that production. however it uses less than 5% of the land taken by all other oilseed crops. On a global basis over 1.5 billion hectares of land is used for all types of agriculture…and guess what palm plantations take up less than 1% of that huge amount.

    So whilst 60,000 children die a day from malnutrition all Greenpeace kicks up a fuss about is some no-doubt-adorable primates.

    Looking forward to the day activists fight for real issues and journalists review all the facts.

  4. Biofuelsimon 27 June, 2007 at 3:12 pm #

    Palm oil may be the energy dense of the veg oil crops but that does not excuse the grow it at all costs approach whihc would see the extinction of a species. Any more than people’s love of fish validates over fishing as a behaviour. Starving people will certianly not be helped by diverting food crops in to fuel, or growing food crops as fuel. Will they?

  5. Mark C R UK 28 June, 2007 at 3:01 pm #

    But Simon,

    Check out Biopact

    There are solutions to every problem. D1 Oils PLC seem to think that Jatropha will be the answer to many problems… the fact it can be grown insitu rather than in monoculture helps… WHEN they get their technology working.

    Its about choosing the correct option.

    Both (Simon) and the other commentor are right in part. Is there a middle way?

    Technologically – I’m sure there is. Politically? Certainly.

    So that unlike Petrochems – we can have our cake AND eat it – sustainably.

  6. Jon 3 July, 2007 at 8:09 am #

    I hope like Mark there is a solution, be it Jathropa, Algae, Synthetic Biofuels or something else. But we mustn’t forget that whilst we are searching for an alternative energy source, the other demand on vegetable oils is from the edible sector.

    Our global population is growing at an unprecedented rate we will easily rack up another billion mouths to feed within one lifetime. Over the past century farming practises have focused on increasing yeilds, be it with GM, fertilizers, rotations, hybrids – all these progressions have been aiming to increase the output without expanding the farming area. Of which by the way Palm again comes out trumps. 1 hectare of Palm plantation yeilds upto 10 MT of oil (on an efficient plantaiton) – the same area yeilds 0.8 MT of Soy and 0.5 MT of Rapeseed. Each crop is needed as they have different properties.

    Simon – I would be keen to know how many animal species Europe and the US has wiped out with our aggressive farming? We didn’t seem to mind 150 or even 15 years ago – with mouths to feed this was more important. Just as it is now for the developing nations.

    How many people can put saving an orangutan above a person?

    When we wiped the forests of Europe/US off the map we may not have known the future effects or the extinction of the animals at the time.

    Now with our deeper understanding I think we should not be persecuting the developing nations for building economies off their natural resources, we should either be actively helping these nations with funds, technology/methodology/idea sharing or PAYING them not to use their natural resources. Maybe there are other options?

  7. Biofuelsimon 3 July, 2007 at 2:44 pm #

    Hi Jon, Biofuels cannot be based on staple foods in the longer term. On that we are agreed. What I worry about is that additional palm oil or ethanol displaces other foods or gasoline into markets with large demands for energy.

    For example, adding ethanol to Europe’s gasoline does not reduce the global amount of gasloine used. Instead the gasoline displaced by the ethanol, but refined in Europe it exported. The loser is marginal oil, which is expensive to extract, that stays in the ground. Similarly if the Europeans start importing palm oil for biodiesel production it will not be feeding poor poeople in the countries where it grows, it will be fueling rich people’s habit of driving.

    I do believe that animals are more important than the driving habits of rich westerners. What do you think?

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