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Biodeisel a good idea? then think again

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Worse Than Fossil Fuel

Posted December 6, 2005



....."Last week, the chairman of Malaysia’s Federal Land Development Authority announced that he was about to build a new biodiesel plant(4). His was the ninth such decision in four months. Four new refineries are being built in Peninsula Malaysia, one in Sarawak and two in Rotterdam(5). Two foreign consortia – one German, one American – are setting up rival plants in Singapore(6). All of them will be making biodiesel from the same source: oil from palm trees.


“The demand for biodiesel,” the Malaysian Star reports, “will come from the European Community … This fresh demand … would, at the very least, take up most of Malaysia’s crude palm oil inventories”(7). Why? Because it’s cheaper than biodiesel made from any other crop.


In September, Friends of the Earth published a report about the impacts of palm oil production. “Between 1985 and 2000,” it found, “the development of oil-palm plantations was responsible for an estimated 87 per cent of deforestation in Malaysia”(8). In Sumatra and Borneo, some 4 million hectares of forest has been converted to palm farms. Now a further 6 million hectares is scheduled for clearance in Malaysia, and 16.5m in Indonesia........................


and it gets worse


........Having used up the drier lands, the plantations are now moving into the swamp forests, which grow on peat. When they’ve cut the trees, the planters drain the ground. As the peat dries it oxidises, releasing even more carbon dioxide than the trees. In terms of its impact on both the local and global environments, palm biodiesel is more destructive than crude oil from Nigeria............"



the eu has deciced to do nothing, so things can only getworse, and all inthe name of a theory for which there is little supporting evidence and may b e wrong!!!! (the ipcc report of course)


ps he also oints out that in other areas of the world "growing fuel" reduces the land available for food production - is tis a goood idea i wonder?

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  • 2 weeks later...

I saw an interesting artcle summaring the pressure on the economics of using palm oil as biodiesel:


Title: Palm oil prices soar as Malaysia, Indonesia allocate 40% to biodiesel, 24 July 2006


Malaysia and Indonesia, numbers one and two in the world palm oil-producing league, have announced an agreement in which 40 percent of their crude palm oil output will be dedicated to the biodiesel industry.



"Both countries agreed to commit a targeted amount of six million tonnes of crude palm oil each annually as feedstock for the production of biofuels and biodiesel," the Plantation Industries and Commodities ministry said in a statement yesterday.


The announcement lifted the benchmark October contract on the Bursa Malaysia up 3.3 percent to 1,591 ringgit (US$432) a tonne.


The volumes more than doubled to 26,936 lots of 25 tonnes each from 12,887 lots traded on Wednesday. Other contracts were up between 29 and 54 ringgit.


The statement said the decision was part of an agreement signed between the two nations.


Industry analysts said the move could further boost edible-oil prices, making it expensive for both food and energy users to buy vegetable oils.


"Palm oil is going to become expensive and out of reach for consumers in developing nations like India, China and Pakistan," said M. R. Chandran, an independent commodity consultant.


"Palm oil will lose its attractiveness as a cheaper form of edible oil."


Traders said companies setting up biodiesel plants had worked out the cost of palm oil at USD $434 a tonne to be viable for making biofuel.


"The whole economics of palm as raw material for biofuel will change," said an official at a leading trading company.


Malaysia's edible-oil industry says the government had approved 32 manufacturing licences, with annual output capacity of around 3 million tonnes of biodiesel, from 87 applications.


Editorial comment: On 3rd July Malaysia announced they would no longer issue licenses to biodiesel manufacturers.


On 21 July they announced 2 new 'Palm Oil Industry Clusters', enterprise zones intended to encourage palm oil down-stream investment.


To this confused picture is added a suspicion that the moratorium on new biodiesel plants will mainly affect foreign applicants, leaving the field clear for domestic plantations owners and refiners (several of whom have announced their own biodesel plans). It seems likely the moratorium on new biodiesel plants will be selective rather than total, and so will not relieve the upward pressure on CPO prices after all.


So pressure on palm oil prices continues, with $600 a ton looking likely. The current level of uncertainty surrounding prices and the industrial policies of producer countries means those in the market for a biodiesel factory must surely be considering feedstock other than palm oil.


However, if calm is restored to the Middle East, if OPEC pumps harder and crude prices drop back towards $40 a barrel, biodiesel producers caught between rising feedstock costs on the one hand and falling petrolium prices on the other might decide to exit the biodiesel business and concentrate on their traditional activities of growing palm trees and crushing fruit. It might then be possible to pick up a biodiesel plant at a bargain-basement price.


But any biodiesel maker that competes with the human food chain for their feedstock is susceptible to being squeezed from two directions.


Companies that have more imaginative business models start to look prescient. D1 Oils' jatropha contract farming, GS CleanTech's chicken fat, and China Biodiesel's waste oil feedstock mean they can only be squeezed from one direction, not both.


source: http://www.biofuelreview.com/content/view/299/2/


My own comment: Well, as EU has set a policy in the % use of biodiesel, the politicians might not have thought through the implication of effects on the human food of palm oil. Perhaps, some of the them might have profited by investing in the biodiesel sector before the policy was announced. Who knows?

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Biofuels from food crops bugs VW James Mackintosh, London September 09, 2006


VOLKSWAGEN has attacked biofuels made from food crops as unsustainable, setting the German car maker at odds with US President George Bush, US car makers and European governments, which have all been touting ethanol as an environmentally friendly alternative to petrol in cars.................


........Mr Pischetsrieder said some of the current biofuels were "totally pointless" and "like a wolf in sheep's clothing".

He criticised tax benefits that were not linked to carbon dioxide, since some methods of refining biofuel actually led to higher carbon emissions than from petrol.

"The current situation is totally unsatisfactory, both from the environmental and economic standpoint," he said. ..........


Of course ti depends on if you accept the tenuous hypothesis that c02 is the main cause of global warming

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  • 5 months later...

as well as all the usual disadvatages they hint that diesel will go up by 15 - 20p a litre next year to cover the costs of biodiesel; all thanks to the eu and greenery - better sell that oiler before this hits the car auctions!!!!!!!!!!!!!



Burned by the sun Feb 22nd 2007

Can biofuels save Europe, or the planet?


WHEN all else fails, agree on biofuels. That has been the reassuring mantra of European Union energy policy, plagued by disagreements on unbundling over-mighty power firms, haggles over carbon trading and worries about dependence on Russian gas. But a forthcoming report from the EU's own environment agency argues that the beloved biofuels—ethanol, rapeseed biodiesel and the like—have big drawbacks..................................more

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April 23, 2007 Biodiesel won't drive down global warming

EU legislation to promote the uptake of biodiesel will not make any difference to global warming, and could potentially result in greater emissions of greenhouse gases than from conventional petroleum derived diesel. This is the conclusion of a new study reported today in Chemistry & Industry...........more


bet the eu commission doesnt rescind the eu biodiesel directive! (has the commission ever amended/rescinded any legislation i wonder?)

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