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EPA Palm Oil Fight Brewing

EPA is looking at the resource as part of the renewable fuel standard, but there's a problem - it's not greenhouse gas friendly and the agency agrees.

Published on: Apr 30, 2012

When is too much impact on greenhouse gas emissions not enough? When you're the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency ruling on the idea of including palm oil used as biodiesel as part of the updated renewable fuel standard. The agency has found that the fuel isn't suitable for use, but at least one group says the agency hasn't gone far enough, but farm groups like what they've heard from EPA so far.

The National Farmers Union submitted comments Friday - last day of the public comment period on the issue - in support of the EPA's findings that palm-oil based biodiesel doesn't qualify as a renewable energy source meeting the new standards set by Congress. "We are seeing the conversion of rainforests to production agriculture in order to produce palm oil, which negatively impacts biodiversity and carbon sequestration," says Roger Johnson. "Many palm oil plantations are draining peatlands, which has a significant impact on CO2 emissions. Together, these two factors negate most of the benefits realized from using palm oil as renewable fuel."

Palm Oil Fight Brewing
Palm Oil Fight Brewing

The EPA's analysis looked at the loss of rainforest and the draining of peatlands as the big net loss for palm-oil based biodiesel, which keeps the fuel from being classed as renewable under the RFS. However one group - the Rainforest Action Network - claims that EPA hasn't gone far enough. Scientific and environmental groups summarized their comments to EPA's proposed finding and while they agreed with EPA's conclusion, they argue that EPA's analysis actually underestimates the greenhouse gas emissions of palm oil. "The emissions of palm oil-based biofuels substantially exceed the emissions from conventional petroleum diesel," says Jeremy Martin, senior scientist at the Union of Concerned Scientists, in a press statement.

In their comment to EPA, the group notes that EPA's analysis found that palm oil-based biodiesel fails the meet the minimum qualifying standard fo 20% fewer greenhouse gas emissions than conventional petroleum based diesel for the RFS, as well as the 50% greenhouse gas emissions reduction to qualify as a renewable diesel.

The groups, however, claim that EPA is under pressure to reverse the finding from lobbying gropus aligned with the Indonesian, Malaysian and Chinese palm oil industry. How the EPA will rule after its own analysis shows there's a problem remains to be seen.

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  1. Anonymous says:

    Fuck the Indonesian, Malaysian and Chinese palm oil industries -- and their American lobbyists! How about the rainforest, the orangutan -- and the humans who inhabit this planet!

  2. Anonymous says:

    not all palm oil is equal, there are some "good" producers, just as there are in any industry. palm oil can be an excellent source of biofuel and good production should be encouraged. jst. Triple Pundit.com - Nestlé + Greenpeace: A Model for Sustainable Sourcing of Palm Oil? Author: Toby Webb; Published on 19 May 12 Nestlé’s partnership with its leading palm oil supplier, Golden Agri Resources (GAR), and NGO The Forest Trust (TFT) represents a “serious and substantive change in important areas such as forest clearance and use of peat lands. The partnership is starting to look like an example of how sustainability collaboration can dramatically change operating practices and business models. GAR now has a forest conservation policy in collaboration with TFT. It aims to ensure it has no deforestation footprint. The firm has committed to zero palm oil development on peat and high conservation value areas. GAR also promises no development on high carbon stock forest land, “free prior and informed consent” with regard to communities, and compliance with all local and national laws. In recent years the company has implemented a social and community engagement policy and a yield improvement policy in collaboration with TFT and others. “GAR is prepared to take a lead,” says GAR’s Peter Heng. But in terms of wider impact, GAR is limited by the actions of other stakeholders and companies. Nestlé UK’s Batato agrees, saying: “It’s about transformation of the business models of suppliers and bigger companies can lead the way.”

  3. Anonymous says:

    If the EPA changes its ruling the result will be catastrophic.... Around 90% of the global supply of palm oil comes from Indonesia & Malaysia and this has come at a tremendous environmental cost. Indonesian forests are being burned to the ground-- releasing so much carbon into the atmosphere that Indonesia now ranks only behind China and the US in carbon emissions-- and it is barely industrialized. The UNEP estimates that the forests of Indonesia are being cleared at a rate of 6 football fields per minute every minute of every day. The palm oil industry is guilty of truly heinous ecological atrocities, including the systematic genocide of orangutans. The forests of Borneo and Sumatra are the only place where these gentle, intelligent creatures live, and the cultivation of palm oil has directly led to the brutal deaths of thousands of individuals as the industry has expanded into previously undisturbed areas of rainforest. Here's the latest atrocity in Sumatra's Tripa peat forests: http://endoftheicons.wordpress.com/ When the forest is cleared, adult orangutans are typically shot on sight. These peaceful, sentient beings are beaten, burned, mutilated, tortured and often eaten. Babies are torn off their dying mothers so they can be sold on the black market as illegal pets to wealthy families who see them as status symbols of their own power and prestige. This has been documented time and again. If nothing is done to protect orangutans, they will be extinct in just a few years. Visit the Orangutan Outreach website to learn more: www.redapes.org