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Malaysian Forests Sacrificed for Biodiesel

| Tuesday December 12th, 2006 | 3 Comments

malaysia.jpgHere’s one I never quite saw coming when I was firing a pottery kiln with veggie oil in 1999. According to the WSJ, 12/5/06, “As Alternative Fuels Heat Up, Environmental Concerns Grow.” Malaysians are getting sick from a nationwide haze of blue smoke caused by rushed and rampant burning of forests in order to plant palm oil trees and attempt to meet global demand for biodiesel.
According to the Journal, “The alternative energy field ‘is almost like the internet in terms of the pace of how fast all this is changing,’ says Chris Flavin, president of the World Watch Institute”
Internet is good, alternative energy is good, hot money chasing change leaves a wake of destruction.
Keep your money in your coat. As for now, I’ll keep fillin’ her up with unleaded (cut with Ethanol of course.) Sometimes the most sustainable thing I can do is nothing at all. [wsj link here - requires subscription]


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  • Ramsey

    This is the kind of ill informed journalism that creates more problems than it solves. Firstly, no Malaysian forest is being burnt for Palm Oil or for for any other crop.
    The forest fires are occurring in Indonesia and affecting its neighbours , Malaysia and Singapore.Part of the burning is due to slah and burn methords of cultivation of mainly food crops. It is likely that unscrupulous land dealers are exploiting the sitution to get land on the cheap. Whilst there has been many allegations that Palm Oil plantation owners are behind this , to date there has been no evidence presented to the Authorities.
    Secondly, it is strange that even though less than 200,000 tons out of more than 30 million tons of PO produced between the 2 countries has been used for Biodiesel, the hype against this enormous.

  • B. Bioguy

    The posting by Sam Clarkson of December 12th, 2006, “Malaysian Forests Sacrificed For Biodiesel” is incorrect on two fronts:
    1) firstly the smoke haze that Malaysia and many other nations in South East Asia experience yearly, does not come from Malaysia, but from her neighbor Indonesia.
    2) The Malaysian government not only has a strict environmental burning law, but also has a very strict policy in regards to forestry lands being converted into Palm Plantations.
    Mr. Clarkson is correct in that forest lands being converted into palm plantations for the benefit of biodiesel create not only complex environmental issues, but also an ethical issue in regards to preservation of natural habitat for the benefit of indigenous species of flora and fauna. There is a “but” though, and that but is that the majority of large palm plantations are either foreign owned or have large foreign ownership, which in a lot of cases for developing nations such as Malaysia’s neighbor creates the proverbial “catch 22” in that without the Direct Foreign Investment” other beneficial programs for the development of both country infrastructure and social need development can not be accomplished.
    There are no easy answers, and the annual smoke haze experienced in South East Asia is an effect with both direct and indirect causes; that the Asian Community has been trying to resolve now for over six years. Progress is slow, but the aim of both environmental concerns and continued sustainable development is not an easy juggling act, but the respective Asian Community is making progress.
    “B. Bioguy”

  • Nick Aster

    Thanks guys – it’s Sam’s first post here, so just getting the stylistic practice sorted out! Appreciate the fact checking.