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World cooling on biofuel solution to climate change

Times of Oman: World cooling on biofuel solution to climate change 
Saturday, April 05, 2008 1:35:56 PM Oman Time
JAKARTA –– Once a golden promise in the fight against climate change, biofuels are fast losing their lustre as high demand for essential crops drives land clearing and pushes up the price of food.

Biofuels made from food crops such as corn, sugar, soybeans and oil palm burn cleaner than fossil fuels, but experts say high demand is sending ripples through the world economy, and could be doing the environment more harm than good.

Rudy Gosal, a 36-year-old courier who queued with hundreds of others in Indonesia’s capital in March to buy government-subsidised cooking oil, is one of millions feeling the pinch of the push towards biofuels.

After the latest rise earlier this year, the cost of cooking oil in Jakarta jumped a massive 70 percent, to around 12,000 rupiah (1.31 dollars) a litre.

Cooking oil in much of the world comes from palm oil. And, in recent years, mostly European demand for biodiesel has helped push the price to record highs.

Gosal is relatively lucky — he supports his wife and three children on 1.6 million rupiah a month, nearly twice the minimum wage here.

But the latest price increase still meant he could afford less tofu to go with his family’s rice. Another likely rise could mean doing without a twice-monthly luxury: meat.

“If there’s a price rise, our salaries don’t go up but the cost jumps. It’s out of balance,” Gosal said.

Demand for palm oil has also been a major source of land clearing here. The spread of palm oil plantations into forests and highly sensitive peatlands on Sumatra and Borneo islands have helped make Indonesia the world’s third-highest greenhouse gas emitter.

The peatlands are a swampy store of semi-decomposed vegetation up to several metres (yards) deep, and clearing and draining them releases massive amounts of carbon.

A study published in the journal Science in February found it would take around 86 years for biodiesel made from palm oil grown on cleared tropical lowland forest to repay the “carbon debt” generated from clearing the land.

For biodiesel from cleared peatlands, the study found, the debt would take more than 840 years to repay. and its also non-profit sister websites,,,,, and are all owned by John Donovan. There is also a Wikipedia article.

1 Comment on “World cooling on biofuel solution to climate change”

  1. #1 b cole
    on Apr 5th, 2008 at 17:32

    National Algae Association
    The Woodlands, Texas

    Algae: The Next Biofuel


    Algae Commercialization
    Business Plan and Networking Forum

    April 10, 2008

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