Palm oil

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Bioenergy > Feedstocks > Oils and fats > Palm oil

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Palm oil is a form of edible vegetable oil obtained from the fruit of the oil palm tree. The palm fruit is the source of both palm oil (extracted from palm fruit) and palm kernel oil (extracted from the fruit seeds). In addition to being used as cooking oil and as a component of many processed foods, palm oil is used to make biodiesel. Palm oil is one of the few vegetable oils relatively high in saturated fats (such as coconut oil).

A young oil palm tree. (Source: Wikipedia)









Palm oil was long known of in West African states, and amongst West African peoples, and saw widespread use as a cooking oil. However, palm oil remained rare outside West Africa. During the early nineteenth century, palm oil became a highly sought-after commodity by British traders, the oil being used as industrial lubricant for the machines of Britain's ongoing Industrial Revolution, as well as forming the basis for soaps such as Palmolive. By c. 1870, palm oil constituted the primary export of West Africa. By the 1880's, cocoa became more highly sought-after, leading to the decline of the palm oil trade. (Source: Wikipedia) Palm oil was first introduced to Malaysia in 1870 as an ornamental plant and is now a leading agricultural crop. (source: MPOB)


  • Note: The sustainability of palm oil is addressed by the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO).
  • The environmental organization WWF has set 2015 as the target year for palm oil to be derived from entirely sustainable sources.[3]
    • However, as of May 2009, "just 1 per cent of the 1.3 million tonnes of sustainable palm oil produced since November 2008 had been sold - in part because it is more expensive", according to an article in the New Scientist.[4]
  • Forest Footprint Disclosure Annual Review (PDF file) - This February 2010 Forest Footprint Disclosure Project report makes available the results of its 2009 company disclosure request. The report "reveals the names of those businesses that have responded to its first call to disclose details of their ‘Forest Footprint’," defined as "the extent to which procurement policies for Forest Risk Commodities (FRCs) such as palm oil, soy, timber, beef, leather and biofuels are linked to deforestation. The Report identifies two high profile British High Street names as ‘Best Performers’ in their sectors – Marks & Spencer (General Retail) and Sainsbury’s (Food and Drug Retail)." [5] (PDF file)

Greenhouse gases (CO2)

  • Burning of forests to clear ground can cause significant air pollution and releases large quantities of CO2. (Reference needed)
Orangutan habitat has been cleared to create oil palm plantations in Indonesia and Malaysia.


  • Tropical forests are often cut or burned down to create palm oil plantations, causing losses of biodiversity. (Reference needed)


  • Large scale burning of forest to clear land for palm oil in Indonesia is causing pollution levels to climb in Southeast Asia, resulting in mounting haze-related health problems, traffic accidents, and associated economic costs. (Source:mongabay)

Land degradation

Social sustainability

  • In Indonesia, land for plantations is often allegedly sold to companies without consultation or compensation for the indigineous people who are living there and whose livelihood comes from the forest1.

Species conservation

  • The rapid conversion of Indonesian rain forest into oil palm plantations is a direct threat to the survival of orangutans in the wild. Learn more here.



  • Oil palm is regarded as the most cost-effective vegetable oil crop, with average yields of 3.5-5.0 t of palm oil per hectare per year, making it a very efficient feedstock for conversion into biofuel. (Source: MPOB)
  • Palm oil is very high in saturated fats.



  • Some researchers have suggested that anything above $55 a barrel makes palm oil-based biodiesel a commercially viable option. (Reference needed)
  • Most active biodiesel plants are heavily subsidized by the government and may not be sustainable in a truly competitive market. (Reference needed)
  • In 2007, some members of the European Parliament have called for a ban on palm oil biodiesel due to increasing sustainability concerns (see articles below).



  • EPA palm oil analysis draws support, criticism as comments close, 26 April 2012 by Erin Voegele for Biodiesel Magazine: "The public comment period for the U.S. EPA’s palm oil pathway assessment under the renewable fuel standard (RFS2) closes April 27. As the deadline approaches, groups representing both sides of the issue are speaking out in an effort to sway the EPA’s final decision on the matter."
    • "As the deadline approaches, parties arguing in support and opposition of the EPA’s findings are speaking out. Robert Shapiro, chairman and co-founder of Sonecon LLC, a firm that advises organizations on market conditions and economic policy, is one of the people who has submitted comments opposing the EPA’s analysis of palm oil biofuels."
      • "First, he questions the accuracy of the agency’s method to predict indirect land use change (ILUC), noting that without the highly unreliable inclusion of ILUC data, palm oil-based biodiesel and renewable diesel would meet the prescribed RFS2 thresholds."
      • "He also states that his analysis has found that the EPA’s assumption that palm oil yields will not increase in the future is false. He also stated that the EPA’s calculated 'midpoints' for its projected range of emissions effects are inaccurate."
    • "However, there are also individuals and groups that are arguing that the EPA’s analysis was too lenient, and the actually GHG emissions associated with palm oil biofuels are much higher. A group of scientific and environmental groups, including the Union of Concerned Scientists, is set to submit a public comment on the issue April 27 agreeing with EPA’s assessment that these fuels don’t meet RFS2 GHG reduction thresholds, and also arguing that the agency’s GHG assessments are too low."
      • "According to Jeremy Martin, senior scientist for the UCS’ Clean Vehicles Program, the EPA’s analysis underestimates the serious environmental problems caused by palm oil production. 'We’ve done a thorough review of EPA’s analysis and have found that in several important areas they did substantially underestimate the emissions,' Martin said. 'We’ve provided EPA with data substantiating more appropriate values.' Using those new values, Martin said the analysis shows palm oil biofuels actually result in more GHG emissions than petroleum-based fuels. He also brought up issues associated with food production and the long history of deforestation associated with palm oil production." [7]
  • ANALYSIS-Biodiesel doubts threaten EU green transport targets, 5 March 2012 by Charlie Dunmore and Ivana Sekularac, in Sharenet: "Growing consensus that EU may miss 2020 biofuel targets... Demand for biodiesel threatened by land use change studies... Switch to bioethanol seen as unlikely to make up shortfall."
    • "The European Union will almost certainly miss its 2020 targets for cutting transport fuel emissions if policymakers act on scientific warnings about the climate impact of biofuels."
    • "Several EU studies have questioned the climate benefits of biodiesel made from European rapeseed and imported palm oil and soybeans, and some have warned that it releases as many climate-warming emissions as conventional diesel."
    • "With two-thirds of EU biofuel use in 2020 projected to come from biodiesel, there is a growing consensus that any move to exclude some biodiesel feedstocks, such as the U.S. has proposed in the case of palm oil, would put the goals out of reach. Even if Europe tried to boost its use of bioethanol and advanced biofuels from non-crop sources to make up the shortfall, technical barriers and the EU's rising thirst for diesel would still leave it short of the mark." [8]
  • ILUC: The ‘Soap’ Continues, 5 March 2012 by Robert Vierhout, Secretary-general of ePURE, in Ethanol Producer Magazine: "Contrary to the USA where the U.S. EPA managed to get some indirect land use change (ILUC) values out of a black box relatively quickly, the EU is progressing slowly in ‘solving’ ILUC. For already more than two years, the European Commission services have been deliberating what to do."
    • "In my opinion, the delay in putting a bill on the table is caused by the fact that the ILUC ‘science’ is simply not conclusive. A study by the International Food Policy Research Institute assessing ILUC caused by biofuel policy does not seem to convince everyone within the commission that indirect land use change is more than just an imaginary problem...."
    • "The latest compromise under discussion by the commission services would allocate an ILUC value differentiated by crop (vegetable oil, sugar and starch) to biofuels to be used to achieve the target set in the law on fuel quality...."
    • "If countries in Southeast Asia can no longer, due to this ILUC value, export their palm oil to the EU, they will find other markets, most likely closer to home. A leakage effect would occur. If, as a result, the EU produces less biofuel, would we then not even need to import more biofuels to compensate for the lower GHG saving? More imports, more risk of unwanted land use change? Finally, we would not be addressing the problem where it is occurring: outside Europe."
    • "A more effective way to prevent unwanted land use changes leading to higher carbon release is by concluding agreements with the countries that are exporting biofuels to Europe. These agreements should restrict or forbid imports of certain biofuels unless proper land management is guaranteed."[9]
  • Biodiesel doubts threaten EU green transport targets, 5 March 2012 by Reuters: "The European Union will almost certainly miss its 2020 targets for cutting transport fuel emissions if policymakers act on scientific warnings about the climate impact of biofuels."
    • "Several EU studies have questioned the climate benefits of biodiesel made from European rapeseed and imported palm oil and soybeans, and some have warned that it releases as many climate-warming emissions as conventional diesel...."
    • "If the EU penalises crop-specific biofuels for their estimated ILUC emissions, any incentive for governments and oil firms to promote biodiesel from rapeseed, palm oil and soybeans would disappear...."
    • "The Commission has already drafted two compromise proposals on ILUC without reaching an agreement on either, reflecting deep internal divisions on the issue."
    • "The deal now under discussion would penalise biofuels for their crop-specific ILUC emissions in the fuel quality law but not the renewable energy directive, removing the incentive for oil companies to buy biodiesel without excluding it entirely...."[10]
  • US Report Casts Doubt On Palm Fuel Benefits, 8 February 2012 by Jakarta Globe: "Indonesia has come under greater scrutiny over its policy to encourage palm oil development, following a report by US authorities that fuels derived from the commodity were not as environmentally friendly as initially believed."
    • "Last month, the US Environmental Protection Agency put out a notice that palm oil-derived biofuels such as biodiesel and renewable diesel fell short of its threshold for greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions savings of 20 percent compared to regular diesel...."
    • "[The notice indicated that] 'palm oil production produces wastewater effluent that eventually decomposes, creating methane, a GHG with a high global warming potential'...and that 'expected expansion of palm plantations onto land with carbon-rich peat soils which would lead to significant releases of GHGs to the atmosphere.'"
    • "Meine van Noordwijk, chief science adviser at the World Agroforestry Center (ICRAF), said if more than 10 percent of palm oil originated from peatland plantations, then the EPA’s standards could not be met, regardless of all other efforts."
    • "In 2009, 22 percent of Indonesia’s palm oil plantations were on peat soil, while in Malaysia the figure was 13 percent, according to the EPA...."
    • "In 2008 the EU banned biofuels from palm oil grown from deforesting tropical forests peatlands."[11]
  • EU biofuel targets will cost €126 billion without reducing emissions, 2 February 2012 by Friends of the Earth Europe: "Motorists across Europe are set to pay an additional €18 billion a year for petrol and diesel as a result of EU biofuel targets that have been shown not to reduce emissions, says new research published today."
    • "New figures, commissioned by Friends of the Earth Europe and ActionAid, show that the planned increase in biofuels use could cost European consumers an extra €94 to €126 billion between now and 2020. This despite evidence that biofuels will actually make climate change worse and increase global hunger...."
    • "Biofuels have been promoted as a ‘green’ alternative to climate-damaging fossil fuels, but studies for the European Commission confirm that that the EU’s projected use of biofuels could actually increase emissions – particularly where countries rely on biodiesel from palm oil, soy and rapeseed...."


  • EPA Rejects Palm-Oil Based Biodiesel for Renewable Fuels Program, 27 January 2012 by Business Week: "The Environmental Protection Agency said that biodiesel made from palm oil doesn’t meet the requirements to be added to its renewable fuels program because its greenhouse-gas emissions are too high."
    • "In a regulatory filing today, the EPA said that palm-oil biodiesel, which is primarily produced in countries such as Malaysia and Indonesia, provides reductions of as much as 17 percent in greenhouse-gas emissions compared to traditional diesel fuel, falling short of a 20 percent reduction necessary to qualify under the law."
    • "By failing to meet that threshold, oil companies can’t use palm fuels to meet national renewable fuel standards. Other fuels they can use are made from soy beans, animal fat, recycled cooking grease or similar materials...."
    • "Environmental groups, which are locked in a fight with the EPA over its approval of corn-based ethanol under the same program, praised the decision as an important marker by the agency. Palm-oil production has led to the deforestation of 6.5 million hectares (16.1 million acres) in Malaysia and Indonesia, according to Friends of the Earth."[13]
  • Biofuel Research Suffers From Gaps, 20 January 2012 by Chemical & Engineering News: "After a review of a decade’s worth of biofuels research, scientists with the Environmental Protection Agency have concluded that significant knowledge gaps will likely prevent experts from adequately assessing biofuels’ full environmental impacts....While researchers have paid substantial attention to greenhouse gas emissions, the new study says, they have focused little on how the production and use of biofuels affects biodiversity and human health."
    • "'The last 10 years or so of research may have left us short of understanding what biofuels really may do to global economies, the environment, and society,' says Caroline Ridley, an ecologist with the EPA’s National Center for Environmental Assessment, in Arlington, Va., who led the study."
    • "The team found that the most common topics, with a few hundred papers each, were fuel production, feedstock production, and greenhouse gas emissions. Near the bottom of the list, 80 studies examined how biofuel production affects biodiversity, for example how local species fare after farmers clear large stretches of land to grow corn, switchgrass, palm oil, or other biofuel feedstocks. And only 15 studied the human health impacts of increasing levels of air pollutants produced by burning biofuel ethanol."
    • "The team also found that researchers have focused largely on the environmental consequences in the Northern Hemisphere even though regions in the Southern Hemisphere, such as Indonesia, will probably grow most of the feedstock crops...."
    • Access the study, Biofuels: Network Analysis of the Literature Reveals Key Environmental and Economic Unknowns


  • EPA Issues Notice of Data Availability Concerning Renewable Fuels Produced from Palm Oil Under the RFS Program, December 2011 by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency: "he U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is issuing a Notice of Data Availability (NODA) to release its lifecycle greenhouse gas (GHG) analysis of palm oil used as a feedstock to produce biodiesel and renewable diesel under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) program. The release of the NODA provides the public an opportunity to comment on EPA’s analysis."
    • "EPA’s analysis shows that biodiesel and renewable diesel produced from palm oil do not meet the minimum 20% lifecycle GHG reduction threshold needed to qualify as renewable fuel under the RFS program...."
    • "EPA’s analysis highlights a number of key factors which contribute to the lifecycle emissions estimate for biofuels based on palm oil. For example, palm oil production produces wastewater effluent that eventually decomposes, creating methane, a GHG with a high global warming potential. Another key factor is the expected expansion of palm plantations onto land with carbon-rich peat soils which would lead to significant releases of GHGs to the atmosphere."
  • Palm Oil-Based Biofuels Should Not Be Called Green, New Study Claims, 5 December 2011 by Jakarta Globe: "The benefits of biofuels derived from palm oil have once again been brought into question following a new report that says the reduced emissions from burning the fuel are far outweighed by the clearing of peatland forests to grow the crop."
    • "It found that for palm oil in particular, the carbon debt, or net amount of carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere as a result of using the crop as a biofuel, was the highest at 472.8 to 1,743.7 tons of CO2 per hectare."
    • "Louis Verchot, a Cifor researcher and co-author of the report, titled 'Implications of Biodiesel-Induced Land-Use Changes for CO2 Emissions: Case Studies in Tropical America, Africa, and Southeast Asia,' said palm oil-based biofuels that required the clearing of natural forest would never bring about a net emissions reduction."
    • "It also found that using biofuel from oil palms planted in peatlands required the longest period of time to repay the carbon debt, ranging from 206 to 220 years."
    • "The report, published in a special issue of the journal Ecology and Society, concluded that the outcomes 'raise serious questions about the sustainability of biofuel production.'"[14]
  • ‘Carbon debt’ created by some biofuels must be considered in sustainability debate, new study shows, 30 November 2011 by CIFOR: "Despite being heralded as a green alternative to fossil fuels, a new study by the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) has found that carbon emissions generated from land conversion for biodiesel production may take decades to hundreds of years to reverse in some cases, raising serious questions about biodiesel sustainability."
    • "'It really matters how you produce biofuels and what land you grow it on as to whether you are going to get climate change benefits,' said Louis Verchot, CIFOR scientist and co-author of Implications of Biodiesel-Induced Land-Use Changes for CO2 Emissions: Case Studies in Tropical America, Africa, and Southeast Asia published in a special feature of Ecology and Society."
    • "Fluctuating oil prices and growing concerns about climate change have led to a renewed commitment to renewable energy, with demand for biofuels such as those produced from palm oil, jatropha and soy increasing in recent years."
    • "The strength of this work is in the comparisons between different feed stocks and different settings. 'The take-home message,' says Verchot, 'is not that biofuels are bad for the atmosphere. Rather, the results point to important considerations that must be taken into account to make biofuels sustainable.'"[15]
  • Carbon debt for some biofuels lasts centuries, 30 November 2011 by "An innovative new study by the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) published in Ecology and Society has computed how long it would take popular biofuel crops to payoff the "carbon debt" of land conversion."
    • "While there is no easy answer—it depends on the type of land converted and the productivity of the crop—the study did find that in general soy had the shortest carbon debt, though still decades-long, while palm oil grown on peatland had the longest on average."
    • "Looking at three different types of biofuels in six countries, the study found that soy grown in parts of Brazil would require 30 years to make-up its carbon debt, which is as good as it gets. Palm oil would require 59-220 years, while jatropha would require 76-310 years, depending on the type of land that was converted."
    • "The study found that these three biofuel crops could only be deemed sustainable if grown on permanent crop or pastureland that was not already in use for growing foods, i.e. was degraded or abandoned, in order to prevent leakage."[16]
    • Download the report, Implications of Biodiesel-Induced Land-Use Changes for CO2 Emissions: Case Studies in Tropical America, Africa, and Southeast Asia.
  • RSPO Seeks to Certify Indonesian Crude Palm Oil, 23 November 2011 by Jakarta Globe: "The Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil aims to certify 3 million tons of Indonesian crude palm oil as sustainable, up 50 percent from this year’s original target of 2 million."
    • "Green campaigners say palm plantations are some of the biggest threats to the sustainability of rainforests in countries like Indonesia and Malaysia, which produce 85 percent of the world’s supply of the commodity."
    • "A producer’s CPO can be certified if it can demonstrate that the production process does not cause undue harm to the environment or society."
    • "Worldwide demand for CPO is around 45 million tons, with the biggest markets in India, China and Europe."
    • "Indonesia’s Palm Oil Association (Gapki) in October withdrew its membership from RSPO, saying it would focus on helping to develop the government-backed sustainability scheme."[17]
  • Sustainable palm oil initiative falters, 20 November 2011 by Mail & Guardian Online: "Environmentalists have warned that an effort to encourage the sustainable production of palm oil launched several years ago has not kept pace with expanding cultivation driven by rising demand."
    • "The issue will loom large this week at the annual meeting of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil from November 22 to 24 in key producer Malaysia."
    • "Despite some progress, major users of palm oil are not making enough effort to source and buy sustainably produced oil, while incentives for green production remain inadequate, green groups say."
    • "Growers produced 5.2-million tonnes of certified sustainable palm oil (CSPO) -- accounting for about 10% of world supply -- last year but only about 56% of it was purchased."
    • "Environmentalists say the consequences for rainforests in major producers Malaysia and Indonesia -- which account for 85% of world production -- and other producing nations will be dire unless the situation changes."
    • "The forest loss contributes to climate change and further imperils threatened species like the orangutan while land disputes between local communities and large palm producers seeking to expand cultivation are rising."[18]
  • Study Suggests EU Biofuels Are As Carbon Intensive As Petrol, 5 November 2011 by "A new study on greenhouse gas emissions from oil palm plantations has calculated a more than 50% increase in levels of CO2 emissions than previously thought – and warned that the demand for 'green' biofuels could be costing the earth."
    • "Biodiesel mandates can increase palm oil demand directly (the European Biodiesel Board recently reported big increases in biodiesel imported from Indonesia) and also indirectly, because palm oil is the world's most important source of vegetable oil and will replace oil from rapeseed or soy in food if they are instead used to make biodiesel."
    • "They concluded that a value of 86 tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2) per hectare per year (annualised over 50 years) is the most robust currently available estimate; this compares with previous estimates of around 50 tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2) per hectare per year."
    • "CO2 emissions increase further if you are interested specifically in the short term greenhouse gas implications of palm oil production – for instance under the EU Renewable Energy Directive which assesses emissions over 20 years, the corresponding emissions rate would be 106 tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2) per hectare per year."[19]
  • McDonald's Joins Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil; Commits to Sourcing Sustainable Palm Oil, 19 October 2011 by Marketwire: "McDonald's Corporation today announced its membership in the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO)."
    • "This membership represents significant progress in the company's commitment to source palm oil only from RSPO member companies by the end of this year, and to use only RSPO-certified palm oil in restaurants and pre-cooked chicken and potato products by 2015."
    • "McDonald's membership in the RSPO is an extension of its Sustainable Land Management Commitment (SLMC) announced earlier this year."
    • "The McDonald's SLMC requires that, over time, its suppliers will only use agricultural raw materials for the company's food and packaging that originate from sustainably-managed lands, ensuring the food served in its restaurants around the world is sourced from certified sustainable sources."
    • "Based on a thorough analysis conducted in collaboration with World Wildlife Fund (WWF) to identify the top raw materials which have the most potential sustainability impacts, McDonald's SLMC actions initially are focused on Beef, Poultry, Coffee, Palm Oil and fiber for Packaging."[20]
  • Biodiesel industry rejects EU land use impact study, 7 October 2011 by Reuters: "Europe's biodiesel industry rejected the findings of a draft EU study showing that the cultivation of rapeseed to make road transport fuels is worse for the climate than using conventional diesel."
    • "The European Biodiesel Board (EBB) said on Friday the study's central finding -- that the effects of indirect land use to produce most types of biodiesel cancel out any theoretical emissions savings -- was 'highly debatable and unscientific.'"
    • "A series of leaked EU studies showed that biodiesel from European rapeseed, South American soy beans and Asian palm oil all have a greater overall climate impact that normal diesel."
    • "If the Commission follows the advice contained in the studies and penalizes individual biofuel crops on the basis of their estimated ILUC emissions, it could wipe out the bloc's 13 billion euro ($17.5 billion) biodiesel industry overnight."
    • "It would also give a boost to ethanol producers such as Spain's Abengoa and increase the market for fuels derived from Brazilian sugar cane as the EU seeks to fill the 80 percent gap in its biofuel market currently occupied by biodiesel."[21]
  • Indonesia’s withdrawal puts Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil on shaky ground, 5 October 2011 by The Star Online: "The jury is still out on the implications of Indonesia's withdrawal of its membership from the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO)."
    • "On the one hand, some industry observers reckon the absence of Indonesia, being a sizeable producer, can derail the workings of RPSO."
    • "But others think that as long as major palm oil producers such as Sime Darby Bhd and Wilmar International are still members of RSPO, there should be no negative impact on the grouping."
    • "It is unclear if the decision by GAPKI will have any bearing on the Malaysia Palm Oil Association's (MPOA) stand on RSPO."
    • "Fadhil Hasan, the executive director of GAPKI, was quoted as saying the association decided to resign because Indonesia already had the Indonesian Sustainable Palm Oil (ISPO)."
    • "RSPO has just recently achieved one million hectares of certified production area around the world. Malaysia and Indonesia contribute 88% of total certified sustainable palm oil (CSPO). Out of this, Indonesia produces 40% of global CSPO, second to Malaysia with 48% of production."[22]
  • Carbon credits tarnished by human rights 'disgrace', 3 October 2011 by EurActiv: "The reported killing of 23 Honduran farmers in a dispute with the owners of UN-accredited palm oil plantations in Honduras is forcing the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) executive board to reconsider its stakeholder consultation processes."
    • "In Brussels, the Green MEP Bas Eickhout called the alleged human rights abuses 'a disgrace', and told EurActiv he would be pushing the European Commission to bar carbon credits from the plantations from being traded under the EU's Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS)."
    • "But because they took place after the CDM's stakeholder consultations had been held, and fell outside the board's primary remit to investigate emissions reductions and environmental impacts, it had been powerless to block project registrations."
    • "Last week, proposals were submitted to a CDM board meeting in Quito, Ecuador, addressing the time-lag between project consultations and registrations. But carbon credits from the plantations can still be freely traded on the EU ETS, which allows polluters to offset their carbon emissions by nominally clean energy investments."[23]
  • Palm Oil Fuels Land Grabs In Africa – Analysis, 18 September 2011 by Eurasia Review: "Malaysia and Indonesia currently account for about 83 per cent of production and 89 per cent of global exports of palm oil."
    • "A recent moratorium in Indonesia on new concessions for land in forest areas and peat-lands, as full of loopholes as it may be, is driving industrial giants such as Sime Darby, Olam International and Wilmar International and a host of European, American and Asian investors and speculators seeking to get in on the palm oil boom to search for new lands."
    • "In Liberia, a country that was ravaged for years by war, an estimated 5.6 per cent of the total land mass has been leased out to foreign investors for palm oil production."
    • "In neighbouring Sierra Leone, another nation trying to regain its own food security and heal itself after a long civil war, European and Asian firms are securing long-term (50 year) leases on at least half a million hectares of farmland, almost 10 percent of the country’s arable land."
    • "In Cameroon, foreign investors from Asia, the US and Europe are rapidly securing enormous land banks, often in fragile forested areas, for palm oil estates. The same is true in Benin, Nigeria, Gabon, the Republic of Congo and the Democratic Republic of Congo, where a Chinese company is reportedly [pdf] working to secure 2.8 million hectares for oil palm for biodiesel production."[24]
  • Nestle Buys Palm Oil Promises of  Sinar Mas, 16 September 2011 by Jakarta Globe: "Swiss food giant Nestle will resume purchases of palm oil from Sinar Mas Agro Resources and Technology following an 18-month halt after Smart made improvements to abide by Nestle’s guidelines for responsible environmental practices."
    • "The parent company of the palm oil producer known as Smart, Golden Agri Resources, has been working with environmental group The Forest Trust on the implementation of a Forest Conservation Policy."
    • "Nestle Indonesia’s spokesman Brata T. Hardjosubroto said that Smart, Indonesia’s second-biggest listed plantation operator, and GAR had been making continuous progress and demonstrated clear action to meet Nestle’s responsible sourcing guidelines."
    • "Nestle, which started construction on its $200 million factory in West Java on Monday, had dropped Smart as a supplier in March 2010."
    • "The decision came following campaigns by Greenpeace highlighting Nestle’s purchase of crude palm oil from Sinar Mas Group, which Greenpeace accuses of destruction of rainforests and peatlands to make way for new plantations."[25]
  • Sustainable Palm Oil Milestone Reached Ahead of Major WWF Evaluation, 1 September 2011 by Food Ingredients First: "The world’s largest sustainable palm oil body reached a major milestone last week in its on-going efforts to halt deforestation and bring sustainable palm oil to market – the millionth hectare of plantations has just been certified, an area roughly equivalent in size to the nation of Jamaica."
    • "The result comes as WWF prepares its second instalment of the WWF Palm Oil Buyers' Scorecard, which tracks the progress of major brands on their commitments and actions on buying and using sustainable palm."
    • "Plantations owned by Brazil-based Agropalma, a leading producer of palm oil in South America, recently achieved certification against the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) standard, pushing the area of certified palm oil plantations past the 1 million hectare mark."
    • "WWF worked with a group of NGOs and the palm oil industry to set up the RSPO in 2003. Certified sustainable palm oil has been available since November 2008, and provides assurance that valuable tropical forests have not been cleared and that environmental and social safeguards have been met during the production of the palm oil."[26]
  • Oil Palm Residue Could Solve Food vs. Biofuel Debate, 21 August 2011 by Jakarta Globe: "The millions of tons of fibrous residue produced by palm oil plantations across the country could soon become a major source of raw material for renewable fuel."
    • "Over the past year, scientists from the Indonesian Institute of Sciences (LIPI) and Seoul’s Korea International Cooperation Agency (KOICA) have been working on a joint project to turn a waste product into a viable alternative energy resource."
    • "By next year, the scientists are optimistic that the pilot plant and research lab built for the project in the Research Center for Science and Technology (Puspiptek) in Serpong, Banten, can start regular production of bioethanol from the leftover parts of the oil palm plant."
    • "Indonesia has already been producing biofuel from jatropha and cassava, but, according to Yanni Sudiyani, the chief researcher for bioethanol and biomass at LIPI , there is a problem with cassava supply, since it is also used for food."
    • "This food-versus-fuel battle has been at the heart of the debate on biofuels, which might otherwise be preferable over non-renewable and heavily polluting fossil fuels."
    • "The oil palm residue has high cellulose content, Zalinar said, which can be processed into liquid glucose that would be fermented to serve as the basic material for bioethanol."[27]
  • Analysis: EU cushions biodiesel from damning carbon research, 15 July 2011 by Reuters: "The EU will protect existing investment in its $13 billion biodiesel sector even as it acts on new evidence that suggests making the fuel from food crops can do more harm than good in fighting climate change."
    • "The reports said using Asian palm oil, South American soybeans and EU rapeseed to make biodiesel has a bigger overall impact than conventional diesel on climate change, partly due to forests or wetlands being destroyed to grow replacement food."
    • "European Union policymakers are preparing a political compromise that will safeguard existing biodiesel investments, having baulked at penalizing individual biofuel crops."
    • "With biodiesel representing about 80 percent of Europe's estimated $17 billion market for biofuels and the bloc dependent on diesel imports to meet rising demand, the officials agreed to delay any action that could kill off the biodiesel sector."
    • "The dilemma facing EU policymakers concerns a relatively new concept known as indirect land-use change (ILUC), which challenges the notion that biofuels only emit as much carbon when burned as they absorbed during growth."[28]
  • Cargill Sets Sights on Worldwide Sustainable Palm Oil by 2020, 13 July 2011 by "Agribusiness giant Cargill plans to only offer palm oil -- an ingredient in Girl Scout cookies and numerous other foods -- that is certified sustainable in select countries by 2015 and worldwide by 2020."
    • "Cargill aims to have all of the palm oil it sells in Europe, United States, Canada, Australia and New Zealand be certified by the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) within the next four years."
    • "Cargill then plans for all palm oil sold in China, India and elsewhere to be RSPO-certified by 2020."
    • "The first goal, however, excludes palm kernel oil, which is produced from the same oil palm trees that palm oil comes from and is used in food products, soaps and other goods."
    • "The Rainforest Action Network, which has been dogging Cargill about its palm oil use, says that while the goals are a good start, the deadlines are too far away, RSPO certification is weak and palm kernel oil shouldn't be left out."
    • "Cargill says, though, that it's trying to be realistic with its goals, and is aiming for achievable targets."[29]
  • Climate impact threatens biodiesel future in EU, 8 July 2011 by Reuters: "Europe's world-leading $13 billion biodiesel industry, which has boomed in the wake of a decision by Brussels policymakers in 2003 to promote it, is now on the verge of being legislated out of existence after the studies revealed biodiesel's indirect impact cancels out most of its benefits."
    • "Biofuels were once seen as a silver bullet for curbing transport emissions, based on a theory that they only emit as much carbon as they absorbed during growth."
    • "But that has been undermined by a new concept known as 'indirect land-use change' (ILUC), which scientists are still struggling to accurately quantify."
    • "'The experts unanimously agreed that, even when uncertainties are high, there is strong evidence that the ILUC effect is significant,' said the report from the Commission's November workshop."
    • "Biodiesel from Asian palm oil, South American soy beans, and EU rapeseed all had a bigger overall climate impact than conventional diesel, said a fourth leaked document."
    • "'Ethanol feedstocks have a lower land use change effect than the biodiesel feedstocks. For ethanol, sugar beet has the lowest land use emission coefficients,' said [an] IFPRI report."[30]
  • Advertising watchdog calls time on sustainable palm oil adverts, 6 July 2011 by businessGreen: "The Malaysian Palm Oil Council (MPOC) has once again been ordered to change or remove adverts promoting palm oil as 'sustainable', as the sector steps up its efforts to convince EU policy makers to allow palm oil-based biofuels."
    • "MPOC, which represents the Malaysian palm oil industry, is keen to highlight its efforts to reduce the industry's environmental impact as part of a campaign to convince the EU to include fuels made from palm oil in its sustainable biofuel certification scheme."
    • "The case, determined last week, upheld FoE Europe's complaint that MPOC had breached 'les règles de l'éthique publicitaire' in an advert on the EurActiv web site earlier this year."
    • "Defining 'sustainability' by three dimensions - social, environmental and economic - the jury concluded that there was not enough evidence to show that palm oil met all three aspects."[31]
  • Cargill Smallholders Receive First Premiums for RSPO Certified Sustainable Palm Oil, 27 June 2011 by PR Newswire: "Smallholders at Cargill's palm oil palm plantation, PT Hindoli, today received their first premiums for the certified palm oil they produced."
    • "The smallholders were first to be certified under the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) Smallholder Principles & Criteria in late 2010."
    • "'The premium received by our smallholders today shows that sustainable farming practices can contribute to the livelihoods of rural farmers,' said Anthony Yeow, president director of PT Hindoli."
    • "The smallholders receiving more than IDR 870 million (approximately US$100,000) in combined premiums today are organized in 17 cooperatives with 17,594 hectares of planted oil palm as part of Cargill's plantation operations. PT Hindoli's crushing mills in South Sumatra process fresh fruit bunches from its own oil palm estates as well as those purchased from the smallholders' scheme."
    • "Cargill's own palm estates at PT Hindoli received certification from both RSPO and International Sustainability and Carbon Certification (ISCC) in 2009 and 2010 respectively, and the company is currently working towards RSPO certification for its other palm plantations, PT Harapan Sawit Lestari and PT Indo Sawit Kekal."[32]
  • Palm oil threatens New Guinea's species says study: how to buy sustainably, 27 June 2011 by The Independent: "A new report by environmental organization WWF examines the threat faced by the unique species of New Guinea, over 1,000 of which were discovered as recently as 1998-2008."
    • "The report identifies the production of palm oil as one of the major threats facing the wildlife of New Guinea; however there are several steps consumers can take to ensure that foods containing palm oil come from sustainable sources."
    • "To combat the threat posed to these species and others around the world by continuing unsustainable production of palm oil, consumers can ensure they buy from companies registered with RSPO."
    • "The RSPO, or Roundtable Sustainable Palm Oil, provides certification to companies which produce palm oil from sustainable resources and ensures that all aspects of the production are environmentally friendly."
    • "Consumers can find retailers in their country selling products made with RSPO certified palm oil by searching the organization's website for certified companies by type, country, and name."[33]
  • Could palm oil help save the Amazon?, 14 June 2011 by "According to analysis by Brazil's agricultural research agency Embrapa, more than 2 million square kilometers of the Brazilian Amazon is suitable for oil palm cultivation — an area four times the size of France."
    • "Done right, oil palm could emerge as a key component in the effort to save the Amazon rainforest. Responsible production there could even force changes in other parts of the world."
    • "Planted on the degraded pasture land that abounds in the Brazilian Amazon, oil palm could generate more jobs and tax revenue than the dominant form of land use in the region: low intensity cattle ranching."
    • "If it replaces pasture, not forest, oil palm could buffer the forest frontier against fire, maintain and restore ecological functions like evapotranspiration, and help intensify cattle production in nearby areas (palm kernel, a byproduct of palm oil production, can serve a protein-rich feed)."
    • "Whether Brazil's sustainable palm oil push bears fruit will be contingent on the Brazilian government's willingness to enforce policies and industry's desire to access premium markets."[34]
  • Oldest rainforest in the world to become a palm oil plantation, 13 June 2011 by On Line Opinion: "In Cameroon, 60,000 hectares of rainforest are to be cleared for a palm oil plantation."
    • "Kenya, Liberia, the Ivory Coast and other African countries have already given large areas of their rainforests up to palm oil plantations. The Blackstone Group now wishes to cultivate palm oil in Cameroon as well."
    • "In Southwest Cameroon, one of the oldest and most bio-diverse rainforests on the planet is facing destruction. The area planted for logging directly borders the Korup National Park and the Rumpi Hills forest reserve."
    • "This forest is a hotspot for a great variety of species, 25 per cent of all African primate species can be found here, among them chimpanzees and the very rare Drills. As well, 45,000 people will lose their land and with it their livelihood, due to the creation of the palm oil plantation."[35]
  • Analysis: Land banks buffer Indonesian palm oil from forest ban, 25 May 2011 by Reuters: "Palm oil firms in Indonesia can overcome a two-year ban on forest clearing by tapping into land reserves, but they face bigger problems attracting the labor needed to work the soil and boost yields."
    • "The ban, effective from Friday, limits access to sensitive peat and forest regions and removes much of the uncertainty that had hung over the palm industry as Jakarta finalized the details."
    • "Plantation firms can now turn their attention to how best to bring massive land banks into rotation profitably and how to boost yields from existing acreage, industry experts said."
    • "To compete with soyoil suppliers for the top vegetable oil markets in India and China, the world's top palm oil producer needs to produce more palm oil per hectare."
    • "The UN's Food and Agriculture Organization data show Indonesian average, annual yields stand at 18 tonnes of fresh fruit bunches per hectare, lower than Malaysia's 20 tonnes in 2009 and keeping productivity in the region at 76 percent of estimated potential."[36]
  • GreenPalm defends palm oil certificate trading, 24 May 2011 by "Earlier this month, the supplier of the food, cosmetics and homecare product ingredient, New Britain Palm Oil Limited (NBPOL), said a deal to increase the supply of sustainably certified segregated palm oil (CSPO) into Europe could herald the demise of the GreenPalm certification system."
    • "Alan Chaytor, executive director of NBPOL, said that many industry players 'view green certificates with a great deal of suspicion as to what effect, if any, purchasing them has on making the palm oil industry sustainable.'"
    • "But Bob Norman, general manger of GreenPalm has retaliated, saying: 'The NBPOL comments were not in the spirit of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO).'"
    • "The RSPO-approved GreenPalm certificate trading scheme, argues Norman, enables RSPO certified producers to earn more – $14m in additional income - for their efforts, wherever they are in the world and, crucially, not whether they export to Europe."
    • "Most palm oil is produced through processes that see large quantities from multiple sources mixed to achieve the critical mass practical for refining, and then again for transportation."
    • "Moreover, in relation to the allegations by NBPOL that the offset scheme was 'unaudited and therefore open to abuse,' Norman stressed that, on the contrary, every aspect of the GreenPalm programme is RSPO audited and fully transparent, with 'strong and clear rules.'"[37]
  • New CSPO deal means palm oil certs no longer needed, says NBPOL, 12 May 2011 by "New Britain Palm Oil Limited (NBPOL) and Wilmar International have agreed to process and jointly market palm oil in Europe."
    • "The deal is said to involve the refinement at Wilmar’s Brake refinery in Germany of up to 300,000 tonnes per annum of fully traceable certified segregated palm oil (CSPO) from NBPOL’s estates."
    • "This deal, commented Alan Chaytor, executive director of NBPOL, ensures that fully segregated, traceable and certified sustainable and affordable palm oil will be made available in enough product specifications and formats that 'food manufacturers throughout Europe will no longer need to buy palm oil offset certificates.'"
    • "Chaytor said that under the current certificate trading system, buyers have little idea where their oil actually comes from and 'the vast majority is from uncertified sources.'"
    • "Chaytor claims that due to the scale and efficiency of the arrangement with Wilmar, coupled with its Liverpool refinery, the two firms can offer a huge range of fully traceable and certified oils with commodity style economics that make it more affordable."[38]
  • Development Agencies Support Harmful Oil Palm Production, 9 May 2011 by IPS: "Increasing industrial production of oil palm in sub-Saharan African countries, carried out by foreign corporations, is destroying the livelihoods of thousands of Africans and the biodiversity of ecosystems."
    • "African countries most affected are Nigeria, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Ghana. But palm oil fields and industrial facilities are located in at least the half of sub-Saharan African countries."
    • "In the vast majority of cases, the industrial production of oil palm is in the hands of foreign corporations, such as the French Bolloré group, the Brazilian petroleum group Petrobras, the Italian company ENI and the Singapore-based Wilmar International."
    • "The industrial system of oil palm production in Africa 'is based on monoculture plantations where the land only produces palm fruits for industry,' according to Ricardo Carrere, an expert in forest management at the World Rainforest Movement (WRM)."
    • "'In most if not all cases, land is taken away from local communities with little or no compensation, and bio-diverse ecosystems, mostly forests, are destroyed and substituted by large areas of palm monocultures,' says Carrere."
    • "Carrere raises alarm about the 'crucial role' of national, regional and multilateral institutions in the promotion and development of foreign investments in the industrialisation of palm oil production in sub-Saharan Africa."[39]
  • Indonesia to launch ISPO certification, 3 May 2011 by Commodity Online: "In a bid to promote the sustainable nature of business in palm oil production, the Indonesian government is about to introduce Indonesian Sustainable Palm Oil (ISPO) certification that would bring producers of palm oil under strict environmental norms."
    • "Currently RSPO or Round Table on Sustainable Palm Oil is the only agency in the world providing certification that guarantees palm oil production by producers as sustainable."
    • "But unlike RSPO-- representing planters, green groups and consumers—that does not impose sanctions on members that violate its voluntary standards, the ISPO intends to punish by law, the violators of norms."
    • "Officials from government institutions and ministries, palm oil associations and NGOs will constitute the ISPO commission to manage the certification system: giving ISPO approval and recognition to plantation companies that operate in sustainable manner."[40]
  • Biofuels Push Becomes Weapon in Colombia's War on Narco-Traffickers, 2 May 2011 by The New York Times: "Colombian government support for biodiesel has spurred a robust demand for palm oil that has put 50 percent more income into the pocket of farmer Misael Monsalve Moreno."
    • "It is hard to believe, he said, that just five years ago he and many of his neighbors were growing coca -- the main ingredient for cocaine -- for Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC), a narco-trafficking rebel group that then controlled this part of the Catatumbo region."
    • "Now palm plantations are replacing coca fields in the Catatumbo region. Improved security started the move away from coca, but it was the 2007 law requiring diesel retailers to mix in 10 percent biodiesel that provided the big push, biofuel industry insiders say."
    • "Jens Mesa Dishington, president of the National Federation of Palm Oil Growers, or Fedepalma, estimates that during the past few years about 173,000 acres of coca fields have either been directly converted to palm crop or stripped of their workforce by one of Colombia's fastest growing agriculture sectors."
    • "The government of former President Alvaro Uribe pushed through a 2007 law mandating a 10 percent biofuel blend for domestically distributed diesel."
    • "'This is a good way to improve the area, to improve the security conditions, to remove the cocaine crops from the area,' Brig. Gen. Fernando Pineda Solarte said. 'We're trying to prove to the population that it's possible, that we have other choices different from cocaine. That's the success of this area and that's why this project is so important.'"[41]
  • Mission signs contract to supply ISCC sustainability certified product, 2 May 2011 by Your Industry News: "Mission NewEnergy Limited, a global leader in providing energy from renewable sources, is pleased to announce that it has signed a contract to supply sustainability-certified product to a major international producer and distributor of refined oil products."
    • "'This is the culmination of two years of work by the Mission team in collaboration with International Sustainability & Carbon Certification System (ISCC) and FELDA. We are really proud to become the only certified supplier of palm-based products into the European market. It has opened a new market for us and we are currently in negotiations with several other buyers for our certified product,' said Nathan Mahalingam, Group CEO of Mission."
    • "In early March, Mission announced that it had established Asia’s first fully integrated ISCC certified palm biodiesel supply and production chain, in collaboration with FELDA."
    • "FELDA, a Malaysian government corporation and one of the world’s largest palm oil producers, in collaboration with Mission, Malaysia’s largest biodiesel refiner recently completed ISCC certification of two of its mills and eight plantations in Peninsular Malaysia."[42]
  • SE Asian palm oil firms go on African land safari, 29 April 2011 by Reuters: "Malaysia's Sime Darby and Singapore's Golden Agri Resources have joined a slew of global firms entering Africa by snapping up hundreds of thousands of hectares of land in Liberia, but it could still take years to turn the region into a net exporter and help ease high palm oil prices."
    • "With an increasing number of firms rushing to Africa as part of a global grab for land in the face of soaring food prices, African governments such as Nigeria and Tanzania have also thrown open their doors to planters by offering tax breaks and big land concessions."
    • "World Bank studies show Sub-Saharan Africa holds 201.5 million hectares suitable for crops, nearly half the world's total, or 16 times the combined oil palm acreage in Indonesia and Malaysia."
    • "Investors are often lured by the fact that land in Africa can be rented or bought at a fraction of the price in Malaysia, where estates are priced at $6,000 to $7,000 per hectare, but there are other hidden costs."
    • "Estates in Africa's top grower, Nigeria, yield about a tenth of Malaysia's 21.3 tonnes of fresh fruit bunches a hectare, FAO data shows, due to poor planting materials and the region's long dry season that stresses out water-loving oil palms."[43]
  • Indonesian official: REDD+ forest conservation plan need not limit growth of palm oil industry, 29 April 2011 by "Indonesia's low carbon development strategy will not impede the palm oil industry's growth said a key Indonesian climate official during a meeting with leaders from the country's palm oil industry."
    • "During a meeting on Thursday, Kuntoro Mangkusubroto, head of Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono's REDD+ Task Force, asked industry leaders for their input on the government's effort to shift oil palm expansion to degraded non-forest land."
    • "Kuntoro noted that Indonesia has more than 25 million hectares of degraded land, much of which could be suitable for oil palm and timber plantations."
    • "Expansion on degraded lands has been hindered by land tenure conflicts — non-forest land is more likely to be claimed by local communities — and higher development costs. Some plantation companies have relied on logging revenue to subsidize costs of plantation development. Futhermore, degraded lands often have degraded soils, further increasing the cost of plantation establishment."
    • "Kuntoro's meeting with the palm oil industry came as efforts continued to break a deadlock over the definitions of what type of forest will be included in a proposed moratorium on new concessions. The moratorium, a condition of Norway's one billion pledge to support forest conservation in Indonesia, was supposed to go into effect January 1, 2011 but has been stalled due to differences in opinion on whether the concession ban will apply to all natural forest or just primary forest."[44]
  • RSPO to address issues with launch of trademark, 25 April 2011 by The Star Online: "The Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) hopes to address some of the strategic thinking and considerations behind the Truth in Labelling – Palm Oil Bill 2011 in Australia via the launch of the RSPO trademark slated by the middle of this year, said RSPO secretary-general Darrel Webber."
    • "The purpose of the Act is to ensure that consumers have clear and accurate information about the inclusion of palm oil in foods; and to encourage the use of certified sustainable palm oil to promote protection of wildlife habitats."
    • "While RSPO supports the latter objective, distinguishing palm oil as the only edible oil that requires labelling will imply that other edible oils do not face similar challenges."
    • "'Such a labelling exercise that singles out palm oil may only serve to ostracise agricultural farmers in developing countries such as Indonesia, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea, South America and West Africa, whose key source of income comes from palm oil.'"[45]
  • Palm oil planters get wise with bird of prey pest control, 20 April 2011 by Reuters: "Leading Southeast Asian producers of palm oil have tried different pest control schemes over the years, from snakes to poisons, but the high success rate -- and low cost -- of owls has prompted more planters to turn to them for help in reducing damage."
    • "Malaysia and Indonesia account for more than 90 percent of the world's supply of palm oil, while other smaller producing nations include Colombia, Benin, Kenya and Ghana."
    • "But according to the green group Deforestation Watch, crop losses caused by rats feeding on the palm fruit has been estimated to be around 5 percent of the oil yield."
    • "'The (plantations) say it's cheaper because they can decrease costs by 50 percent compared with using chemicals,' said Chaerul Saleh, a biologist at WWF-Indonesia."[46]
  • Palm Oil Lobby Fights World Bank's Environmental Initiatives in Indonesia, Malaysia, 20 April 2011 by Treehugger: "We know how destructive the palm oil industry in Indonesia and Malaysia, so it was great news when the World Bank announced that social and environmental safeguards would serve as guiding principles in its lending to the palm oil sector."
    • "The World Bank said it would try to 'support smallholders and foster benefit sharing with rural communities,' but that palm oil lobbying groups World Growth International and the Initiative for Public Policy Analysis (IPPA) attacked the Bank for doing so."
    • "The latter group issued a press release saying: 'The Bank's new framework for palm oil engagement elevates radical ideological opposition to agriculture development above the needs of the poor and hungry in Africa'—a position some are spinning as the Bank saying the environment is more important than African farmers."
    • "What that fails to recognize is the precise link between climate change, degradation of the environment, and increased vulnerability for already impoverished people, specifically in Africa."[47]
  • Palm oil lobby attacks World Bank's new social and environmental safeguards, 18 April 2011 by "Groups funded by the palm oil industry lashed out at the World Bank's new framework to resume lending to the palm oil sector."
    • "World Growth International and the Initiative for Public Policy Analysis (IPPA), groups that advocate on behalf of the industrial palm oil sector, blasted the World Bank for including social and environmental safeguards as guiding principles for lending to the palm oil sector. The World Bank said it would prioritize investments that 'support smallholders and foster benefit sharing with rural communities.'"
    • "By some estimates, more than half of oil palm expansion since 1990 occurred at the expense of forests, spurring criticism from environmentalists concerned about greenhouse gas emissions and loss of habitat for endangered wildlife—including orangutans, pygmy elephants, Sumatran rhinos and tigers. Oil palm plantation development has also at times exacerbated conflicts over land."
    • T'he Bank's new framework for palm oil engagement elevates radical ideological opposition to agriculture development above the needs of the poor and hungry in Africa,' said Thompson Ayodele, IPPA Director, in a press release."
    • "'The proposed policy will still smother job growth, restrict long-term economic growth and upward mobility of millions and hamper efforts to strengthen global food security,' said Alan Oxley, chairman of World Growth International, in a statement issued before the final version of the framework was unveiled."[48]
  • Impacts of Biofuel Targets on Land Use and Food Supply, 6 April 2011 by Journalist Resource: "The increased global production of biofuels such as ethanol has become a subject of controversy, as land formerly dedicated to the growing of food crops is repurposed to meet energy needs. Each year, more crops such as sugar, palm oil, corn and cassava are diverted for these purposes."
    • "A paper by the World Bank, 'The Impacts of Biofuel Targets on Land-Use Change and Food Supply,' uses land-allocation information from the biofuels production sectors to determine the levels of competition between biofuels and food industries for agricultural commodities. The authors model the potential effects of increased biofuels production to meet current national targets."
    • "The paper’s findings include:
      • Expanding global biofuels production to meet current national biofuels targets would generally reduce global GDP between 0.02% and 0.06%, with the national GDP impacts varying across countries.
      • Significant Expansion in biofuels production would necessitate substantial land re-allocation, resulting in as much a 5% decreases in forest and pasture lands.
      • The expansion of biofuels would likely cause a 1% reduction in global food supply.
      • The magnitude of the impact on food costs is not as large as perceived earlier — sugar, corn and oil seeds would experience 1% to 8% price increases by 2020 — but increases would be significant in developing countries such as India and those in Sub-Saharan Africa."[49]
  • Malaysian palm oil giant in fight with forest people gets rebuke from RSPO, 6 April 2011 by "RSPO said IOI Corp breached 'two core membership mandates and obligations' on land conflict and conversion of high conservation forest into oil palm plantations. IOI Corp will have 28 days to deliver a proposal to resolve the outstanding issues."
    • "Should it fail to do so by May 2, 2011, RSPO told IOI it will consider 'further sanctions against your company, which may include the suspension of your license for new transactions involving Certified Sustainable Palm Oil materials including GreenPalm certificates.'"
    • "Such a move could cost IOI dearly in the marketplace. In 2009 and 2010, PT Sinar Mas Agro Resources and Technology (PT SMART), an Indonesian subsidiary of Golden Agri Resources, lost a number of major customers after it was found to be clearing carbon-dense peatlands and rainforests in Indonesian Borneo."
    • "The rebuke from RSPO comes just days after the Rainforest Action Network (RAN) highlighted the struggle between the people of Long Teran Kenan and IOI over two plantations on native lands in Baram, Sarawak in Malaysian Borneo."[50]
  • World Bank lifts moratorium on palm oil investments, 1 April 2011 by Reuters: "The World Bank on Friday lifted an 18-month global moratorium on lending for new palm oil investments, endorsing a new strategy that focuses on supporting small farmers that dominate the sector."
    • "After meeting with 3,000 stakeholders, including farmers, environmental and social groups, and businesses, the World Bank's private-sector lender, the International Finance Corp (IFC), said palm oil investments could contribute to economic growth and reduce poverty, while also being eco-friendly."
    • "Palm oil employs over six million rural poor around the globe. Some 70 percent of palm oil production is used as staple cooking oil by the poor in Asia and Africa."
    • "Palm oil companies have said the industry has been unfairly vilified for cutting down forests and draining peatlands -- contributing to huge amounts of planet-warming carbon dioxide entering into the atmosphere."[51]
  • Indigenous community takes court ruling into own hands and seizes oil palm plantation, 31 March 2011 by "A community in Malaysian Borneo seized an oil palm plantation belonging to the IOI Group after the palm oil giant failed to respect the terms of a court ruling that the plantation was established on native customary land, reports the Rainforest Action Network (RAN)."
    • "Earlier this month, the people of Long Teran Kenan blocked the road and occupied the plantation. They have since started harvesting and selling the fruit to a nearby palm oil mill."
    • "RAN is highlighting the situation because IOI supplies palm oil to Cargill, America's largest palm oil importer. RAN says Cargill has failed to enact policies that protect against such abuses."
    • "IOI said the High Court of Sarawak did not grant 'the natives' the right to reclaim the contested land and added that the natives' customary rights on the land "can be extinguished by paying compensation." IOI further stated that the court 'did not grant any injunctions sought by the natives restraining IOI Pelita from remaining and continuing its operations on the lands.' Therefore IOI believes the actions by the people of Long Teran Kenan are 'illegal.'"[52]
  • Norway to continue palm oil investments, 30 March 2011 by "Norway's $550 billion sovereign wealth fund will continue investing in Asian palm oil companies despite criticism from environmental groups, reports Reuters."
    • "Runar Malkenes, Deputy Director of the Information Division at Norway's Ministry of Finance, told Reuters that while the fund will continue to invest in the sector, it may exclude palm oil companies that cause egregious environmental damage."
    • "Last year Norway divested its holdings in Samling, a Malaysian company associated with destructive logging practices and social conflict with indigenous groups in Malaysian Borneo."
    • "The fund, which invests revenues from the country's oil and gas industry, held 2.4 billion Norwegian crowns ($430 million) worth of palm oil-related stocks as of the end of last year."
    • "Norway's statement comes a week after Indonesian activist group Greenomics criticized Norway for continuing to hold stakes in several palm oil companies linked to deforestation, including Golden Agri Resources (GAR), which owns PT Sinar Mas Agro Resources and Technology (SMART], a firm that had been targeted for Greenpeace over destruction of rainforests and peatlands in Borneo."[53]
  • Palm oil giants target Africa in 'land grab' following Indonesia deforestation ban, 25 March 2011 by The Ecologist: "The world's largest palm oil producer Indonesia is due to implement a two-year ban on granting new concessions of land to plantation companies in forest areas."
    • "There are also restrictions on the availability of land in Malaysia. This has led companies like Sime Darby, which has more than half a million hectares of palm oil in Indonesia and Malaysia, to look elsewhere."
    • "Sime Darby - reported to be the largest palm oil producer in the world - has leased 220,000 hectares of land in Liberia and is considering buying a further 300,000 hectares for palm oil plantations in Cameroon."
    • "Other rival palm oil giants like Sinar Mar, Olam International and Wilmar International are also tying up land deals in Liberia, Gabon and Ghana."
    • "In Cameroon, campaigners have admitted to having strong reservations about Sime Darby's plans to lease land for palm oil plantations. Samuel Nguiffo, from the Centre for Environment and Development (CED), says even if they only develop on degraded forest, the deal is likely to involve farmland being taken away from local communities."
    • "Nguiffo believes the land has more value in terms of sustaining local livelihood but says the government will push hard for a deal, regardless of the long-term consequences for the country's food security."[54]
  • Palm oil company gives up land contested by local communities as part of sustainability pledge, 21 March 2011 by "The company PT Agro Wiratama, a subsidiary of the Musim Mas group, will give 1,000 hectares of its 9,000 hectare concession in West Kalimantan (Indonesian Borneo) back to the community. The decision is a direct result of Agro Wiratama's RSPO membership, which now requires member companies to publicly announce plans to expand their operations."
    • "Until now, palm oil expansion has at times resulted in social conflict between traditional forest users — often indigenous people and small-scale farmers — and companies granted concessions by the government (most forest land is state-owned in Indonesia, independently of who actually uses it)."
    • "Forest Peoples Programme, together with Gemawan, note that Agro Wiratama's decision has implications for other palm oil companies operating in Sambas Regency: 17 of them are members of RSPO."
    • "More than 3,000 land conflicts between palm oil developers and local communities in Indonesia have been registered with the country's National Land Agency."
    • "With more than 8 million hectares of oil palm plantations, Indonesia accounts for more than 40 percent of global palm oil production. But expansion has had a high environmental cost: millions of hectares of forest and peatland have been cleared in the name of palm oil production."[55]
  • McDonald's Commits to 100% Certified Palm Oil By 2015, 11 March 2011 by "McDonald's Corporation has committed to source only palm oil certified by the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) by 2015."
    • "The commitment is part of a larger Sustainable Land Management Commitment (SLMC) announced in conjunction with the release of McDonald's 2010 Worldwide Corporate Responsibility (CR) Report."
    • "The SLMC requires that, over time, McDonald's suppliers will only use agricultural raw materials for the company's food and packaging that originate from sustainably-managed land."
    • "McDonald's actions initially will be focused on five raw material priorities - Beef, Poultry, Coffee, Palm Oil and Packaging."
    • "McDonald's also joined the Sustainability Consortium--an independent organization dedicated to implementing measurable progress based on life-cycle science."[56]
  • Counting the carbon cost of peatland conversion, 7 March 2011 by Nature News: "Up to 6% of carbon-rich peat-swamp forests had been cleared in Peninsular Malaysia and on the islands of Borneo and Sumatra to make way for oil-palm plantations by the early 2000s, according to a study published today. The clearances, a response to rising demand for food and biofuel, released as much carbon dioxide into the atmosphere as the entire UK transport sector does in a year."
    • "Published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the study is the first attempt to systematically assign a value to the carbon loss due to peatland destruction in Southeast Asia that can be attributed directly to conversion to oil-palm plantations."
    • "Malaysia and Indonesia (which includes Sumatra and parts of Borneo) are the world's largest suppliers of palm oil, accounting for 87% of global production in 2008."
    • "Like most forests, peat-swamp forests store large amounts of carbon above ground as biomass, and this is lost when the forest is cleared. They also store large amounts of carbon in their soils, as dead organic matter decomposes slowly under marshy conditions. Draining peatlands to create agricultural land oxidizes the soil and releases large amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere."
    • "For the first 25 years after an oil-palm plantation is established in a peat-swamp forest, about 60 tonnes of carbon dioxide are released per hectare every year, according to recent research."[57]
  • Palm Oil Gains as Crude’s Rally Increases Attraction of Biofuel, 2 March 2011 by "Palm oil advanced for a second day as higher crude prices increased the appeal of the tropical commodity for biofuel even as analysts forecast a rebound in supply and larger stockpiles."
    • "'Rising crude oil prices could make biodiesel production viable again,' HwangDBS Vickers Research Sdn. said in a report today. 'Additional demand from this energy segment would help to absorb higher palm oil supplies.'"[58]
  • Bristol's biofuels plant must be refused planning permission, 10 February 2011 by The Guardian: "Burning biofuels in power stations is environmental vandalism on a staggering scale."
    • "The operators have two options. They could burn the cheapest available vegetable oils, which means palm and soya oil. These are also the most destructive: driving massive deforestation in both south-east Asia and the Amazon"
    • "Alternatively, the operators could burn cheaper oils, such as rapeseed. In doing so, they cause two problems. The first is to raise world food prices. The second is to create a vacuum in the world edible oils market, which is filled by … palm and soya oil."
    • "Whichever kind of vegetable oil you burn, you'll end up trashing the rainforests of Indonesia, Malaysia and Brazil."
    • "Somehow the government still classes burning edible oils to make electricity as green, and issues renewables obligations certificates for it – which is the only reason why it's happening."[59]
  • Palm oil giant vows to spare most valuable Indonesian rainforest, 9 February 2011 by The Guardian: "Golden Agri-Resources Limited has committed itself to protecting forests and peatlands with a high level of biodiversity, or which provide major carbon sinks, as part of an agreement with conservation group the Forest Trust."
    • "However, the agreement announced on Wednesday will still leave GAR free to exploit other areas of forest, and land that is judged to be of lower conservation value."
    • "Scott Poynton, executive director of the Forest Trust, said 'It's about going to the root causes of deforestation – we have shown that the destruction of forests is anchored deeply in the supply chains of the products we consume in industrialised nations, and we are showing we can do something about that.'"
    • He said pressure from Nestlé, which last year drew up a set of sustainability guidelines and signalled that it would not accept palm oil from sources connected to deforestation, had been instrumental in bringing GAR to the table."
    • "Experts in Indonesia will be asked to judge whether GAR forests have "high conservation value" under guidance from the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil, a coalition of the palm oil industry and conservation groups."[60]
  • Malaysian palm oil destroying forests, report warns, 2 February 2011 by the Guardian: "Study by Wetlands International claims level of palm oil-related deforestation in Malaysia is higher than previously thought."
    • "The report claims that between 2005 and 2010, almost 353,000 hectares of peat swamp forests were cleared – a third of Malaysia's total – largely for palm oil production."
    • "The clearing, draining and burning of peat swamp forests is responsible for about 10 per cent of mankind's greenhouse gas emissions, according to Wetlands International."
    • "Palm oil firms in Malaysia and Indonesia are under increasing pressure by major Western retailers and consumer goods brands, many of which use palm oil in their products, to halt the expansion of plantations that lead to forest clearance."
    • "Some Malaysian palm oil producers have also joined the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil, but strong demand from India and China for unsustainably sourced oil means others can avoid doing so without necessarily harming their market share."[61]
  • Palm Oil Plantations Embrace Biodiversity In Attempt To Change Environmentally Destructive Reputation, 20 January 2011 by The Huffington Post: "Palm oil plantations carry a history of controversy. The cash crop is used for fuel and food, but at the same time, it destroys rainforests. Also, compared to diverse forests, monoculture plantations do not trap greenhouse gases as efficiently."
    • "These challenges are no more visible than on the United International Enterprises Estate, located in the Majung District of Malaysia. The plantation has over 1.4 million trees. Unfortunately, they are all the same."
    • "A nature reserve has been created on the plantation, populated by rare trees. The manager's goal is to increase the plant diversity to 500 plant variations."
    • "The plantation is the first to be certified by the Round Table on Sustainable Palm Oil Production, a group working to make palm oil more eco-friendly."[62]
  • RSPO calls for faster market uptake of sustainable palm oil, 10 January 2011 by "Jan Kees Vis, RSPO executive board president, said that many companies have pledged to switch to RSPO-certified sustainable palm oil fully by 2015, but until then, it will also be important that users of palm oil such as the leading confectionery and food manufacturers match a rising supply with rising market demand."
    • "The volume of actual RSPO-certified sustainable palm oil on the market jumped from 1.3m tonnes in 2009 to 2.3m tonnes in 2010. Sales of sustainable palm oil more than tripled from 0.4m tonnes in 2009 to about 1.3m tonnes in 2010."
    • "Nestlé, which uses the ingredient in its Kit Kat and Aero bars along with its Quality Street range, bolstered its sustainable palm oil commitments in May 2010 by partnering with The Forest Trust (TFT)."
    • "In November last year it was announced that all palm oil used in The Netherlands will be certified by the RSPO by 2015, as all the suppliers and buyers in the Dutch market have signed a manifesto and pledged to work towards this goal."[63]


  • Biofuels: Is Palm Oil a Blessing or a Curse, 9 November 2010 by Robert Rapier: "Palm oil presents an excellent case illustrating both the promise and the peril of biofuels. Driven by demand from the U.S. and the European Union (EU) due to mandated biofuel requirements, palm oil has provided a valuable cash crop for farmers in tropical regions like Malaysia, Indonesia, and Thailand."
    • "The high productivity of palm oil has led to a dramatic expansion in many tropical countries around the equator. This has the potential for alleviating poverty in these regions."
    • "But in some locations, expansion of oil palm cultivation has resulted in serious environmental damage as rain forest has been cleared to make room for new palm oil plantations."
    • "Palm oil represents a difficult dilemma: How does the West address negative social or environmental implications from the development of a palm oil industry (or any industry) that is helping to lift rural people out of poverty by providing an income stream for farmers? Western objectives (saving the rain forests) may be viewed as conflicting with their basic needs (feeding their families and sending their kids to school) — which is of course why globally rain forest continues to disappear."[65]
  • Scientists Spar With Defender of Palm Oil and Pulp Firms, 29 October 2010 by New York Times' Dot Earth Blog: "A dozen scientists focused on the diversity and health of tropical forests released a letter this week describing what they say are deceptive statements made by two groups working on behalf of palm oil, timber and pulp interests. In the document, 'An Open Letter about Scientific Credibility and the Conservation of Tropical Forests,' the scientists strongly criticize the groups, World Growth International (WGI), a nonprofit organization, and International Trade Strategies Global (ITS), a consultancy on international trade issues. Here are a couple of their complaints:"
    • "A recent technical report by ITS concluded that 'There is no evidence of substantial deforestation' in Papua New Guinea, a conclusion strongly at variance with quantitative, remote-sensing studies of forest conversion published in the refereed scientific literature. Reports from WGI and ITS routinely claim that newly established oil palm plantations sequester carbon more rapidly than do old-growth rainforests."
    • "This claim, while technically correct, is a distraction from the reality that mature oil palm plantations store much less carbon than do old-growth rainforests (plantations store just 40-80 tons of biomass aboveground, half of which is carbon, compared to 200-400 tons of aboveground biomass in old-growth rainforests)."[67]
  • Malaysia's once-vaunted biofuel industry grinds to halt, 6 September 2010 by AFP: "Malaysia's once-vaunted biofuel industry has seen production grind to a halt since a March announcement that the government's mandatory switch to the green energy will be delayed to June 2011."
    • "Malaysia had ambitions to become a global leader in biodiesel and unveiled grand plans for the industry as the price of crude oil spiralled, peaking in mid-2008."
    • "However, the future of the alternative fuels is now in question given cheaper crude prices and the higher cost of Malaysia's palm oil."
    • "Malaysian Palm Oil Board (MPOB) figures show that the production of biodiesel, a mixture of diesel with five percent processed palm oil, dropped 99 percent from 12,640 tonnes in March to just 137 tonnes in July."
    • "Malaysian Biodiesel Association vice-president U.R. Unnithan said the country had the capacity to produce 2.6 million tonnes of biofuel annually but that demand had completely dried up."
    • "Unnithan said Malaysian biofuel cannot compete in international markets as many countries have protectionist measures and subsidies in place."[68]
  • Greens Warn World Bank Over Palm Oil Funding, 5 September 2010 by Jakarta Globe: "Environmental groups Greenpeace and Sawit Watch have called on the World Bank to extend its international suspension of financing for the palm oil sector unless producers meet environmental criteria."
    • "Jefri Saragih, head of Sawit’s campaign in Indonesia, said on Sunday that the World Bank must provide palm oil makers with clear guidelines on what they must do to reduce their industry’s impact on global warming."
    • "Environmental groups have been making a stir with campaigns accusing palm oil firms of illegal deforestation, with Sinar Mas Group being boycotted by some of its top buyers."
    • "On Thursday, US fast food giant Burger King said it would stop buying palm oil from the firm and its subsidiaries after Greenpeace mounted a successful campaign against Sinar Mas’s land-clearing practices."
    • "Unilever and Nestle earlier dropped the supplier over the criticism."
    • "Since 1965, the World Bank has channeled nearly $2 billion for 45 projects in the palm oil sector in 12 nations across Africa, Latin America and Southeast Asia."
    • "Indonesia has been a major focus of the financing, receiving $618.8 million of the total funding. The World Bank suspended the financing in September 2009 over environmental concerns."[69]
  • Banks Grow Wary of Environmental Risks, 31 August 2010 by New York Times: "After years of legal entanglements arising from environmental messes and increased scrutiny of banks that finance the dirtiest industries, several large commercial lenders are taking a stand on industry practices that they regard as risky to their reputations and bottom lines."
  • Land grabbing for biofuels hits Ghana, other African countries – Report, 30 August 2010 by Emmanuel K. Dogbevi: "There appears to be a gradual but ominous attempt to turn Africa into the production centre of some selected food crops and non-food crops for the production of biofuels to feed industry and vehicles in Europe."
    • "According to [a recent report by the environmental group, Friends of the Earth International], a third of the land sold or acquired in Africa, some five million hectares is intended for fuel crops."
    • "The report profiles land-grab cases that have happened in 11 African countries, most of which is being used or intended to be used to grow biofuel crops like Jatropha and palm oil."
    • "The report indicated further that concerns about energy supply appear to be a key driver behind the demand for agrofuel crops – with the EU aiming for 10% of transport fuel to come from “renewable” sources by 2010. These EU targets have established a clear market – which given land prices and the lack of available land within the EU will inevitably be met by imports."[71]
  • Greener palm oil arrives in the United States, 29 June 2010 by "The first shipment of palm oil certified under sustainability criteria [has] arrived in the United States, according to the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO)."
    • "AAK, a vegetable oils and fats manufacturer based in Malmo, Sweden, announced the arrival of the first shipment of segregated RSPO-certified palm oil to its refinery in Port Newark, New Jersey. Segregated RSPO-certified palm oil has been kept separate from conventional palm oil throughout the supply chain. Most 'sustainable' palm oil users don't actually use segregated certified sustainable palm oil (CSPO), Instead they offset conventional palm oil buy purchasing the equivalent amount of GreenPalm certificates, which represent real CSPO sold elsewhere as conventional palm oil."
    • "The RSPO also announced that daily production of CSPO has now surpassed 5,000 metric tons per day."
    • "Some critics say the [RSPO] lacks oversight, sets a low bar for compliance, and is underfunded. Supporters argue that RSPO is still a relatively new initiative that needs more time to prove itself."[74]
  • Indonesia puts moratorium on new forest clearing, 27 May 2010 by Reuters: "Indonesia will place a two-year moratorium on new concessions to clear natural forests and peatlands under a deal signed with Norway aimed at reducing greenhouse gases, the government said in a statement."
    • Under a bilateral agreement, "Norway will invest $1 billion in forest conservation projects in Indonesia."
    • "The suspension would encourage the development of new plantations 'on degraded lands rather than vulnerable forests and peatlands'."
    • "Palm oil firms such as Wilmar and Indofood Agri Resources have big expansion plans in Indonesia, already the largest producer of an oil used to make everything from biscuits to soap."
    • "Part of Norway's $1 billion will be spent on creating monitoring systems and pilot projects under a U.N.-backed forest preservation scheme called Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD)."
    • "REDD allows developing nations to earn money by not chopping down their trees and preserving carbon-rich peatlands, seen as key to slowing climate change because forests soak up huge amounts of greenhouse gases."[75]
  • Nestle caves to activist pressure on palm oil , 17 May 2010 by "After a two month campaign against Nestle for its use of palm oil linked to rainforest destruction spearheaded by Greenpeace, the food giant has given in to activists' demands. The Swiss-based company announced today in Malaysia that it will partner with the Forest Trust, an international non-profit organization, to rid its supply chain of any sources involved in the destruction of rainforests." A company press release stated that "Nestle wants to ensure that its products have no deforestation footprint."
    • "Nestle stated that under new sourcing guidelines it will only use palm oil suppliers that do not break local laws, protect high conservation forests and any forests with 'high carbon' value, protect carbon-important peatlands, and support free prior and informed consent for indigenous and local communities."
    • "For its part, Nestle has pledged that 100 percent of its palm oil will come from sustainable sources by 2015. Currently 18 percent of Nestle's palm oil is from sustainably certified sources, but the company hopes to reach 50 percent by the end of 2011."[76]
    • Related: Read about Nestle's "Responsible Sourcing" guidelines
  • Lula Defends Biofuel Push in Amazon Region, 12 May 2010 by Latin American Herald Tribune: "Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva is championing efforts to industrialize the Amazon region with initiatives such as the cultivation of palm oil for biofuel production."
    • "He said the initiative would end the state’s dependence on the timber market, considered a main culprit of Amazon deforestation, and hailed palm-oil plantations as environmentally friendly, saying they would re-use deforested areas."
    • The project is "[b]acked by the federal government and state-controlled energy giant Petrobras," and "would involve total investment of 1.3 billion reais ($702 million)."
    • "The Brazilian government estimates that close to 2,000 Para farmers would benefit from the project, which is expected to create 7,000 direct jobs and 15,000 indirect jobs. The plan also involves improvements to roads and bridges that would benefit the entire region."[77]
  • Food and water drive Africa land grab, 29 April 2010 by UPI: "[T]he scramble for Africa is intensifying, with investment banks, hedge funds, commodity traders, sovereign wealth funds, corporations and business tycoons out to grab some of the world's cheapest land -- for profit."
    • "China has leased 6.91 million acres in the Democratic Republic of Congo for the world's largest oil palm plantation."
    • "According to various assessments, up to 123.5 million acres of African land -- double the size of Britain -- has been snapped up or is being negotiated by governments or wealthy investors."
    • "As the foreign purchases of African land multiply unchecked, the United Nations and the World Bank are seeking to bring the land-grabbing under some sort of control."[78]
  • Flat-headed cat endangered by palm oil, April 2010 by MNN: "According to National Geographic, a new study published in the journal PLoS ONE has indicated that the flat-headed cat's habitat is rapidly being transformed into vast biofuel plantations."
    • "Native to the swampy peat forests of Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia, the cats are nocturnal, elusive, tiny (they typically weigh between 3-5 pounds) and difficult to observe."
    • "Almost 70 percent of the area that historically provided good habitats for the flat-headed cat has already been converted into plantations, mostly for the purpose of growing biofuel. Furthermore, their remaining range has become fragmented, likely making it difficult for remote populations of the cat to breed with one another."
    • "The cat's predicament is not unique in the region where it lives. Tropical Southeast Asia has both one of the highest rates of biodiversity and highest rates of deforestation worldwide. Much of that deforestation is for the purpose of planting palms, a cash crop destined for the biofuel market."[80]
  • Malaysia to switch to biofuel next year, 24 March 2010 by AFP: "Malaysia, the world's second-largest palm oil producer, will make it mandatory for all vehicles to use biofuel from next year, the government announced Wednesday. Malaysia's plans to shift to biofuel -- a mixture of diesel with five percent processed palm oil -- have been delayed over the past few years due to price fluctuations."
    • "The government has said the switch to biofuel will help reduce the cost of fuel in Malaysia, where petrol is subsidised, but conservationists have criticised oil palm plantations for destroying wildlife habitats."
    • "[Commodities Minister Bernard Dompok] said Malaysia -- which aims to be the global leader in biodiesel -- has approved 56 licences for biodiesel production, which account for a production capacity of 6.8 million tonnes."[82]
  • Indonesia may open more forests to palm oil, 16 February 2010 by The Malaysian Insider: "As Indonesia looks for ways to meet its ambitious emissions-reduction targets, the Ministry of Forestry yesterday said it plans to issue a new regulation that would allow commercial forestry companies to plant crops such as palm oil in new concession areas."
    • "The regulation would stipulate that at least 49 per cent of forest concessions in question be used for planting commercial forests, while up to 21 percent could be planted in crops. The remaining 30 percent would be set aside for conservation and the use of local communities."
    • "A similar regulation was issued in 1999 but was withdrawn after many forestry companies planted more of their land in palm oil than permitted."[83]
  • Palm oil plantations could be classified as forests, 8 February 2010 by The Ecologist: "European Commission guidance would allow biofuels to be labelled as sustainable even if forests have been destroyed to make way for the palm oil plantations."
    • "According to a leaked document from the European Commission, reclassifying palm plantations as forested land could be justified and allow it to meet sustainability criteria."
    • According to the document, this would mean "'for example, that a change from forest to oil palm plantation would not per se constitute a breach of the criterion.'"
    • "Friends of the Earth said the plans, if accepted, would allow rainforest to be destroyed to make way for palm plantations and the resulting biofuel to still be classified as sustainable."
    • "The EU is due to publish a report on greenhouse gas emissions from biofuel production in March 2010."[85]
  • From palm oil to cotton, Benin now shifts to rice, 4 January 2010 by Daily Nation: "Known for its palm oil and cotton production, Benin’s agriculture sector wants to become known for high-quality rice and to quit importing rice by 2011, according to the government."
    • "FAO estimates Benin is using 8 per cent of available land for rice cultivation and could save $55 million and cover 70 per cent of domestic demand if it invested more in rice production."
    • "West African rice imports reached six million tonnes in 2001 and are likely to rise to 11 million by 2010, according to FAO."


  • Indonesia could double oil palm plantation area, 2 December 2009 by Mongabay: "Indonesia has 18 million hectares of land suitable for oil palm cultivation, nearly twice the 9.7 million hectares that have already been allocated for plantations, said Agriculture Minister the opening of the 5th Indonesian Palm Oil Conference in Bali."
    • "Roughly 7.9 million hectares of the allocated area has already been planted with oil palm."
    • "Oil palm expansion in Indonesia promises to be controversial due to environmental concerns. In February the government approved a decree that will allow the conversion of up to 2 million hectares carbon-rich peatlands, a move scientists warn could trigger the release of hundreds of millions of tons of CO2."
    • "[E]conomic returns from oil palm plantations could soon face competition under a scheme (known as REDD for reducing emissions from deforestation and degradation) that would compensate countries for protecting carbon sinks, notably tropical forests and possibly peatlands. Under some circumstances carbon conservation could outperform palm oil production....Indonesia's recent announcements about oil palm expansion across peatlands may in fact be posturing to win more compensation under a REDD mechanism."[86]
  • Success of Palm Oil Brings Plantations Under Pressure to Preserve Habitats , 17 September 2009 by New York Times: Each year, the oil palm plantations in Indonesia and Malaysia "produce millions of tons of palm oil, which has soared in popularity since the 1970s and is now found in foods like margarine, potato chips and chocolate, as well as in soap, cosmetics and biofuel."
    • "But the palm plantations are in the cross hairs of consumer groups and corporations in Australia, New Zealand, Europe and the United States. Echoing the longstanding concerns of environmental groups, they say palm oil producers continue to fell large tracts of forest to make way for plantations, destroying habitat for endangered species like the orangutan."
    • "The increasingly vocal protests are not what the industry expected five years after it began developing a certification system for producing environmentally sustainable palm oil. In 2004, the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil was formed, representing palm oil producers; consumer goods manufacturers including Unilever, Johnson & Johnson and Kellogg; environmental groups like the World Wide Fund for Nature; and social and development organizations."
    • "The roundtable requires plantations to develop plans to protect rare or endangered species on their land and to assess whether there are cultural relics that need to be preserved."[88]
  • (Palm Oil:) How the World Bank Let 'Deal Making' Torch the Rainforests, 19 August 2009 by Climate Wire / New York Times: "The World Bank ignored its own environmental and social protection standards when it approved nearly $200 million in loan guarantees for palm oil production in Indonesia, a stinging internal audit has found."
    • "The audit does not address climate change or how lending for palm oil -- an ingredient in foods and a biofuel added to diesel for cars -- fits into the World Bank's new 'strategic framework' for development and climate change."
    • "Specifically, auditors said, when loaning to Wilmar International Ltd. and other firms between 2003 and 2008, the IFC did not check out concerns about the companies' supply chain plantations. The Forest Peoples Programme, a U.K.-based nonprofit group that originally brought the complaint, charged that the companies illegally used fire to clear forestland, cleared primary forests, and seized lands belonging to indigenous people without due process."
    • In a letter, nonprofit organization representatives "called on the World Bank to freeze palm oil lending, charging that IFC suffers a 'systemic problem whereby the pressure to lend and to support business interests overcomes prudence, due diligence and concern for social and environmental outcomes.'"[89]
  • Oil giants destroy rainforests to make palm oil diesel for motorists, 15 August 2009 by TimesOnline: "Fuel companies are accelerating the destruction of rainforest by secretly adding palm oil to diesel that is sold to millions of British motorists."
    • "Twelve oil companies supplied a total of 123 million litres of palm oil to filling stations in the year to April, according to official figures obtained by The Times."
    • "Only 15 per cent of the palm oil came from plantations that met any kind of environmental standard. Much of the rest came from land previously occupied by rainforest."
    • "[C]learing rainforest to create biofuel plantations releases vast quantities of carbon stored in trees and soil. It takes up to 840 years for a palm oil plantation to soak up the carbon emitted when rainforest is burnt to plant the crop."
    • "The expansion of the palm oil industry in Indonesia has turned the country into the third-largest CO2 emitter, after China and the US. Indonesia has the fastest rate of deforestation, losing an area the size of Wales every year. The expansion of plantations has pushed the orang-utan to the brink of extinction in Sumatra."[90]
  • Controversial palm-oil plan may save the orang-utan, 22 July 2009 by New Scientist: Orang-utan "researchers and conservationists in Sabah, in Malaysian Borneo, may have to do what had until recently been unthinkable: join forces with the palm oil industry whose plantations have eaten into much of the orang-utan's habitat. October this year will see an unprecedented meeting of Malaysia's palm oil producers, conservationists and local government to figure out how to protect the world's last orang-utans."
    • "Such collaborations will be especially important given the poor start for the international Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), set up in 2002, which is supposed to address the issues of environmental damage and wildlife conflict by encouraging producers to ensure their plantations are certified as sustainable."
    • "The conservation group WWF wants palm oil to be 100 per cent sustainable by 2015, but the initial results have been dispiriting. A WWF report released in May showed that just 1 per cent of the 1.3 million tonnes of sustainable palm oil produced since November 2008 had been sold - in part because it is more expensive."[91]
  • Sustainable palm oil gets boost in China, 14 July 2009 by WWF: "Major China-based producers and users of palm oil have announced they intend to provide more support for sustainable palm oil, an important boost for efforts to halt tropical deforestation."
    • "The public statement, made at the 2nd International Oil and Fats Summit in Beijing on July 9, committed the companies to 'support the promotion, procurement and use of sustainable palm oil in China,' as well as 'support the production of sustainable palm oil through any investments in producing countries.'"
    • "China is currently the world's largest importer of palm oil, accounting for one third of all global trade. Increasing demand for palm oil, which is used in everything from soap to chocolate bars, is causing considerable damage to fragile rainforest environments, threatening endangered species like tigers, and contributing to global climate change."[92]
  • China to establish giant oil palm plantation in DR Congo, 10 July 2009 by Mongabay: "ZTE Agribusiness Company Ltd, a Chinese firm, plans to establish a one million hectare oil palm plantation in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DR Congo) for biofuel production, reports China state media."
    • "Zhang Peng, ZTE's regional manager, told Xinhua that the plantation could yield up to 5 million tons of palm oil per year, 90 percent of which could be converted to biodiesel. He claimed that the plantation would employ 'thousands' of local Congolese workers."[93]
  • Significant rise in RSPO-certified palm oil in EU, 26 June 2009 by Commodity Online: "The volume of RSPO-certified sustainable palm oil imported in European Union markets have increased significantly as producers in South East Asia comply with the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil, the multi-stakeholder association working to make all palm oil production sustainable. The equivalent of more than one third of all palm oil imported into the EU could now be sold as ‘sustainable’..."
    • "RSPO rules and audits on the ground guarantee that social and environmental standards were met during the production of certified sustainable palm oil. For example, producers need to protect the habitats of endangered species and no new primary forests can be cut for oil palm plantations. The rights of local communities, smallholders and workers have to be respected as well..."
  • Brazilian miner Vale signs $500M palm oil deal in the Amazon, 25 June 2009 by "Vale, the world's largest miner of iron ore, has signed a $500 million joint venture with Biopalma da Amazonia to produce 160,000 metric tons of palm oil-based biodiesel per year....Vale says the deal will save $150 million in fuel costs starting in 2014, with palm oil biodiesel replacing up to 20 percent of diesel consumption in the company's northern operations. The biodiesel will be produced from oil palm plantations in the Amazon state of Pará."
    • "environmentalists...fear palm oil production could soon become a major driver of deforestation in the region. Cultivation of oil palm is a leading cause of forest loss across Southeast Asia, but has yet to be widely planted in the Brazilian Amazon, where deforestation is mostly driven directly by conversion for cattle pasture expansion and indirectly by expansion of industrial agriculture, including soy."
  • The world's top 15 listed palm oil planters, 9 June 2009 by Reuters: Information on the "15 largest listed palm planters, ranked by market value....mostly located in Indonesia and Malaysia".
    • Statistics provided on "plantation holdings are in hectares and include both cultivated and uncultivated land".
  • Indonesia needs $4b to avert deforestation, 4 June 2009 by The Jakarta Post: "...Indonesian deforestation could be averted if international communities grant US$4 billion until 2012 to finance the livelihood of local peoples and stop forest conversions....The Forestry Ministry said the money would be used to address the main causes of deforestation prior to the implementation of the reducing emissions from deforestation and degradation (REDD) mechanism."
    • "Many have criticized the Indonesian government for its failure to combat high rates of deforestation, which have risen to over one million hectares per year."
    • "Indonesia has about 120 million hectares of rainforest – the third-largest on the planet after Brazil and Congo."
    • "...illegal logging [can] be seen from the expansion of oil palm estates in protected areas and conservation forests in the country....local administrations still [award] licenses for forest conversion, including for plantations."
  • CPO Producers Say Green Efforts Not Paying Off, 31 May 2009 by JakartaGlobe: "While many palm oil plantations and farmers are struggling to get certificates proving their palm oil is produced in a sustainable manner, others that have the certificates are complaining that buyers in Europe don’t want to buy their products because they are too expensive."
    • "When the first batch of RSPO-certified palm oil arrived in Europe in November 2008, the company involved, Malaysia-based United Plantations, was accused by environmental organizations Greenpeace and Wetlands International of not actually meeting the RSPO’s requirements...Greenpeace maintains that the roundtable’s system fails to adequately address issues like deforestation, peatland clearance and other land-related conflicts."
    • "The EU is in the process of requiring all palm oil producers to certify both crude palm oil and derivative products. Companies that do not obtain certification by 2010 will not be allowed to sell to EU countries."
  • "Green" palm planters struggling to find buyers, 30 May 2009 by "JAKARTA, May 27 - Palm oil planters in the world's top two producers Indonesia and Malaysia are struggling to find buyers for their eco-friendly palm oil...threatening to slow momentum."
    • "Under fire from green groups and some Western consumers, the palm oil industry established the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) in 2004 to develop an ethical certification system that includes commitments to preserve rainforests and wildlife."
    • "...the industry had so far sold only 15,000 tonnes of certified green palm oil since the first shipment last November while output might have reached around 600,000 tonnes."
    • "The issue of 'green' palm remains contentious and some conservation groups argue that the current voluntary rules are not effective in protecting the environment."
  • Palm oil could scuttle forest carbon plan: experts, 29 May 2009 by Reuters: "Carbon credits derived from a fledgling forest conservation scheme for developing nations will struggle to compete with palm oil as an investment...”
    • "...REDD allows developing countries to raise potentially billions of dollars in carbon credits in exchange for conserving and rehabilitating forests...However, profits from palm oil plantations could, in some cases, out-compete revenue from selling REDD credits…"
    • "...REDD credits arising from 10,000 hectares (25,000 acres) of conserved forest sold over a 30-year period -- where payments were front-loaded so that most of the money was delivered within the first eight years -- could fetch about $118 million if those credits could be used to meet emissions obligations for rich nations."
    • "The same credits would fetch only $14 million if their purchase was voluntary...'Whereas high-yield palm oil would get about $96 million'..."
  • Sustainability criteria must be science based, verifiable and WTO-compatible (Malaysian Minister of Plantation Industries and Commodities), 25 February 2009, by the World Refining Association: Malaysia's Minister of Plantation Industries and Commodities, the Hon. Datuk Peter Chin Fah Kui, stated in an interview that “We urge the EU to ensure that its sustainability scheme does not discriminate against third country producers and that the criteria used are science based, verifiable and WTO-compatible".
    • "One of the biggest concerns in the use of biofuels is its impact on food security [...]. As far as the Malaysian Government is concerned, the local mandate B5 if fully implemented will require only 500,000 tonnes annually or a mere 3% of our national production of CPO [Crude Palm Oil]. In fact, 90% of Malaysian palm oil is used for traditional applications such as foodstuffs and oleochemicals (soap and cosmetics), while only a small fraction is destined for biofuel production."
    • "We are engaging countries such as the EU and USA that are coming up with legislations which impose sustainability criteria on our palm and biofuel products. This includes the EU Directive on Renewable Energy."
  • Indonesia reopens peatland to palm oil plantation, 18 February 2009 by The Guardian: "Indonesia today acknowledged it had quietly lifted a year-long freeze on the use of peat land for palm oil plantations, fuelling fears of a rise in greenhouse gas emissions."
    • "Environmental groups had pressed the government to maintain the ban but Indonesia's agriculture ministry said tighter controls for issuing new permits for growing palm oil on peat land had been set after a study during the past year."
    • "To grow palm oil, the peat land that must be cleared and drained, releasing millions of tonnes of CO2 into the atmosphere. The oil is a major export product and is used in numerous foods, soaps, washing powders and as a feedstock for biofuels."
    • "Indonesia is the world's leading palm oil producer and has planted palm estates of 7.1m hectares, with smallholders accounting for about 35 percent. Palm oil generated exports revenue of £7.64bn in 2008."[95]
  • The cost of the biofuel boom on Indonesia's forests, 21 January 2009 by The Guardian: "A flurry of scientific field work and environmental reports have linked the spread of oil palm plantations in Indonesia to the decimation of rain forests, increased conflict between logging and oil palm interests and rural and indigenous people, and massive CO2 emissions through logging, burning, and the draining of carbon-rich peat lands. And most of the trouble, as I learned on a recent visit, is playing out in the Indonesian lowland rain forests on Sumatra and Borneo, an ecosystem long regarded as a global hotspot for rare and endemic species — but perhaps not for much longer."
    • "According to Indonesia's own figures, 9.4 million acres of forest have been planted with oil palm since 1996, an area larger than New Hampshire and Connecticut combined. That works out to 2,000 acres a day, or about one football field a minute....Only Malaysia, which has less at stake biologically, produces more."
    • "The week [the author] visited Sumatra, Greenpeace activists aboard the Rainbow Warrior were blockading a shipment of palm oil off its coast. A banner tied to the ship's mast read: 'Palm Oil Kills Forests and Climate.'"[96]


  • Biofuels standards challenged by new report on Malaysian Palm Oil , 8 October 2008 by Friends of the Earth UK: "Malaysian palm oil is finding its way into British petrol tanks despite concerns about its carbon balance and the rainforest being destroyed to produce it - according to a new report by Friends of the Earth international."
    • "The UK Renewable Fuels Agency (RFA) has reported that Malaysian palm oil being used for fuel in the UK meets a 'qualifying environmental standard', but Friends of the Earth's research reveals it is far from green."
    • The FOE report finds that Sarawak state in Malaysia "plans to more than double its 2007 levels of oil palm acreage by the expense of tropical forests" and that "companies regularly practice open burning on carbon rich peat soils releasing millions of tonnes of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere".[97]
    • See the report Malaysian Palm Oil: Green Gold or Green Wash?
  • First GreenPalm Certificates Traded, 4 September 2008. In its newsletter, Greenpalm announced that "just hours after the first GreenPalm certificates were offered for sale on our website (...), a bid of $50 per certificate, was received and accepted. Further bids have subsequently been made.
    The purchaser of the first GreenPalm certificates will now be able to prove that their business, or brand, supports the production of sustainable palm oil.
    The producer of that palm oil, the first in our scheme to be successfully audited against the new and rigorous Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) audit, has earned a worthwhile premium for producing palm oil sustainably."
  • Biofuels and banquets put pressure on stocks of palm oil, 9 January 2008 by the Times Online, reported that "The Malaysian Government has been forced to release emergency stocks of palm oil to break a wave of panic-buying after cooking oil prices soared. The crisis has prompted palm oil rationing in a country that is one of the world’s largest producers."


  • Malaysia May Revoke Biofuel Permits as Palm Oil Rises, 11 December 2007, by Bloomberg: "Malaysia, the second-biggest palm oil producer, may revoke some licenses to produce biofuel from the the surging price of the raw material makes the fuel too expensive to make, a minister said." The minister also noted that one of Malaysia's four biodiesel manufacturing plants may close in the face of increased prices for the feedstock, which has risen some 55 percent in the past year.[100]
  • Dutch to deny palm subsidies until green levels met, 10 December 2007: "The Netherlands will not renew subsidies for palm-based biofuel until global producers meet its environmental requirements." The Netherlands reportedly will "mandate stringent criteria to help limit environmental damage" under its green energy subsidy system in 2008. Environment Minister Jacqueline Cramer was quoted as saying that "Until the problems are solved, there will be no subsidy for palm oil....It makes no sense to use palm oil for bio-energy purposes while the carbon dioxide produced is more than what we are actually trying to save, particularly when you cut down peatforests."
  • A who's who of Indonesian biofuel, 22 May 2007, from Asia Times Online. Many of the companies that are now investing heavily in Indonesia's biodiesel industry are the sames ones that "incurred and defaulted on huge foreign debts in the wake of the 1997-98 Asian financial crisis. Few fully repaid their debts and today they still dominate the country's logging, wood-processing and pulp industries. Several also have highly suspect environmental records."



See books, reports, scientific papers, position papers and websites for additional useful resources.

  • Historical Analysis and Projection of Oil Palm Plantation Expansion on Peatland in Southeast Asia (PDF) by Jukka Miettinen, Al Hooijer, Daniel Tollenaar, Sue Page, Chris Malins, Ronald Vernimmen, Chenghua Shi, and Soo Chin Liew; ICCT, February 2012. "Study using satellite mapping data of historical and projected rates at which oil palm plantations in Indonesia and Malaysia have expanded and will expand onto peat soils."
    • "This study demonstrates that the area of industrial oil palm (OP) plantations in the peatlands of insular Southeast Asia (Malaysia and Indonesia, except the Papua Provinces) has increased drastically over the past 20 years. From a small area in 1990 to at least 2.15 million hectares in 2010, expansion has affected every region of Malaysia and Indonesia reviewed here."
    • See also indirect land use change (ILUC).


Look here for more detailed information on a specific country's or region's policies, organizations and industry.


Other oil palm products

Palm oil leavings


  1. Promised Land - Palm Oil and Land Acquisition in Indonesia: Implications for Local Communities and Indigenous Peoples by Marcus Colchester, Norman Jiwan, Andiko, Martua Sirait, Asep Yunan Firdaus, A. Surambo, Herbert Pane; Forest Peoples Programme, Perkumpulan Sawit Watch, HuMA and the World Agroforestry Centre, 2006. "An intensive, multi-disciplinary study of the legal and institutional processes of land acquisition for oil palm plantings in Indonesia with a focus on the rights of local communities and indigenous peoples."

Bioenergy feedstocks edit

Biodiesel feedstocks:
Currently in use: Animal fat | Castor beans | Coconut oil | Jatropha | Jojoba | Karanj | Palm oil | Rapeseed | Soybeans | Sunflower seed | Waste Vegetable Oil (WVO)
Currently in research and development: Algae | Halophytes (Salt-tolerant plants)

Ethanol feedstocks:
First-generation: Cassava | Corn | Milo | Nypa palm | Sorghum | Sugar beets | Sugar cane | Sugar palm |Sweet potato | Waste citrus peels | Wheat | Whey
Second-generation: For cellulosic technology - Grasses: Miscanthus, Prairie grasses, Switchgrass | Trees: Hybrid poplar, Mesquite, Willow

Charcoal feedstocks: Bamboo | Wood
Waste-to-energy (MSW)

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Controversies: Food versus fuel | Net energy | Carbon debt


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