Is palm oil one of the largest sources on man made aerosols?

From NASA, while we wring our hands over coal fired power plants in the west, the rest of the world seems oblivious to creating even far worse air pollution. Hi-res sat image follows.

Illegal Fires Set in Indonesia Cause Smog Problem

Widespread wildfires are lighting up Indonesia, but these fires were not started accidentally.  These fires were set deliberately to clear land for palm oil companies.  This type of “slash-and-burn” agricultural has been used for centuries to clear land for new planting, however, the setting of such fires is now illegal in Indonesia.  That doesn’t seem to be stopping plantation owners from continuing this practice.  The Huffington Post reports that Laurel Sutherlin of the Rainforest Action Network, a San Francisco-based environmental organization sent the paper an email stating, “Widespread, illegal burning to clear rainforests and peatlands for palm oil and pulp and paper plantation expansion is unfortunately a well-established yearly ritual in Sumatra.”

The worst by-product of this practice is the deliterious smog produced by the fires.  Smog so lethal that a record high of 401 pollution index was recorded in the city-state at noon on Friday (Aug. 16), according to UK’s The Independent. A measurement over 400 is said to be life-threatening to sick and elderly people, the paper notes. Of course, deforestation is also a negative by-product of this practice as well.

A staple for cooking throughout Southeast Asia and elsewhere, palm oil is the single largest traded vegetable oil commodity in the world, and global demand is rising rapidly, the U.S. Department of Agriculture says. The oil is increasingly used in the manufacture of cosmetics, soaps, pharmaceuticals and industrial products. It is also used to make biodiesel fuel.

Indonesia_burning1

Image: NASA’s Terra satellite collected this natural-color image with the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer, MODIS, instrument on August 27, 2013. Actively burning areas, detected by MODIS’s thermal bands, are outlined in red. NASA image courtesy Jeff Schmaltz LANCE/EOSDIS MODIS Rapid Response Team, GSFC. Caption by Lynn Jenner with information from the Huffington Post and The Independent

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93 thoughts on “Is palm oil one of the largest sources on man made aerosols?

  1. I havenn’t bought a product even suspected of containing Palm Oil in over 20 years .. surely the rest of the world has noticed the devastation caused by the development of this monster ?

  2. Those satellite cameras must have caught them on a quiet day – earlier this year the smoke was so bad in Singapore (200 Km NE of those fires) that we could barely see buildings 1 km away, and it was very irritating to nose and eyes (this is the first time is has ever irritated me like that).

    I believe all the Riau archipelago to the north east would have been shrouded in smoke throughout that time period.

    And this lasted about two or three weeks – with one week being very serious.

  3. But – having noted the seriousness of the fires:

    Some good points about palm oil.

    Its a tree – plant it once, start harvest in 5 or 6 years (modern strains down to 4 yrs) – keep harvesting until it is 20 to 25 years of age. No further plowing needed.

    Yield is impressive – about 6 tonnes of oil per Ha per year – compared to canola: 0.7 tonnes of oil per Ha per year – and then you have to re cultivate and replant every year.

    It is a pretty good crop – if only they could enforce the no burning rules.

    And for those bemoaning the loss of someone else’s rainforests – simple – plow in your low yielding canola, and replant your own bl**dy forests.

  4. Palm oil price: Currently about US$740/tonne. So you can see the attraction – 20 Ha of palm can give a very good income (oil value is 6 x $740 = $4,440/Ha).

    20 Ha returns US$89,000 per year (growers don’t get all that, but are well paid).

    Unfortunately almost all the palm is in the hands of a very few big companies – locals don’t get much.

  5. But what about the devastation of the Amazon bought about by Soy?

    It seems “they cannot answer a simple question, If Palm Oil is so evil, so bad, so demonized, why is clear cutting for firewood, so good, so wonderful that all the Greenpeace mob not only think that it is wonderful but must be encouraged. An example of this is clear cutting North Carolina to provide Drax U.K. with 7.5 million tonnes per year of wood pellets.

    Re the Pollution, they know who is doing it, they know its illegal. Their response, arrest two dirt poor farmers for burning rubbish as they have done for thousands of years. I asked the Local Paper, why, seeing they themselves know the law, why the law is not enforced and the culprits jailed and forced to pay the costs of putting the fires out. They of course could not answer.

  6. I object to the title. It is clearly not Palm Oil (and pulp and paper plantation expansion) which is the cause of the aerosols, but the method of land clearance. Regulations in individual nations, and their enforcement, or lack of same, is the issue. Palm oil, pulp and paper are valuable commodities and there is little reason to object to their production and sale. Blaming the economic development of world wide traded and valuable commodity products for the pollution, instead of the land clearance technique, is inverting cause and effect.

  7. The yield on a well managed estate is much more than six tonnes. Trees can fruit in less than 3 years. Life is about 25 years after which they too tall to harvest. Also each tree produces one bunch per month, no season really, so cropping is rotational.

    They use little fertiliser and insecticide. Indeed they use weevils to pollinate the trees, barn owls to control rats and snakes, plants to control insects and diseases. They are now using swifts to control the weevils, which provide birds nests and a good secondary income.

    They also use no fuel, once up and running. biomass fuels their processes and they use home made biodiesel. Very green and self sufficient.

  8. $740/tonne? one tonne (if the internet is correct as far as I could get it) is just over 300 gallons, so a little over $2/gallon or just over $100 a barrel.

    Biodiesel!

  9. On a good estate, the locals live in villages, with water and power supplied. A clubhouse and other socail facilities. Indeed like a tropical version of Cadbury. Yes it is abused, yes their are bad planters but the bulk, look after their workers and plantations well.

    They laugh at Greenpeace and those that boycott palm products. Let them, just the demand growth from China and India dwarfs their petty purchases. Yes they fully aware they the target on unprincipled attacks

  10. Grey Lensman,
    It seems “they cannot answer a simple question, If Palm Oil is so evil, so bad, so demonized, why is clear cutting for firewood, so good, so wonderful that all the Greenpeace mob not only think that it is wonderful but must be encouraged. An example of this is clear cutting North Carolina to provide Drax U.K. with 7.5 million tonnes per year of wood pellets.

    It is not the clear cutting that is bad but what replaces it. In the case of NC, most forests are replanted in similar ot original trees in order to produce the next “crop” – sustainable farming. In the rain forest the natural timber is typically being replaced by higher cash crops which provide a much poorer environment than the original state.

  11. You know, I am actually convinced that Palm Oil is a huge problem, because both Wattsupwiththat and Skepticalscience, who disagree about almost everything beyond the number of corners in a circle, actually speak in unison on this. I agree that palm oil is a monster. This sort of monster will grow on the fertile soil of our rising energy demand, whenever the energy industry finds an environmental argument to hijack. It is obvious that palm oil is not a viable alternative to coal, oil and gas. Nevertheless, I believe we need a viable alternative.

  12. Tom

    They are not planting teak as firewood but some fast growing softwood. FYI, Prime jungle is not good for Oil Palm, wet scrub is best. Most of that is now used, so they looking at better yields. They can easily get up to 20 tonnes per hectare.

  13. Yes palm oil is much better as a food and a food/cosmetic/industrial feedstock Shall we tell Europe to plough out their wheat fields and turn them back to forest?

  14. What little human-lit burning is allowed on Earth these days is nothing compared to what nature used to do year in and year out before settlements and fire suppression kept Mother Nature at bay. This kind of sensationalized micro-issue is similar to CO2. Much ado about very, very little.

  15. Thomas, So you are convinced that Palm Oil is a very big problem. Care to tell us why? How much Palm Oil is used to make bio diesel? How does it compare with firewood or Soy or Canola? Lush green well covered lands with well managed soils, or barren scrub land and acidic swamps.

    Or how about the millions of acres of chemically induced wheat and corn in the USA?

  16. Well said, Pamela Gray. It’s similar to the fires in 2011 in Texas, Oklahoma, and Louisiana. Had the naturally started fires been allowed to burn, we’d have a much different landscape today. The same goes for the western USA. Where once there were open forests with less than 10 trees per hectare, we now have thousands which lead to devastating crown fires, rather than cool grass burns that allowed for rapid herbaceous regrowth.

    Patrick B. – it’s not uncommon for the smoke of those fires to reach us up here in the Ark-La-Tex giving a strange red hue to the sunlight.

  17. Markx suggests: “… plow in your low yielding canola, and replant your own bl**dy forests.”

    Canola is generally grown where no actual forests have stood for centuries, namely prairie grasslands.

    The palm oil tree would not, of course, survive through the first autumn in Saskatchewan, much less make it through the winter.

  18. The Rain Forest Action Network likely won’t say a peep about how restricted logging and bad forestry practices create out of control forest fires like the one I’ve been breathing for ten days, has destroyed 180,000 acres and is slowly but steadily working its way towards my home. They will, like Jerry Brown insinuated yesterday in Tuolumne City, that global warming is to blame for the Rim fire and all the fires in the future in California.
    It get discouraging because people look no further than a politicians speech or press release. So they’ll believe it too.

  19. How is this different than the Brit’s requirement to use biomass (from US forests) in power generation plants?

  20. “In the case of NC, most forests are replanted in similar ot original trees in order to produce the next “crop” – sustainable farming.” The timber/paper companies have been doing that for decades and are still doing it. Trees are a cash crop, like other cash crops, just much slower growing. I’ve always laughed at the “recycle paper, save a tree” bit since a majority of the trees were grown for just that purpose.
    As for Drax going to wood pellets-“Never underestimate the power of human stupidity.”

  21. Thomas Traill says: August 27, 2013 at 10:03 am
    “..You know, I am actually convinced that Palm Oil is a huge problem…”

    Dear Ladies and Germs,
    We must bear in mind that we are all susceptible to indoctrination, especially in areas we have little knowledge, and where the story just ‘sound right’.

    It is quite clear that ‘big canola’ is behind this demonization of palm oil, and we are all patsies for deciding to hate palm oil. ;-)

    Global oil yields: Have we got it seriously wrong?
    Denis J. Murphy
    August 2009 http://www.aocs.org/Membership/FreeCover.cfm?itemnumber=1102

  22. Grey Lensman when I flew the Indonesian Haj three times 1993 – 1995 I lived in Medan ,Surabya and Jakarta and thought that Indonesia was the most corrupt country possible. It seemed that corruption was endemic at all levels.. Unless it has changed enormously surely bribery is the explanation of why nothing is done.

  23. GlynnMhor says: August 27, 2013 at 10:55 am

    Markx suggests: “… plow in your low yielding canola, and replant your own bl**dy forests.”

    Canola is generally grown where no actual forests have stood for centuries, namely prairie grasslands.

    Yeah, I know that Glynn, was just ‘figuratively speaking’.

    But there are plenty of places the developed world could grow forests, instead of stridently accusing the developing world of thoughtlessly cutting theirs down. For example, the whole east coast of Australia was tropical rainforest once – it only took 150 years to clear it all.

    One thing I do know from experience – given half a chance, forests will very rapidly re-establish themselves. And it would not be too many generations before the biodiversity accelerated.

  24. I lived many years in Indonesia, and saw extensive rain forest cut for palm oil. I saw just as much former jungle wiped out for tea. Funny how that boycott never happened.

  25. Thomas Traill says:
    August 27, 2013 at 10:03 am

    Viable alternatives to coal & oil already exist & are able to compete economically with them, including their fellow fossil fuel gas.

    Yet Neo-Luddites have somehow convinced themselves that the alternatives too are bad, such as nuclear & hydro power. Windmills are uneconomical environmental abominations, yet receive huge subsidies. Solar panels might become economical, but still carry heavy environmental consequences.

    Go figure. Public policy makers clearly have not done so correctly.

    [First paragraph above should be quoting Traill, right? Mod]

  26. I heard from a family member that the people who own the plantations where the Singapore Smog originated live in Singapore. Heh-heh. They had to flee to better climes. It was not much better in Penang.

    For the general discussion of PM, the composition of the particles has a lot to do with their effects. It is not as simple as counting a number. 400 micrograms of PM2.5 is not necessarily serious and does not make everyone drop dead. It matters a lot what is in it. Evaporated and condensed toxins can cause problems at much lower concentrations. Ground dust is much less potent (like in Beijing which is about 50% dust from nearby farming, the rest mostly from diesel).

    The smoke from Indonesian fires is pretty awful because of the low burn temperature (wet material) and gunk that boils out of the plants that evolved to contain alkaloid liquids the insect/critters don’t like.

    Large forests that turn from different teaks to palm trees subtract biomass for fuel from the available total. Palm makes lousy firewood. People have to buy something else to burn.

    No one mentioned that harvesting palm oil is a dangerous job. Many poorly paid migrant workers are killed each year. It is mostly roses for the owners, not so much for everyone else.

  27. I had a discussion with a Greenpeace recruiter that was trying to get you to join GP because Mars candy bars contained palm oil, and that was oh so bad for the environment. No suggestion of what would replace palm oil in chocolate though. So I pointed out that they had the problem totally backwards. One major use of palm oil is to feed several hydroprocessing plants of roughly 800,000 MT/year capacity that produce hydroprocessed “renewable” diesel just to meet the EU mandate of 5.75% biomass content in the European fuel mix. This mandated biofuel content drives huge needs for “green” palm oil forcing other consumers of palm to go to plantations that are carved out of the forests (and are thus not considered green). So, if you want to eliminate the rain forest burning problem, change the EU fuel requirements to not allow palm derived biofuels. That is probably half of the palm oil demand currently. I would like to see statistics on that to validate the problem.

  28. “Canola is generally grown where no actual forests have stood for centuries, namely prairie grasslands.”

    We should stop being hypocrites. Plow it under and let the Buffalo have it back.

    Yum. Buffalo.

    “Parks Canada led the ecological restoration of the mixed-grass prairie ecosystem in Grasslands National Park. The project focused on re-introduction of natural processes, such as large herbivore grazing by bison and cattle, and the use of prescribed burns. In addition, previously cultivated areas, as well as areas dominated by invasive plants, were re-vegetated. During the project, various partners and stakeholders were involved in the planning, decision-making, and celebration of the restoration work including local communities, Aboriginal people and park visitors.”

    http://www.pc.gc.ca/progs/np-pn/re-er/ec-cs/ec-cs01.aspx

    Wait …. “prescribed burns” emulating lightning strike fires is natural?

  29. Palm oil seems like an effective way to sequester carbon. /sarc

    In 2004, I went on a business trip to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. As we were landing, I looked out of the window to see what I thought would be jungle. I was amazed to see the jungle was actually palm trees planted in straight lines for as far as the eye could see. This palm oil stuff is big business!

  30. Biodiesel is what’s driving the huge uptick in demand, particularly in Indonesia. It’s one of the many unintended consequences of the CAGW lie. Funny how groups responsible for helping to push that lie are now bemoaning the result. Oh, the irony.

  31. For potentially recoverable oil shale resources, we roughly derive an upper bound of 1.1 trillion barrels of oil and a lower bound of about 500 billion barrels. *** … the midpoint in our estimate range, 800 billion barrels, is more than triple the proven reserves of Saudi Arabia. Present U. S. demand for petroleum products is about 20 million barrels per day. If oil shale could be used to meet a quarter of that demand, 800 billion barrels … would last 400 years.

    (James T. Bartis, Tom LaTourrette, Lloyd Dixon, D.J. Peterson, and Gary Cecchine, Oil Shale Development in the United States: Prospects and Policy Issues, RAND Corp. monograph, MG-414-NETL (2005: ix) quoted in The State of World Oil Reserves: Conventional and Unconventional Resources in the Future Supply Mix, J.A.B., III, Inst. for Public Policy, Rice Univ., Amy Jaffe, Kenneth Medlock, Ronald Soligo (October, 2011).)

    Proven world oil (conventional) technologically recoverable reserves: 1.35 trillion bbls. (Jaffe, et. al., ibid. at 18, Source: EIA (Energy Information Administration).)

    Proven world oil (nonconventional) T. R. reserves: 2.13 trillion bbls (Jaffe, et. al. ibid. at 19, Source: WEC (World Energy Council).) As innovation improves recovery ability of oil sands and of extra-heavy oil deposits, these reserves would expand significantly. Ibid.

    In 1939, the U.S. Department of the Interior announced that the U.S. reserves would run dry in about 13 years.

    (Jaffe, et. al., ibid. at 13)

    (Note: Jaffe, et. al.’s analysis of wind power and electric vehicles is weak and overly optimistic given the facts about windmill electricity production.)

    Thus, there is NO NEED to use biofuel as a petroleum liquids substitute at this time.

  32. I was amazed to see the jungle was actually palm trees planted in straight lines for as far as the eye could see. This palm oil stuff is big business!

    I’ve seen palm oil plantations first hand, and it’s monoculture for hundreds of sq kms. And contrary to what was said above, the palms grow fine in higher rainfall areas, which were previously primary or secondary growth tropical forest. The plantations are almost completely devoid of wildlife.

    Palm oil plantations are the worst environmental disaster of my lifetime. Nothing else comes close.

    It’s the intensive monoculture aspect that is the real problem. But it is a very profitable business and Indonesia is a very corrupt country. So, in practice it’s completely unregulated.

  33. The Rainforest Action network was heavily involved in the Chevron/TexPet shakedown by Steven Donziger and a host of other “usual suspects” which lead to a RICO suit by Chevron (successor to Texaco). You can read about it here .

    I’m not sure I would give any credence to their claims.

  34. Almost all farming is devastating to the environment, replacing ecosystems with human cultures, often permanently. The only worse damage is done by habitation, cities and towns.

    Industrial and resource influence is trivial by comparison.

  35. Not 40% of the US corn crop being burned in cars?

    They didn’t cut down rainforests over the last 30 years to grow the corn.

    The Southeast Asian Rainforest is the oldest and most biologically diverse rainforest in the world, being 70 million years old. This makes it older than the Amazon and the African Rainforests. With a range of more than 3,100 miles, it is crowded with plants and animals (F, Lydia). The Southeast Asian Rainforest is made up of organisms that can only be found in Southeast Asia, which makes it diverse from other rainforest organisms.

  36. I worked in Indonesia (Sumatra) in 1963. Air transport shut down then for long periods due to burnoff smoke. I was stuck near Palembang for a month, trying to get out. Finally went by train and inter-island ferry to Java.
    I don’t think that was palm oil driven then. Just a traditional land clearing process.

    Ed Thurstan

  37. More of a comment on consumer mentality: How many moms would stop buying products made with canola oil if they knew is was actually rapeseed oil?

    CANadian Oil Low Acid

  38. Hoser says:
    August 27, 2013 at 5:20 pm

    Moms, Canola, rapeseed?

    Do you mean this lovely plant?

    I do the shopping and I’ve know the history of the plant since about 1978 after seeing a field and visiting with the farmer growing it. I have used it ever since.

  39. The soils of Sumatera and Kalimantan (Borneo) are very poor except in the volcanic areas.
    Riau has very poor soil. The tropical rainforests were built up over a period of thousands of years. The roots of large tropical rain forest trees such as Teak and Mahogany were buried in a layer of peat that had built over thousands of years. The tropical rain forests generated their own sticky humid wet local weather. Years ago, flying low over the rain forests you could see that the bottom of the large trees were resting in wet swamp.

    The tropical rain forest trees were harvested for the Teak and Mahogany. Years ago a U.N. introduced Green ban on the export of raw logs meant that these high value woods were turned into three ply and four ply to make packing cases. (unexpected consequences).

    After the marketable wood was cut down the locals would then slash and burn the resultant undergrowth to grow their cash crops. The fires caused the peat layer to burn. The peat eventually burned down to ground level where the soil was thin and not filed with nutrients.
    In 1982, – 5 million hectares of Tropical rain forest burned down in East Kalimantan due to drought and slash and burn methods that got out of control. Resultant peat fires lasted for years.

    In K.L. where you see the rows and rows of palm oil plantations – these were formally rubber plantations. Palm oil being much more cash effective than rubber.
    Sumatran rubber plantations have been pulled out in lieu of Palm Oil.
    Palm oil trees require artificial nutrition – it’s bought in. My neighbor is one of the largest importers of “Bio organic” fertilizer to Kalimantan. Palm oil leaches whatever nutrients are in the soil.

    The small particles that cause the most damaging pollution in S.E. Asia comes from the burning peat.

    Back in the early 2000’s the governor of the Province of North Sumatera was so concerned about the rainfall deterioration in his province that he commissioned a study by some U.S. agriculturalists and forestry experts. They concluded that so much rainforest had been cut down the prevailing weather patterns had been altered. Areas that previously received enough rainfall to sustain three crops of paddy rice a year now were only receiving enough rainfall for two crops.
    That Governor started an extensive tree planting program back in 2004 – 2005.

    My wife, her father, her mother and both maternal and paternal grand parents were all born on Sumatran rubber planatations. None of these rubber plantations survive they have all been converted to Palm Oil. Thne rubber plantations previously belonged to U.S., Dutch or British companies. The Palm Oil is now all in Private Indonesian hands.

  40. In Eastern Indonesia, there are signs everywhere that periodic burning is illegal, yet every year it goes on regardless. The locals do this for several reasons:

    -they say, “to stop the trees growing back” so they can continue their herding and agriculture.
    -to replenish the soil
    -to stop the National Park vegetation from expanding into their villages and livelihoods.
    -to destroy illegally planted vegetation by National Parks officials on their farmland.

    Its been going on for centuries and wont stop, but they don’t do it in the National Parks.

  41. W. T. Menny says:
    August 27, 2013 at 2:43 pm

    Whether it is Palm oil or Canola: More people is bad; fewer people is good.

    So we DO have your permission then, nay your “requirement” and your desire!, to immediately sterilize you, your parents, your family, and all living relatives?

  42. One more thing.
    The tropical rain forests can never be reinstated.
    It takes thousands of years for them to grow.

    In real deep tropical rain forest there are no animals, no food and no insects. There is a barrier you pass after around ten to twenty kilometers when you enter a deep rain forest. After you pass that barrier – The Jungle is Nuetral.

  43. A percentage of the tropical rain forest of Kalimantan and Sumatera was destroyed in the seventies and eighties due to a “Central Government” relocation policy. It was called “Transmigrasi”.
    The idea was that Java had too large a population so many people suffered forced relocation to the outer provinces to try and bring the Javanese population down and under control.
    The reality is that some officials had their hand in the pocket of logging firms who cleared rainforest under the guise of Transmigrasi.
    Western Governments had a hand in this devastating Transmigrasi project – N.G.O.’s and aid projects.

  44. Only one spotted the troll, well done. So North Carolina is going to be replanted with oak, ash, elm, beech, etc. LOL. It will be cheapest fasted growing monoculture.

    Here you see the blatant hypocrisy of Greens. Palm OIl bad, Firewood good.

    Good point about corruption in Indonesia but that affects everything not just Palm Oil.

    See also the unknown posters here, straight away on meme, “Palm Oil Bad”, with no evidence, no facts, no science.

    BTW, Ozone is not a pollutant, its part of natures toolbox to clean up pollution and control radiation.

  45. It is poor farmers on $1.50/day who burn scrub to plant dryland rice that cause the fires. They are so poor they can’t afford herbicide. Their lives are little different to 100 years ago. Palm oil companies get massive fines if they are caught burning to clear land. Subsistence farmers fires spread into palm oil plantations and plantation companies spend a fortune putting this fires out.

    1 ha of oil palm = 10 ha rape/canola oil. What is better 10ha of a low yield crop cultivated in Europe multiple times a year or a 1 ha of high yielding oil palm replanted every 25 years? Due to the high yield/ha the transport infrastructure and logistics are much more efficient for oil palm and palm kern shell and empty fruit bunches can be used for energy production at the mill.

    If your care about cutesy animals release some Sumatran tigers into Yosemite.

  46. …filthy stuff! The hippies who delude themselves into thinking they are helping Gaia are on the wrong page entirely. Algae oil would be superior, but no one has solved the riddle of how to grow it yet.

    http://www.orangutan.org.au/palm-oil

    Environmental Impacts
    The United Nations Environment Programme has announced that palm oil plantations are now the leading cause of rainforest destruction in Malaysia and Indonesia. An area of forest equal to 300 soccer fields is being destroyed every hour.

    The burning of forests to clear land for palm oil plantations is a major cause of air pollution in Southeast Asia. It releases CO2 into the atmosphere which contributes to global warming. Research shows that 20% of all global carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuels come from rainforest destruction.

    Threatening Endangered Species
    Deforestation for the establishment of palm oil plantations is responsible for habitat loss for threatened and endangered species. Priority species impacted by forest clearing are the Asian elephant, tiger, Sumatran rhinoceros and the orangutan. The Asian elephant and Bornean orangutan are endangered and the tiger, Sumatran rhinoceros and Sumatran orangutan are Critically Endangered.

    Palm Oil Plantations Endangering Orangutans
    During the past decade the orangutan population has decreased by approximately 50 percent in the wild. This is primarily due to human activities including rainforest destruction for palm oil plantations. At present, 80 percent of orangutan habitat has been altered or lost.
    The International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUNC) has classified the Bornean orangutan as Endangered with approximately 55,000 left with 5,000 killed a year.

    The Sumatran orangutan is Critically Endangered with approximately 6,300 left and 1,000 being killed a year.

  47. Dr. Bob says: August 27, 2013 at 1:14 pm
    “I had a discussion with a Greenpeace recruiter that was trying to get you to join GP because Mars candy bars contained palm oil, and that was oh so bad for the environment. No suggestion of what would replace palm oil in chocolate though.”

    Dr. Bob, suggest you go to the following web site:

    http://solazyme.com/

    By the end of this year their commercial-sized JV plant (with Bunge) in Brazil should be operating.
    In the 1st Q of 14 their commercial-sized JV plant (with ADM) in Iowa should be operating.

    They can make a number of different oils, from transformer oil for DOW (a JV partner), to palm oil (a Hershey JV to be announced soon?). And they can switch oils between batches (1-2 weeks?).

    Early on SZYM switched from open ponds (hence SOLA-zyme) to (dark) fermentation tanks.
    They produce (and patent) altered algae strains to produce oil to specifications. They started with the highest margin oils (Algenist facial cremes) and high-protein, low fat veggie drinks (Food Fusion Phood). Recently added to Twin-Labs’ Clean Series. Pays some bills while the commercial sized-facilities are ramping up.

    3/4 of my portfolio is energy. All oil & ng, diversified into many areas: Wildcatters in the Bakken, refineries, off-shore drilling rigs, pipelines, gas stations, etc. But no solar or wind (or coal).
    SZYM is the only “alternate energy / renewable / sustainable” stock I own.
    I’m making a sizable bet that they have a “disruptive technology” (re a Forbes article).

  48. Philip Bradley

    So the clear cutting of Europe’s forests to build ships and provide land for wheat and barley was not a disaster?

    Other poster, please explain how cutting scrub and shrubs and secondary growth and replanting with lush dense palm oil changes the rainfall pattern? That we would all like to know.

    Anthony, I noted your intro. Did you see the very second reply, “Freeisroy” clearly a paid troll/shill. Hope you read all the replies and gain a bit of understanding as to what is really going on here.

    Nutrient drain, so that does not apply to planting rapidly growing monoculture trees to replace clearcut forest in North Carolina?

    Yes corruption is bad in Indonesia but is USA any better, really?

    About the nutrient depletion, read my observations re using used fruit bunches and palm fronds as natural mulch and fertiliser. And again, I reiterate, growing firewood, where all the growth is removed does not do this?

  49. [Quote]Palm Oil Plantations Endangering Orangutans
    During the past decade the orangutan population has decreased by approximately 50 percent in the wild. This is primarily due to human activities including rainforest destruction for palm oil plantations. At present, 80 percent of orangutan habitat has been altered or lost.[/quote]

    Unfortunately this is a bit of a furphy.

    The Orangutan population was already on the critical endangered list before Palm Oil. The Indonesian population explosion can be blamed for the initial problems.

    And it’s not just Orangutans. Tigers, elephants, rhinoceros and a whole bunch of other large primates.
    Orangutans are only the face of the awareness problem.

  50. CRS, DrPH says: August 27, 2013 at 7:42 pm
    “Algae oil would be superior, but no one has solved the riddle of how to grow it yet.”

    See above.

  51. Some words on the economics.

    Palm Oil is simply streets ahead in terms of yield per hectare per year and product value.

    Palm oil has greater value/profit margin as a food or feedstock

    Palm oil is infinitely better as a food/cooking medium than either Soy or Canola

    Making Palm Oil into biodiesel is a loss maker. It is only done because EU wanted it, so Planters built refineries only to find the price was lower after doing it. So the Malaysian Government being Corporate friendly rather than people friendly, mandated that all diesel sold in Malaysia must contain 5% biodiesel.

    That being said, market forces mean Palm Oil as a food is expensive, So the Malaysian Government subsidizes its price to keep it as a cheap low cost item. But again who gets the subsidy?

    So we have this total Green Stupidity, Oil Palm is bad but Green EU mandates that it is grown. So one side of Green mouth says “good” whilst the other says “bad”.

    The planters, they just keep making money.

  52. Palm oil trees are grown in great rows. Workers thin out the fronds from the trees so as to the advantage of the palm oil fruit.
    The fronds are deposited in rows in parallel lines with the palm oil trees rows.
    The frond deposits become infested with rats and other rodents.
    The enemies of rats come along to hunt the rats – snakes – which includes Cobra’s.
    Be very careful about standing on a row of palm oil fronds
    I’d rather walk through a rubber plantation any day rather than a Palm Oil one.

    If you don’t know how a tropical rain forest generates it’s own local weather patterns – you’ve never been in one.

  53. LES

    Please read the posts, you might learn something rather than parrot fake info.

    Planters use barn owls, one nest site per ten hectares and swifts.

    Planters also use plants such as marigolds for insect control.

    Regarding palm oil plantations being sterile. Virgin rain forest is virtually sterile supporting little life. See how few native humans can live off the land in such places. I have stayed in a Planters house, on an island 100% plantation. The variety and amount of life is staggering. Blue king fishers, troops of monkeys, blue king fishers, monitor lizards, to name just a few, all require a viable ecosystem. They also grow every single species of trees found in Malaysia. The barn owls were magnificent.

    Most of the destruction in Kalimantan was caused by the forced relocation of Maduri to the Island and the land clearance to house them.

    Strange how nature resolved that. The Local Dyaks reverted to type, invoked law of the jungle and the incursions and damage stopped. Dyaks are “head hunters”.

  54. Oh and Les, a lot of my friends are 40 year plus Palm Oil folks, rubber tappers and coca bean growers. tea planters and coconuts as well. I live in the Jungle. I own some rubber plantations.

    So what do you want to know about Jungle?

  55. correction, cocoa not coca. Plus my “plantation “is very small, 35 rai but still qualifies

  56. Philip Bradley

    So the clear cutting of Europe’s forests to build ships and provide land for wheat and barley was not a disaster?

    Didn’t happen in my lifetime.

    I’m not disputing that all agriculture is destructive of habitats. Nor do I dispute the right of Malaysia and Indonesia to develop their agriculture using appropriate crops. My problem is with the Greens who are gungho for biofuels and renewable energy without realizing the consequences, and have rather belatedly realized how environmentally destructive biofuels are, not just in SE Asia.

    As for Europe, the drive for biofuels has largely derailed re-aforestation efforts there, and in the USA there is large scale cutting of forests.

    I’ve been through several palm oil plantations and haven’t seen a single monkey, normally highly visible in tropical forests. The only mammals I have seen are palm squirrels.

  57. Grey Lensman says: August 27, 2013 at 7:55 pm

    “..Yes corruption is bad in Indonesia but is USA any better, really?..”

    I have spent 20 years in Indonesia, and must acknowledge that it is a society that runs on ‘under the table’ payments … but it is designed to … the salaries paid to government employees is not enough to live on, and the amount they charge to speed up or facilitate what should be normal processes are tiny.

    And I have realized that low level corruption in no way impacts the economy. It is the money that heads back to a country’s capital city and then offshore that is the problem. And, most don’t realize that happens to a greater or lesser extent almost everywhere in the world.

    When the Suharto regime fell in 1998 and greater power was passed to regional government, I jokes “Hell, they have just regionalized corruption!”. Well, I was correct in a way, but it was a very good thing – those regional cities/towns are unrecognizable only 15 years later – vibrant, growing, building and new businesses everywhere. (Contrast with Malaysian regional towns).

    You see, the regional administrator who makes money then spends it on a new car, house, meals in restaurants, a new mistress (who is invariably a consumer of note) etc. Eventually the money goes around. But, centrally paid large amounts go straight offshore.

    Look at the deals governments do in good old honest Australia. The government of the State of Victoria has just approved an $8 billion PPP (Public Private Partnership) project that they vehemently opposed whilst they were in opposition. And the justifications will remain off record.
    Treasurer Michael O’Brien confirmed that the business case for the $6 billion to $8 billion tollway to link the Eastern Freeway and CityLink, will never be made public, citing commercial sensitivity. http://www.theage.com.au/victoria/eastwest-rationale-to-stay-secret-20130824-2sis1.html

    Presumably they know such antics may get them voted out in the next election, but there are powerful figures at work there who don’t particularly care, for reasons of their own which we can contemplate.

    Likewise a recent land deal in the same state where a minister overruled his department to approve a rezoning for a developer who happened to be connected to a senior party figure, was unraveled by media and public protest. Good, fixed then? Not really. Naturally the out of pocket developer sued, and naturally a government that did not want its senior figures dragged into public court cases settled out of court. For an amount which can’t be disclosed due to confidentiality agreements!

    I could go on – Australian currency printing scandal, Australian Wheat board bribery (and profitien scandal)…. Enron … US bankers not being jailed … CAGW alarmism ……etc etc etc…

    Its everywhere, but we in western countries don’t really believe that, and don’t recognize what we are looking at.

  58. http://www.marketwatch.com/story/heating-fuel-mandates-could-drive-biodiesel-growth-2013-07-11 (bold added after title)

    July 11, 2013, 11:47 a.m. EDT
    Heating Fuel Mandates Could Drive Biodiesel Growth

    In early July, the New York State Assembly and Senate passed legislation requiring that all heating oil sold in the state contain at least 2% biodiesel by 2015. The new regulation will replace about 30 million gallons of petroleum each year with cleaner burning, renewable fuel that is safe, seamless and improves fuel efficiency throughout the state.

    New York City had already passed and implemented similar heating fuel laws back in 2010, when the City Council passed a law requiring all home heating oil to be made with biodiesel by October 2012. The resulting “BioHeat” fuel is an ultra low sulfur heating oil combined with 2% biodiesel, with several tax incentives in place to ensure prices remain low.

    With a population of 19.57 million in 2012, New York State’s 30 million gallon increase in biodiesel demand equates to about 1.5 gallons per person per year. These metrics suggest that a nationwide heating fuel program along the same lines could represent an additional 471 million gallons of demand per year, given the U.S. population in the year 2012.

    Certain diesel vehicles are now being run with Straight Vegetable Oil (SVO). #2 heating oil is basically diesel, while #1 is kerosene, a known cleaning solvent.

    Frankly, we can use more biofuels. For every fill-up of heating oil, about 250 gallons per standard heating tank, add a gallon or two of cooking oil. It’ll dilute, your furnace won’t notice it.

    Except then we won’t need all those additional pieces of bureaucracy with many additional well-paid bureaucrats, nor the uncompensated screwing up of fuel oil producers who have to procure and mix in biodiesel. Also won’t need those several tax incentives.

    The fuel delivery guy will have the gallon oil jugs and a funnel, will check off “biofuel added” on the delivery slip, and the government can verify compliance by stopping by and checking the slips at the office.

    Would that really be too hard to do?

  59. Philip Bradley says: August 27, 2013 at 3:22 pm

    Palm oil plantations are the worst environmental disaster of my lifetime. Nothing else comes close.

    This is over-hyped, impractical parroting of Greenpeace “sales talk”, designed to fill their coffers and perpetuate the lifestyles of a whole army of layabout ne’er-do-wells.

    Sure, it would be lovely if we could just demand that whole nations sat idle while we shipped them food aid. But they can grow their own food and it is completely in our capabilities to grow our own forests – we just have to put aside productive land to do so. Or, we can jump into the market and buy up plantations in those countries and let them revert to jungle (believe me, you don’t have to try for that to happen … takes about 70 years and you’d swear you were standing in untouched jungle). Of course – you’d have to compensate locals for lost income and loss of jobs on an ongoing basis, but it’s worth it, right?

  60. PS: Yes, for the NY 2% biofuel amount, that’d be 5 gallons of cooking oil plus 245 gallons normal fuel oil for a normal fill-up.

    So what? They make five gallon fuel cans. The delivery guy can get them filled back at the fuel yard from a bulk tank.

    It also makes me wonder about that “1.5 gallons per person per year”. With normal NY winters I’d expect about 3 fill-ups a year, so 15 gallons per household using fuel oil. “1.5” is possible statewide, taking different fuel choices into account, just not per person for households using heating oil.

  61. Thank you guys for your feedback.

    Notice certain hardline posters, write and run.

    On the whole Palm Oil biodiesel is much more viable than corn oil ethanol, bu=y a long way but still iffy price wise.

    Tropical crops, Palm Oil, Coconut, Coffee, Cocoa, Fruits, sustainable timber are a massive sustainable growth area. Breeding, protecting and relocating species at risk, is a very low cost and easy to do item, compared to the vast sums involved in the above. Planters now evne make roads and waterway access for Pygmy Elephants and tapirs.

    With a bit of thought, a lot of Science and a lot less Hype and hypocrisy, much is being achieved.

    Tropical rainforest can and is being rebuilt. We just need to do a lot more of it.

  62. Note the areas of native vegetation cleared in Australia: (bearing in mind not much grows in the centre).

    Since the late 1700s much of Australia’s rainforest, including 75% of its original tropical rainforest, has been cleared for agricultural, industrial and urban development. Today rainforest covers just 0.5% or 4.2 million hectares of Australia’s landmass.

    http://www.arf.net.au/content.php?pageid=1265241063

    http://catdir.loc.gov/catdir/samples/cam032/99024978.pdf

    Figure 1.2 (Page 2)
    Original coverage of rainforest (closed forest and low closed forest) in Australia (A) and areas
    of rainforest clearance following European colonisation (B). Adapted from Anon. (1990) and
    Webb and Tracey (1981).

    See Figure 1.10 (Page 11)
    Areas of native vegetation cleared between 1788 and 1980. Adapted from Lowe (1996),
    Commonwealth of Australia copyright reproduced by permission.

  63. This is over-hyped, impractical parroting of Greenpeace “sales talk”, designed to fill their coffers and perpetuate the lifestyles

    Greenpeace were rather late to this and still don’t admit that the problem comes down to total demand for palm oil, and as noted above total demand could be reduced substantially by stopping its use for biofuel. Mostly, Greenpeace harp on about greenhouse gas emissions, without reference to environmental destruction.

    Greenpeace are now heavily into the racket of certifying the source of palm oil or whatever is sustainable. Little more than extortion IMO.

    I stand by my ‘ the worst environmental destruction of my lifetime’ comment, without pretending to have solutions, excepting stopping it’s use for biofuels. Much of the rest of the problem results from effectively zero environmental protections in Indonesia (a country I have been to many times), and that’s a much harder problem to solve.

  64. Sad about Australia’s rain forest. Think about it, that’s the first I have heard about it. We really need an action plan to replant tropical jungle and harvest sustainable hardwoods. It can be done and be very “profitable”.

    Do we read Orang Utan for Polar Bear?

    Also replant the hedges and copses in Europe. Introduce mixed forestry rather than monoculture. Encourage, cutting and clearing, small scale forest management producing truffles, pork, mushrooms, charcoal, mulches and composts. Not a difficult job. Indeed its how we used to do it. But now with high tech, good communications and cheap energy, it can be done and no need to live an isolated hermit existence to do it.

  65. Philip

    Malaysia has a huge stock of certified sustainable palm oil. They cannot sell it, nobody wants it. They want it cheap and cheerful.

    The vast amount is used for food, food feedstocks and cosmetics, not biofuel. Its simply not economic.

  66. Corruption? Laws, Justice? here if you caught speeding ( phew), slip the policeman RM 50 (usd 10) and go on your way. In the USA, get stopped, searched, beaten up, tasered, cited for disobeying a lawful command, face jail time and min USD 300 fine. I know which i prefer. Does not make it right but the lesson is?

  67. Since the late 1700s much of Australia’s rainforest, including 75% of its original tropical rainforest, has been cleared for agricultural, industrial and urban development

    I’m sceptical of that number, because almost all of Australian tropical rainforest is in areas with little agricultural, industrial and urban development.

    And this source shows 4 times the amount of rainforest as your source.

    http://www.forestlearning.edu.au/sites/default/files/resources/documents/13_forests_map-correct.pdf

  68. Philip Bradley says: August 28, 2013 at 12:54 am

    And this source shows 4 times the amount of rainforest as your source.

    NIce map, but it shows all types of forest. (Even mangrove!)

    Interestingly, we often underestimate how much the pioneers were able to log the country. My father owned land in southeast Queensland – very steep mountainous country. He had the old survey maps and written across all the slopes were the words “Red Cedar and Hoop Pine”
    Well, there was not one remnant of either tree anywhere within 20 km on those slopes, they were all ironbark and eucalyptus.
    But, these were not clear-felling loggers, they did leave forests behind them – it is the areas cleared for cultivation and cattle that have lost their forest.

    I’m not against these activities – saving areas of forest, and selectively logging all are reasonable in my opinion. If we need anything it is perhaps corridors of forest to link reserves. That would entail taking land back from landowners, or at least dictating what they did with it.
    It would be very nice indeed if the Indonesians made more reserves, and more so if they linked them with corridors.

    Historically, Australia’s rainforests have suffered far more negative impact than our eucalypt forests. The clearing of rainforests has happened on such a massive scale that it has altered our perception of native forests. Most Australian people now conceive of native forests as being comprised mostly of eucalypts (‘gum trees’). The following quote from W.D. Francis, published in 1929, virtually spelt-out the recipe for destruction of rainforests by new settlers in order to make way for eucalypt forests.

    “When it was found that trees of the rain forest or ‘scrubs’, when felled or burnt were killed, it was realised that the rain forest was often more easily cleared than the Eucalyptus forests.

    “Very many of the Eucalyptus and open forest constituents persistently shoot after being felled and fired. The revival of these forests in this way makes the task of the settler in clearing operations a difficult one. On the other hand, the extreme sensitiveness to the effects of fire which is exhibited by rain forests allows them to be cleared fairly expeditiously after they have been felled.

    http://www.rainforestinfo.org.au/good_wood/lnd_cl.htm

  69. Bob Greene says:
    August 27, 2013 at 11:51 am

    I’ve always laughed at the “recycle paper, save a tree” bit since a majority of the trees were grown for just that purpose.

    Yeah, “recycle breadcrumbs, save the wheat!”. ;)

  70. Very many of the Eucalyptus and open forest constituents persistently shoot after being felled and fired.

    Here in Western Australia there have never been rainforests, excepting some small pockets in the very far north. A while back I visited a Karri (at one time said to be the 2nd biggest tree in the world, but now downgraded to the 3rd biggest) forest cut about 80 years previously,.and the regrowth was astonishing. Karri trees so close together, it was difficult to walk between them.

    Planning a trip to the Great Southern Woodland in a few months time. Looking forward to it.

    I’m about as far from a raving greenie as you could find. I’d like development and preserving as much as we can of the natural world.

  71. The Kuari tree is a magnificent beast indeed. As with so called Globul warming, mitigation, conservation and management are far better, easier and more productive ways to advance.

    That really in a nutshell is the naked exposure of the bankrupt and corrupt watermelon movement.

    Just look at the flyby posts here.

    We now have a much better understanding of the relationships between trees, fungi, bacteria and soil chemistry than we did. A single person in Assam has restored vast tracts of forest on his own, without help. This deforestation being the major cause of floods and devastation in Bangladesh.

    Tropical forests are rich in many resources, cultivated, restored and developed they offer a huge potential to improve the world and mitigate some of mankind’s past stupidity. That they adsorb and store for slow release, rainfall, being just one massive advantage.

  72. Tom in Texas says:
    August 27, 2013 at 7:54 pm

    Dr. Bob, suggest you go to the following web site:

    http://solazyme.com/

    By the end of this year their commercial-sized JV plant (with Bunge) in Brazil should be operating.
    In the 1st Q of 14 their commercial-sized JV plant (with ADM) in Iowa should be operating.

    They can make a number of different oils, from transformer oil for DOW (a JV partner), to palm oil (a Hershey JV to be announced soon?). And they can switch oils between batches (1-2 weeks?).

    Early on SZYM switched from open ponds (hence SOLA-zyme) to (dark) fermentation tanks.

    Solazyme (SZYM) can also make myristic acid, which is the highest value derivative of palm oil. It’s going to start with that first.

    There are many useful articles about the company on the Seeking Alpha financial site–just search for SZYM. Here’s one that discusses palm oil: http://seekingalpha.com/article/1586312. See also:

    http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/cfm?id=how-to-survive-as-a-former-algae-biofuel-maker-solazyme&print=true

    http://www.nytimes.com/2013/06/23/business/for-solazyme-a-side-trip-on-the-way-to-clean-fuel.html?pagewanted=all

  73. Grey Lensman @ 3:36 am:

    I was wondering what a kuari tree is? I’ve heard of Kauri in New Zealand and seen Karri in Western Australia.

    A karri forest is a wonderful place.

  74. Philip Bradley @ 2:53 am:

    Lucky you in WA! I would love to see those Southern forests again. Alas…our visits seem to be confined to the Eastern States (Vic and Qld) these days. One day again, maybe. Enjoy your visit.

  75. as does your willingness to accuse your fellow posters .. far from being a paid troll I am a nurseryman in N. Ireland who loves nature more than plantations …

  76. So Roy, you gonna replant all the wheat plantations in Europe? Perhaps all the Potato plantations as well. How about the Clear cutting of North Carolina to feed Drax?

    Tell me why is oil palm so bad but firewood is so good. Why is Wheat good but Oil Palm bad.

    You said

    quote

    I havenn’t bought a product even suspected of containing Palm Oil in over 20 years .. surely the rest of the world has noticed the devastation caused by the development of this monster ?

    Unquote

    But supplied no evidence, facts, data or science to substantiate it. Have you bought bread?

  77. Roy, not aiming at you but the blinkered view you seem to hold. Read the posts. most Palm Oil Plantations replaced coconut and rubber. Why did Coconut fall out of favour, because of Soy and margarine and the saturated fats myth ( never mind the transfats).

    Do you have a car or a bike, rubber tyres! Or maybe you drink Tea. Note the thousands of hectares of prime jungle turned over to tea Plantations.

    It was good of Anthony to put this post up but its a shame the debate has been abandoned.

  78. On the bright side, it is true that palm oil has contributed to economic well-being in Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, Papua New Guinea and other countries that produce it and no one denies that.

    On a balanced view, we should know the dark side as well, which is what conscientious people are fighting against. Leave alone the destruction of rainforests and the habitat of orangutans, piggy elephants, biodiverstity and issues of paraquat.

    From climate change point of view palm oil production is very damaging to the environment at present releasing millions of tonnes of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere yearly. This is more than the carbon dioxide released from the coal fired power plants in these countries.

    The farmers, planters, agriculturists and small holders work hard to bring palm oil on the table, however, in contrast the palm oil mills in the supply chain cause all the havoc. The solution to climate change damage lies at the palm oil mills. The mills should stop considering the 74% biomass by-product remaining after extracting palm oil and palm kernels in the palm oil production process at the mill as waste material. It contain massive amount of clean energy!

    Technologies and means are readily available to harness this energy to displace fossil fuel elsewhere outside the mill thereby mitigating the climate change damage by reducing the carbon footprint. The sad part is that the will to adopt is wanting in the palm oil milling industry.

    Rightfully, it’s the palm oil mill that attention should be in the focus.

    The increased production of palm oil in recent years necessitates in large quantities of it being converted to biodiesel to absorb the supply. In this scenario, where the biodiesel is meant to displace petroleum diesel to reduce carbon emissions, the carbon footprint of palm oil comes into greater focus.

    For interesting read browse: http://www.rank.com.my/energywise

    Yours sincerely,
    Energywise

    Climate change is ‘an immediate and growing threat.’
    No stone should be left unturned to mitigate GHG and climate change.

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