Palm Oil Was Supposed to Help Save the Planet. Instead It Unleashed a Catastrophe

Reposted from Paul Homewood’s Blog

By Paul Homewood

This is a long, but very readable piece from the New York Times Magazine:

I have only included the opening section, plus a few relevant paragraphs, but I would recommend reading it in full:


The fields outside Kotawaringin village in Central Kalimantan, on the island of Borneo, looked as if they had just been cleared by armies. None of the old growth remained — only charred stumps poking up from murky, dark pools of water. In places, smoke still curled from land that days ago had been covered with lush jungle. Villagers had burned it all down, clearing the way for a lucrative crop whose cultivation now dominates the entire island: the oil-palm tree.

The dirt road was ruler straight, but deep holes and errant boulders tossed our tiny Toyota back and forth. Trucks coughed out black smoke, their beds brimming over with seven-ton loads of palm fruit rocking back and forth on tires as tall as people. Clear-cut expanses soon gave way to a uniform crop of oil-palm groves: orderly trees, a sign that we had crossed into an industrial palm plantation. Oil-palm trees look like the coconut-palm trees you see on postcards from Florida — they grow to more than 60 feet tall and flourish on the peaty wetland soil common in lowland tropics. But they are significantly more valuable. Every two weeks or so, each tree produces a 50-pound bunch of walnut-size fruit, bursting with a red, viscous oil that is more versatile than almost any other plant-based oil of its kind. Indonesia is rich in timber and coal, but palm oil is its biggest export. Around the world, the oil from its meat and seeds has long been an indispensable ingredient in everything from soap to ice cream. But it has now become a key ingredient of something else: biodiesel, fuel for diesel engines that has been wholly or partly made from vegetable oil.

Finally we emerged, and as we crested a hill, the plantations fell into an endless repetition of tidy bunches stretching for miles, looking almost like the rag of a Berber carpet. Occasionally, a shard of an old ironwood tree shot into the air, a remnant of the primordial canopy of dense rain forest that dominated the land until very recently.

Our driver, a 44-year-old island native and whistle-blower named Gusti Gelambong, had brought us here to show us the incredible destruction wrought by the growing demand for palm oil. The oldest male among nine siblings, he was modestly built but exuded a wiry strength. His father, he told us, was a king of one of Borneo’s dozens of Dayak tribes, the sixth descendant of the sultan of Old Kotawaringin, and his mother came from a line of warriors who served in the Indonesian special forces. In 2001, he said, he took part in a brutal ethnic cleansing of Indonesians who had moved in from the nearby island of Madura. He macheted his way through the nearby town of Pangkalan Bun, slaughtering dozens of people. He felt no remorse about the violence. But the palm-oil companies, Gelambong said, were much stronger than the Madurese. As we approached an intersection, we could see two plantation guards lying back in a shack, rifles propped against their knees. He sped past the guards, averting his eyes.

Most of the plantations around us were new, their rise a direct consequence of policy decisions made half a world away. In the mid-2000s, Western nations, led by the United States, began drafting environmental laws that encouraged the use of vegetable oil in fuels — an ambitious move to reduce carbon dioxide and curb global warming. But these laws were drawn up based on an incomplete accounting of the true environmental costs. Despite warnings that the policies could have the opposite of their intended effect, they were implemented anyway, producing what now appears to be a calamity with global consequences.

The tropical rain forests of Indonesia, and in particular the peatland regions of Borneo, have large amounts of carbon trapped within their trees and soil. Slashing and burning the existing forests to make way for oil-palm cultivation had a perverse effect: It released more carbon. A lot more carbon. NASA researchers say the accelerated destruction of Borneo’s forests contributed to the largest single-year global increase in carbon emissions in two millenniums, an explosion that transformed Indonesia into the world’s fourth-largest source of such emissions. Instead of creating a clever technocratic fix to reduce American’s carbon footprint, lawmakers had lit the fuse on a powerful carbon bomb that, as the forests were cleared and burned, produced more carbon than the entire continent of Europe. The unprecedented palm-oil boom, meanwhile, has enriched and emboldened many of the region’s largest corporations, which have begun using their newfound power and wealth to suppress critics, abuse workers and acquire more land to produce oil.

We arrived at another plantation and stopped near where a stream coursed through the bog. People still lived here: A mother bathed two children beneath a culvert, and a shirtless young boy ran through row after row of identical young palms in the distance, surrounded by dragonflies and sparrows. The uniformity of the world he was growing up in was striking, like the endless plains of drilling rigs in an East Texas oil field. It was, in a way, an astounding achievement, the ruthless culmination of mankind’s long effort to extract every last remaining bit of the earth’s seemingly boundless natural wealth. But it was also frightening. This was what an American effort to save the planet looked like. It was startlingly efficient, extremely profitable and utterly disastrous.

2. ‘Oh, My God, What the Hell Is Happening Here?’

The last thing anyone expected from President George W. Bush’s 2007 State of the Union address was a proposal for the largest-ever cut in the nation’s use of gasoline. The president was no climate champion — he had backed out of the Kyoto Protocol shortly after taking office in 2001 — but he did favor what he called “energy independence.” He had declared the United States “addicted” to foreign oil, yet dependence on Middle Eastern fuel continued. Hurricane Katrina, and the lingering damage it did to oil pipelines and refineries, had pushed up gas prices, renewed fears of global warming and kept a firm thumb on the economy.

Now, Bush proposed, homegrown energy could be drawn from the rural places most in need of an economic boost. Clean-coal initiatives would generate the electricity of the future, but it was biofuels — in particular ethanol, which is largely distilled from corn, and biodiesel, made with vegetable oil — that would power the vehicles of the future. Within 10 years, the country would replace 35 billion gallons of petroleum, or one-fifth of all the gas and diesel burned, with fuel made from plants. The measure, as he put it, would confront “the serious challenge of global climate change.” Unsaid, but clear to anyone paying attention, was that it would also please America’s agriculture industry, which had been lobbying for ethanol and advanced biofuel research for years. The House chamber erupted in applause.

On the night of the president’s address, Timothy Searchinger sat on his couch in Takoma Park, Md., just a few miles from the Capitol, and watched on television, struck by what seemed to him a glaring lapse in logic. “Oh, my God, what the hell is happening here?” he recalls wondering aloud.

Searchinger wasn’t a scientist; he was a lawyer, working with the Environmental Defense Fund. But he saw a serious flaw in the claim that the president’s proposal would ameliorate climate change. Searchinger knew that cropland had already consumed virtually every arable acre across the Midwest. Quintupling biofuel production would require a huge amount of additional arable land, far more than existed in the United States. Unless Americans planned to eat less, that meant displacing food production to some other country with unused land — and he knew that when forests are cut, or new land is opened for farming, substantial new amounts of carbon can be released into the atmosphere. Forests hold as much as 45 percent of the planet’s carbon stored on land, and old-growth trees in particular hold a great deal of that carbon, typically far more than any of the crops that replace them. When the trees are cut down, most of that carbon is released.

Scientists and lawyers who study environmental impact often deploy “carbon-life-cycle analysis” to determine just how much carbon a given product is removing from, or introducing to, the environment over the course of its production and consumption. When a truck burns biodiesel, the carbon emissions that come from its tailpipe aren’t much different from those of a truck burning petroleum. But a part of the biodiesel emissions aren’t counted, because — in theory — they have been balanced out: Plants absorb carbon from the atmosphere when they grow, and fuel experts subtract that sequestered carbon from the tailpipe emission, completing a transaction that they say balances at zero.

In ideal circumstances — unvegetated land planted for the first time — this balancing out really happens. When corn grows, it soaks up carbon, and when it is consumed (whether as food or fuel), it releases that carbon back into the air. But the analysis breaks down when faced with the reality of land use. Almost everywhere in the world, planting more corn or soy for biofuel would involve creating more farmland, which in turn would involve cutting down whatever was already growing on that land. And that would mean releasing a huge amount of carbon into the air, with nothing to balance the books. As Searchinger watched Bush’s call for an unprecedented increase in biofuel production, his hunch was that the biofuel balance sheet would turn out to be tragically shortsighted.

I have heard it said that much of Indonesia’s palm oil goes into consumer products, rather than fuel. However, this misses the point, as the article explains:

The law had a profound effect. Biodiesel production in the United States would jump from 250 million gallons in 2006 to more than 1.5 billion gallons in 2016. Imports of biodiesel to the United States surged from near zero to more than 100 million gallons a month. As fuel markets snatched up every ounce of domestic soy oil to meet the American fuel mandate, the food industry also replaced the soy it had used with something cheaper and just as good: palm oil, largely from Malaysia and Indonesia, which are the sources of nearly 90 percent of the global supply. Lawmakers never anticipated that their well-intentioned plan — to help the climate by helping American farmers — might instead transform Indonesia and present one of the greatest threats to the planet’s tropical rain forests. But as Indonesian palm oil began to flood Western markets, that is exactly what began to happen.

The article goes on to expose the Obama’s EPA’s cover up of the problems:

4. ‘It Was Really Sort of Shocking’

Timothy Searchinger spent a year researching cropland demand, and in February 2008, just two months after Bush signed the biofuels mandate into law, he and eight co-authors published their findings in the journal Science. It was a rare coup for a layman — peer-reviewed scientific journals seldom take an interest in the work of activist lawyers — but Searchinger had done something important. He had tried to quantify how increasing the demand for biofuel would change land use. According to his calculations, the ripple effects from land use would be so great that ethanol wasn’t going to be better for the climate at all; instead, it would create nearly double the greenhouse-gas emissions of conventional fuels.

How was this possible? A typical life-cycle analysis adds up just the carbon emissions involved in the chain of fuel production and use: the carbon produced by burning the fuel, the carbon spit out by the tractor in the field, the carbon produced by the fertilizer manufacturer and so on. By this accounting, vegetable-oil-based biofuel fares well against petroleum fuels, reducing CO₂ emissions by as much as 80 percent.

What that analysis does not take into account, though, is that there is only so much land. The supposed carbon gains of plant-based fuels have to be offset, Searchinger argued in subsequent papers, by one of three things: reducing food consumption, increasing yields from existing cropland or — most likely — creating entirely new cropland, probably in the countries with the largest “underutilized” forests. And the typical analysis doesn’t count the carbon produced by cutting down these forests or — if that deforestation happens to take place in Indonesia — emissions from disturbing the extremely carbon-rich peatland soils that much of the forest grows upon.

Accounting for the “substitution effect,” which describes the way more or less interchangeable commodities like palm and soybean oil tend to be swapped out for one another as buyers seek the lowest price, has proved to be a particularly challenging problem. The American biofuels law, for instance, was designed to support soybean and corn farmers, not palm-oil producers. But the United States began increasing foreign palm-oil imports nonetheless — they more than doubled by 2017 — in large part because so much of the domestic soybean production that once went to food was now being used for fuel. Much of that palm oil went to food production. But the increased use of palm oil in food production was largely a byproduct of the increased fuel-oil production. (In Europe, which also passed a biofuels mandate in 2009 and uses large amounts of palm-based biodiesel directly in its vehicles, the calculation was simpler.)

Wrangling precisely how much palm demand resulted from using a gallon of soy for fuel, and how much rain-forest carbon, in Indonesia for example, might be emitted as a result, became a question that was increasingly influenced by political factors. The E.P.A., in 2009, made one of the most significant efforts to model and predict the carbon from biofuels, using three of the most established models and an overlay of satellite imagery of agricultural lands around the world, including those in Indonesia. The agency determined that the carbon footprint of land-use changes overshadowed any other consideration, and not by a small margin. In fact, when land changes were accounted for, the climate benefit of biofuels was entirely wiped away. Because a huge pulse of emissions comes from land change immediately after forests are cut, the E.P.A. concluded that it would take 32 years before biodiesel from soybean oil was truly net-zero for carbon on an annual basis, and a century for it to reach the level of benefit required under the law.

But that finding did not last long. The agriculture industry went to war to save the mandate they worked so hard to put in place. They lobbied the E.P.A. to abandon its consideration of indirect land-use change, describing it as a “radical” approach that could hold American farmers responsible for business decisions made by villagers halfway around the world. They supported research suggesting that the E.P.A. had overestimated the expansion of crops into tropical rain forests and said farmers were getting better crop yields off the same land than the models had acknowledged.

By the time the E.P.A. released its final rule in early 2010, it had made a complete about-face. Its models now found that the impact from land-use changes were almost negligible. For Indonesia, the E.P.A. estimated that just 110,000 acres of forest would be converted to cropland as a result of the American biofuels law, and almost none of it on sensitive peatland. It also extended the scope of its analysis to 2022, which had the effect of minimizing the short-term emissions. And it worked: Corn ethanol just barely cleared the law’s hurdle, and soybean biodiesel suddenly appeared to be vastly cleaner than regular diesel.

One particular factor, specific to Indonesia, is peat, which makes the whole problem of CO2 emissions much, much worse:

In most of the places the Walhi crew visited, the fires appeared to have been extinguished, but the earth remained hot, smouldering underground. And this — more than the landscape destruction itself — was what concerned the group most. The dried and decaying peatland soil in this part of Borneo would almost certainly continue to burn for many more months, even years, releasing volumes of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere that far exceeded those from the rain-forest deforestation itself.

Peatland is boggy, waterlogged ground, loaded with layers of decomposing plants that can’t get enough oxygen to support the microorganisms that would normally break them down. So they accumulate, layer by layer, season by season, compressing into a dense, black carbon-rich mud of partly decayed matter that sinks below the shallow water table and is preserved there in an anaerobic state. Left alone for a couple hundred million more years, the peat would solidify into coal.

Exposed peatland can spew carbon into the atmosphere for decades, even centuries, after the land is first disturbed. Indonesia’s peatland destruction — just the amount that has already occurred — is roughly the equivalent of opening 70 new, large coal-fired power plants. And if even a fraction of these emissions are counted as land-change effects in the process of evaluating biofuels, the scales are forcefully tipped. “It’s all a deception,” Suhadi said. “There is no sustainability.”

Globally, peatlands from Norway to Brazil hold a volume of carbon equivalent to 21 percent of the entire carbon content in the earth’s soil. Indonesia’s peatlands alone (which are greater in size than others anywhere in the world except for those in Russia and Canada) now emit more than 500 megatons of CO₂ each year, an amount greater than the entire annual emissions of the state of California. Peatland forests hold 12 times as much carbon as other tropical rain forests around the world. This makes destroying them one of the planet’s greatest threats — and protecting them one of the most accessible opportunities to curb rising global emissions.

It is easy to blame problems like this on multi-national companies, or an Act of Congress. In reality, the situation is much more complex.

However, I suspect generations to come will look back in horror about what the world is doing now, supposedly in the name of saving the planet.


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Ed Bo
November 23, 2018 9:49 pm

But anything is justified to prevent the environmental horror of fracturing rock a mile below the surface, right?

Reply to  Ed Bo
November 25, 2018 3:27 am

It’s simple, really. “Sustainability” is a faith in search of practical justification. But, in fact, we only have benefit-cost analysis, based on utility. And this finds that least-cost methods are really the most environmentally sound. Time and time again, simple soundness is defeated by idealism and “good intentions,” only to find it partly or mostly lacking (eg, Germany’s energiewende).

Hokey Schtick
November 23, 2018 9:56 pm

We had to destroy the village to save it.

November 23, 2018 10:07 pm

The road to Hell is paved with good intentions.

Zig Zag Wanderer
Reply to  Philip Mulholland
November 23, 2018 11:15 pm

Actually, it’s paved with frozen used car salesmen. The junior imps go ice skating down it on the weekends.

(according to Terry Pratchett & Neil Gaiman)

Reply to  Philip Mulholland
November 24, 2018 8:43 am

With labor supplied by hordes of “useful idiots”.

November 23, 2018 10:24 pm

“I suspect generations to come will look back in horror about what the world is doing now, supposedly in the name of saving the planet”.

A vain hope. This assumes that these generations will achieve a modicum of rationality and common sense. Is there anything that current generations look back in horror on that isn’t being repeated in some form or other?

November 23, 2018 10:25 pm

Who benifits, the villagers ?, the Governmnent ?, or foreign financial interests ?

What is to happen to the wildlife which had been in the original forest come jungle ?”

Greenpeace where are you ?


Joel O'Bryan
Reply to  Michael
November 23, 2018 10:38 pm

Are you fu#king kidding? GreenPeace is f’in joke!!!

They are deep in the pockets of billionaire Socialists intent on establishing global socialism for their legacy.

Reply to  Joel O'Bryan
November 24, 2018 3:41 am

Apologies for the long post – Regards, Allan

To The Editorial Board – NY Times

Congratulations on your article of 20Nov2018 on the environmental damage caused by the palm oil industry in SE Asia, as mentioned in my email to you of 26Oct2018.

Excerpt from my email:
“…clear-cutting of the rainforests in South America and Southeast Asia to grow biofuels. These actions caused huge environmental damage.”

We wrote in our 2002 debate with the Pembina Institute, also excerpted from my email to you:
“The ultimate agenda of pro-Kyoto advocates is to eliminate fossil fuels, but this would result in a catastrophic shortfall in global energy supply – the wasteful, inefficient energy solutions proposed by Kyoto advocates simply cannot replace fossil fuels.”

We also concluded in the same debate:
“Climate science does not support the theory of catastrophic human-made global warming – the alleged warming crisis does not exist.”

Given a few more decades of diligent study, the Editorial Board of the NY Times should reach the same conclusions that we wrote in our 2002 debate – 16 years ago.

You have been misled by scoundrels and imbeciles, and have done an enormous disservice to your country and the world through your support of hugely misguided policies on energy and the environment. It is long past time for you to make amends.

Yours truly, Allan MacRae, P.Eng.

From: Allan MacRae
Sent: October-26-18 8:02 PM
To: ‘’
Subject: RE your nonsensical editorial: “In California, Facts and Science Still Matter”

In California, Facts and Science Still Matter
Jerry Brown’s California is moving toward carbon-free electricity as President Trump’s Washington beds down with the fossil fuel lobby. We stand with California.

To The Editorial Board – Read this and learn about climate and energy – you are misguided on these subjects.

I do not know any of you, but I suggest, sight unseen, that I am better educated and better informed on this subject than any of you. I further suggest that I am far more accomplished and have a better predictive track record than you on these subjects.

On The Scientific Method:

Richard Feynman on The Scientific Method (1964)
at 0:39/9:58: ”If it disagrees with experiment, it’s wrong.”
At 4:01/9:58: “You can always prove any definite theory wrong.”
At 6:09/9:58: “By having a vague theory, it’s possible to get either result.”

See also the writings of Karl Popper, for example
“The Logic of Scientific Discovery”
“The Open Society and Its Enemies”

“By having a vague theory, it’s possible to get either result.” – Richard Feynman

“A theory that is not refutable by any conceivable event is non-scientific.” – Karl Popper.

The “Climate Change” (aka “Wilder Weather”) hypothesis is so vague and changes so often that it is not falsifiable. It must be rejected as unscientific nonsense.

The “Catastrophic Man-made Global Warming” hypothesis is falsifiable, and it has been falsified, as follows.

On Catastrophic Man-made Global Warming

The Catastrophic Man-made Global Warming hypothesis has been falsified:

1. By the ~32-year global cooling period from ~1945 to ~1977, even as fossil fuel combustion and atmospheric CO2 strongly increased;

2. By “The Pause”, when temperature did not significantly increase for about two decades, despite increasing atmospheric CO2 concentrations;

3. By the absence of runaway global warming over geologic time, despite much higher CO2 concentrations than at present;

4. A hypothetical doubling of CO2 from the so-called “pre-industrial” level of VERY approx. 280ppm to 560ppm would cause AT MOST about 1C of global warming (Christy and McNider 2017, Lewis and Curry 2018) , such that any credible humanmade warming predictions would NOT be dangerous, but would be net-beneficial for humanity and the environment.

5. The only conclusive evidence is that Increasing atmospheric CO2 is hugely beneficial for the environment and humanity, due to greatly increasing plant and crop yields.

In conclusion, there is no credible evidence of dangerous man-made global warming driven by increasing atmospheric CO2, and ample evidence to the contrary.

On Green Energy

Green energy schemes are highly destructive – driving up energy costs, destabilizing electric grids, and increasing energy poverty and winter mortality. As an energy expert, I have known these facts for many decades.

Green energy is typically not green and produces little useful (dispatchable) energy. The core problem is intermittency, which is the fatal flaw of grid-connected wind and solar power. Green energy enthusiasts ASSUMED they could solve this fatal flaw with battery storage, which is more uneconomic nonsense.

An audit in 2018 by Germany’s Federal Audit Office concluded that Germany’s Energiewende was a colossal and hugely expensive debacle. Almost a trillion dollars was squandered in Germany alone, just on wind power – the German audit estimated the loss at about $800 billion.

Then there is all the wind power in other countries, and all the solar, and corn ethanol in North America, and sugar cane ethanol in Brazil, and all the canola and palm oil biodiesel and many more nonsensical schemes.

Side-effects of these green energy schemes included accelerated draining of the vital Ogalalla Aquifer for corn ethanol production in the USA and clear-cutting of the rainforests in South America and Southeast Asia to grow biofuels. These actions caused huge environmental damage.

Based on the evidence, including the Climategate emails, global warming and green energy are the greatest scams, in dollar terms, in the history of humanity.

A fraction of these wasted trillions could have put safe water and sanitation systems into every village on Earth, and run them forever. About two million kids below the age of five die from contaminated water every year – over sixty million dead kids from bad water alone since the advent of global warming alarmism.

The remaining squandered funds, properly deployed, could have gone a long way to ending malaria and world hunger.

On Fossil Fuels

Fully 85% of global primary energy is fossil fuels, and the rest is hydro and nuclear. Green energy would be near-zero except for huge wasted subsidies and use mandates. Only a few places have enough hydro to provide their needs, and greens hate hydro. The only practical alternative is nuclear, and the greens hate nuclear too.

Eliminate fossil fuels, and most people in the developed world would freeze or starve to death within a few months.

Our Predictive Track Record

In science, the ability to predict is probably the one truly objective measure of one’s competence.

In a 2002 written debate with the Pembina Institute, my co-authors and I wrote:
“Climate science does not support the theory of catastrophic human-made global warming – the alleged warming crisis does not exist.”

Since then, all the scary climate model “projections” quoted by the IPCC have run far too hot, and any warming that has occurred has been mild and net-beneficial to humanity and the environment.

We also correctly predicted the failure of most green energy schemes in the same 2002 debate, as follows:
“The ultimate agenda of pro-Kyoto advocates is to eliminate fossil fuels, but this would result in a catastrophic shortfall in global energy supply – the wasteful, inefficient energy solutions proposed by Kyoto advocates simply cannot replace fossil fuels.”

Since then, tens of trillions of dollars of scarce global resources have been squandered on destructive green energy schemes that have driven up energy costs, destabilized electrical grids and increased energy poverty.

One Remaining Prediction

In 2002, I predicted that natural global cooling would commence by 2020 to 2030, in an article published 1Sept2002 in the Calgary Herald. There have since been many cooling predictions. I hope we are all wrong – humanity suffers during cooling periods.

It is long past time to prepare for the possibility of moderate global cooling. This would involve:
1. Strengthening of electrical grid systems, currently destabilized by costly, intermittent green energy schemes;
2. Reduce energy costs by all practical means.
3. Development of contingency plans for food production and storage, should early frosts impact harvests;
4. Develop contingency plans should vital services be disrupted by cold weather events – such as the failure of grid power systems, blocking of transportation corridors, etc.
5. Improve home insulation and home construction standards.

The current mania over (fictitious) catastrophic global warming has brewed the “perfect storm” – energy systems have been compromised and energy costs have been needlessly increased, to fight imaginary warming in a cooling world.

This recommended path has no downside, even if global cooling does not occur, and considerable upside if moderate cooling does commence.

Regards, Allan MacRae. P. Eng.

References predicting imminent global cooling are too numerous to mention, but here is one of the first, published in 2003:

Theodor Landscheidt,
May 1, 2003

Analysis of the sun’s varying activity in the last two millennia indicates that contrary to the IPCC’s speculation about man-made global warming as high as 5.8°C within the next hundred years, a long period of cool climate with its coldest phase around 2030 is to be expected…

November 24, 2018 9:19 pm


“It is long past time to prepare for the possibility of moderate global cooling. This would involve:”

I envy your optimism. In my perception of our society, all of the areas you target for improvement are jealously guarded by beneficiaries of the “inefficiencies”. And practically every technological advance is quickly followed by new levels of mismanagement of the technology. As I see it, as the technology becomes more advanced, there is ever greater opportunity to sabotage it for profit with less risk of accountability.

The problem with society is not a few zealots with a screw loose. It’s the fundamental heartlessness that used to be called the “rat race”. Humanity has become a virtually cannibalistic species, and the transformation is most pronounced among the leaders of society. There is no longer any shame for them in exploiting the poor, the weak, the frail and the ignorant, and there are no limits. And sadly, this is one quality of the rich that trickles down rather effectively.

I heartily agree with your suggestion that we should prepare for a long cold spell. Indeed I would add that we should be preparing even more urgently for a collapse of world trade, the loss of governmental credibility, and the loss of our complicated high tech communications and distribution systems, all of which could happen much more suddenly and devastatingly than an ice age by way of a single major CME.

But none of this is happening, nor likely to happen, because “it’s bad for business”.

I don’t know what the rich and powerful are thinking. But my best guess is that they don’t believe there’s any way for all of us to survive – and certainly not in the style to which they’re accustomed. And so they’re feverishly raking in the dollars and using them to prepare their lifeboats and hideaways for the time when they’ll have to stop making money and cast off from the mother ship, leaving us to sink.

Do you have a solution for that?

Reply to  Michael
November 25, 2018 5:24 am

worthwhile looking at the UK banned xmas commercial for Iceland (grocery shop) originally made by Greenpeace a few months ago (August)

I could not find any environmental group supporting palm oil overuse by searching web. any other info from anyone?

Joel O'Bryan
November 23, 2018 10:34 pm

The only Catastrophes unleashed on the humanity has been Socialism. Natural disasters happen. They always have. They always will.
– The 20th Century versions of Socialism, variously termed: Fascism, National Socialism, Communism.
Hundreds of millions killed, starved, executed, gassed.
– The 21st Century versions of Socialism: the European Union, Putin oligarchy, Xi Communism, and the UN/IPCC. Just more of the 20th Century killing with a kinder face, less scrutiny from the press.

Hurricanes/typhoons, floods, earthquakes, tsunamis, famine. All since Biblical times.
To believe the fear mongering of Rent Seekers like Katharine Hayhoe and her ilk is to believe in witchcraft.

Natural disasters are manageable by humankind with sufficient resources. It is only when sufficient resources are unavailable (such as being poor like Haiti and its 2010 earthquake) that natural disasters become true catastrophes.

For example – NZ’s Christchurch February 2011 earthquake was devastating (the more powerful 2010 earthquake was deeper but less destructive), but the government was more effective with its resources to restore services and order For example: “Power companies restored electricity to 75 per cent of the city within three days, but re-establishing water supplies and sewerage systems took much longer.” .

Compare that to being poor like the Haitians. And the Climate Alarmists want to make all of us poor like Haiti…. in order to save the planet from an additional half degree C of warming.

Reply to  Joel O'Bryan
November 24, 2018 3:48 am

Excellent comments – thank you Joel.

I’ve been in Fidel’s Cuba and Honecker’s East Germany, and had a large energy project in the FSU.

All these countries under Communist rule were repressive, grossly mismanaged at every level, incredibly dysfunctional. The Progressives (aka Marxists,., but many are too stupid to realise it) think they will do it better this time. Right-O!

November 24, 2018 7:18 am

Isn’t it curious that all those progressive ‘leaders’ belong to the by progressives so hated 1 % ?

Reply to  Joel O'Bryan
November 24, 2018 3:58 am

And who benefits from wars? The Rothschild & Co ((private) central banks/federal reserve) Most politicians sold their soul and are puppets in the hands of this cartel. That’s why elections don’t change a thing if you just elect an other puppet. They rule not we the people.
All Climate Alarmists are on their pay list and therefore never will nor can change without the permission of the cartel.

Reply to  Joel O'Bryan
November 24, 2018 10:44 am

With respect to Haiti post 2010 Earthquake.

NGOs flooded Haiti and disrupted the economy by killing off one industry after another. For example, Haiti used to have a good rice growing, but the flood of “free” rice from good-hearted socialists in the West impoverished the rice farmers since they can’t compete with donated rice.

I submit the problem is soft-racism, the idea that since Haitians don’t have the exact same consumer society as the West that they must be inferior, and when disaster strikes, then they must be given things as if they are helpless pets.

Get people accustomed to having their real and felt needs filled with no effort, then expect the work ethic to be weeded out and have a culture fully conformed around being a welfare client.

(while those who have no ethics will exploit a myriad of ways to game the system)

Jimmy Haigh
November 23, 2018 10:55 pm

Yeah. Slash and burn an enormous and diverse tropical rain forest and replace it with a single species of plant. Only a bloody green could have come up with that idea.

Zig Zag Wanderer
November 23, 2018 11:11 pm

The fact that they keep on about the CO2 released by clearing these forests, instead of the obliteration of the orang-utan that live in them, utterly disgusts me. This is what the faux CAGW scare has done. Put CO2 ahead of lives!

Reply to  Zig Zag Wanderer
November 24, 2018 4:24 am

Like the killing of big raptors by the white palm trees they call windmills. Collateral damage. Stop thinking these people care about the environment.

Jeff Alberts
November 23, 2018 11:15 pm

Looks like they blamed it all on Bush.

Uncle Max
Reply to  Jeff Alberts
November 24, 2018 12:00 am

Was just going to comment same. Who wrote that bill and passed it through Congress? Was that a Bush administration initiative? No, no it was not. What was the Bush admin trying to do in 2006-07? Oh, I remember, they were trying to maintain funding for the war(s), and Democrats wanted something in return… Am I misremembering this? Maybe. I’m not going to defend ’43. I hate the mandate. I hate Ethanol. Just look at who pushed the whole thing. I love how what is in the article, it appears it was all Bush’s idea… and he was so proud…. and that one guy was so alert… he KNEW it would lead to doom! Heh.

Reply to  Uncle Max
November 25, 2018 3:34 am

“Democrats wanted something in return” for Bush’s war funding. And Democrats controlled the House – where spending bills must originate – and the Senate. Ergo, joint blame.

November 24, 2018 12:06 am

Same stupid thing with ethanol in gasoline.

Global Cooling
November 24, 2018 12:06 am

Organic fuels must be a bad idea because they does not need more taxes for the deep state, carbon trade for bankers, more expensive products for oligarchs, more grants for “scientists”, more subsidies for farmers and NGO:s, …

NYT does negative image marketing. Cute animals get hurt 🙁 Forest management must be bad because humans do it.

What if we plant Africa full of palms instead of wind turbines?

Pat Frank
November 24, 2018 12:06 am

Maybe one day, there will be a RICO investigation of environmental NGOs.

One of the first places to look for evidence of criminal conspiracy would be in the records of the Climate Action Network, which coordinates the strategies of eNGOs worldwide and has done for years.

Who benefited. Who conspired to divert trillion$, impoverish billions, and kill millions, all the while knowing AGW is a crock.

Alan Tomalty
November 24, 2018 12:21 am

This whole article has it all wrong. The atmosphere needs more CO2 not less. It is a good thing that those forests are releasing CO2 into the atmosphere. I am not being sarcastic.

Reply to  Alan Tomalty
November 24, 2018 1:27 am

And those forests can do a lot more than just sit there and wait for the right kind of weather, they can influence the local weather and climate.

Reply to  Alan Tomalty
November 24, 2018 3:32 am

Alan Tomalty

I don’t think the scientist who wrote this piece was in the least bit sincere about his references to CO2. How could one possibly be with all that evidence laid out in front of you?

This guy seems to have found a way to expose the greens for what they are, in the same breath exposing climate change for what it is without risking his own reputation.

Depending on ones perspective, the article could be interpreted in a number of ways. The point is though, it stimulates curiosity which is what we need more of from the public. The entrenched alarmists will merely use it as confirmation of their irrational bias, but the undecided, the fence sitters, now they are a different prospect altogether.

I suspect the point of this article is to highlight the the unintended consequences of ill considered, ill conceived decisions made for the betterment of the planet.

Many people might now be saying “Well actually, had we just stuck with regular fuel in our tank, none of this would have happened”. That might spill over into questioning the unintended consequences of wind turbines and solar panels.

Who knows?

Reply to  Alan Tomalty
November 24, 2018 5:29 am

50 years ago I did an elementary school science project on the benefits of co2 for growing bigger plants. If they would teach science in schools instead of pseudo-science propaganda, the world would be a happier, better place.

Reply to  Alan Tomalty
November 24, 2018 11:17 am

I thought that as well. It is a good article IMO bold brave sceptical iconoclastic and it does not pause for a second to wonder if the death-wish pursuit of CO2 reduction is a load of krap. Strange how it is now so embedded in the mental DNA (if you see what I mean) of so many otherwise very bright people.

November 24, 2018 12:36 am

The biodiesel angle never got any of my money. And I never looked at it’s CO2 paradigm.

Over 15+ years ago one investment group brought me to their proposed tropical site to assess biodiesel substrates’ productivity on that land. My conclusion was their site would only be marginally profitable for marketed biodiesel, although an option was to run their truck fleet on it & have their accountant massage reasonable gain out of that at tax time. My advice was that for less investment & better return the terraine should be improved for cattle ranching; which they did.

I shall digress to say that when read the words ‘palm” my 1st thoughts were of the delightful classic book by Nigeria’s Amos Tutuola titled “The Palm-Wine Drinkard”; which might be unknown to many WUWT visitors & is readily readable.

Tale is of youngster whose life is spent drinking palm-wine, so his father gifts him 9 square miles of palm farm & hires his son a palm-wine tapster. Daily the tapster’s 150 kegs of palm-wine are guzzled so quickly the tapster has to go get another 75 kegs to last until morning. After 15 years that tapster falls from a palm tree & dies. The adventure begins when unable to do without his palm-wine the drinkard goes looking for his trusted palm-wine tapster.

“The Palm-Wine Drinkard” can be found on-line in different offerings, some free. If use search engine & locate the version hosted by it is free; only be aware their link
actually is to an edition containing 2 books of A. Tutuola. If peruse that archive version be aware the 1st story is not what I am describing – so just advance the pages until see cited title above.

Zig Zag Wanderer
Reply to  gringojay
November 24, 2018 1:19 am

Palm wine is a thing of beauty. I believe you can tap it in the morning, and it’s a wonderfully refreshing breakfast drink. By lunchtime it becomes slightly alcoholic, just enough to give a buzz, but not intoxicate. By early evening it is beer strength. By late evening it is like a strong beer or weak wine.

Sleep it off, and repeat…

Crispin in Waterloo
Reply to  Zig Zag Wanderer
November 24, 2018 3:21 am

It is the basis of the burgeoning palm sugar industry. Once started, the process cannot stop. The sap from the flower (not an oil palm species) is collected twice a day and boiled immediately. It provides daily cash income for 85% of families in Java that have access to the trees. Palm sugar is a huge rural employer in home industry. It has nothing to do with biofuels.

Walter Sobchak
November 24, 2018 2:54 am

Every once in a while, the NYTmes gives you a sign that they are B$ing you. In the second graf of the article:

“Trucks coughed out black smoke, their beds brimming over with seven-ton loads of palm fruit rocking back and forth on tires as tall as people.”

A bit further down the page there is an image with the caption: “Trucks carrying eight-ton loads of palm fruit.”

Ignore the 7 ton 8 ton discrepancy. Look at the image. There is a man standing next to the back of one of the trucks. The tires are not as tall as he is. I would guess that they are about 24 inches — maybe less, not more.

I think the real palm oil story only mentioned in passing is that palm oil replaced so called “trans-fats” in food production in the US. “Trans-fats” are allegedly very toxic. But, they can substitute for even more poisonous animal fats in the production of baked goods. I think the Euros are using palm oil to slake their diesel mania.

Of course the other question not discussed is the poverty of Indonesia. Palm oil is a valuable commodity on world markets. Selling it to the US and Europe brings in hard currency. Producing it utilizes formerly non economic assets.

Of course, what would the NYTimes do if they couldn’t condescend to brown people in the third world?

Zig Zag Wanderer
Reply to  Walter Sobchak
November 24, 2018 4:50 am

I have to agree. That 7 ton truck with tyres as tall as a man is ludicrous. 7 ton trucks are not very large at all, barely larger than a minibus. My car is 2 tons…

November 24, 2018 3:49 am

Walter Sobchak

I noticed the discrepancy between the description and the picture as well. But the authors of these pieces rarely do the artwork, they are usually provided by a spotty researcher who can’t tell his arse from his elbow.

I’ll make an observation on your statements about trans fats and animal fats.

Trans fats from vegetable oils are only really toxic when heated when, for example, frying food. Otherwise I believe they are relatively harmless in say an olive oil salad dressing.

Man has adapted to eating animal fats for thousands of years. There are numerous scientists who question the concept of animal fats ‘sticking’ to our arteries. Indeed, as we are products of salt water oceans, the concept of salt being bad for us is also being questioned for similar reasons.

There is a comprehensive blog on the subject, including the myths surrounding statins maintained by Dr. Malcolm Kendrick where he is up to his 58th article on ‘What causes heart disease’. Nor is Malcolm dogmatic about his claims, he has recently questioned his own belief in stress being a contributing factor to heart disease.

Very worth a visit.

Samuel C Cogar
Reply to  HotScot
November 24, 2018 9:52 am

HotScot – November 24, 2018 at 3:49 am

Man has adapted to eating animal fats for thousands of years. There are numerous scientists who question the concept of animal fats ‘sticking’ to our arteries.

Indeed, as we are products of salt water oceans, the concept of salt being bad for us is also being questioned for similar reasons.

“Yup”, during the past million years or so, our human ancestors either already had or evolved the ability to safely ingest animal fats, ……. and evolved to safely ingest lots of salt with their foods, ….. and, IMLO, …… evolved to safely inhale reasonable amounts of smoke from burning biomass as the result of them learning to use ”fire” to cook their food and to keep warm by.

“Shur nuff”, homo Sapiens evolved in close proximately to salty ocean water, …. from which they easily harvested an “all-they-could-eat” high protein diet of various aquatic plants and animals.

And not ingesting enough salt, …..or ingesting too much salt and not ridding the body of the excess, will cause the death of the human. And that is exactly the reason that our early human ancestors evolved “salt emitting sweat glands” in the epidermis covering the entire body.

If one ingests salt, the blood (circulatory system) transports it to all parts of the body, ….. and any excess salt is removed by the sweat glands. And if too much salt is sweated out, unconsciousness results.

Robert Stewart
Reply to  HotScot
November 24, 2018 1:38 pm


Olive oil is a monounsaturated oil with no trans fat. And even using it for cooking as in a stir fry only converts a small portion (<.1%) to trans fat. Using it in a salad dressing does not create any risk associated with trans fat. That may be what you intended, but it doesn't read that way.

I checked out Kendrick's website, and did quick Google search, and I did not find any definitive discussion by Kendrick about the apolipoprotein gene. I did find remarks in the discussion section by his readers, so he must be aware of the issue.

Has he addressed the significance of the apolipoprotein allele in one of his articles? I am convinced that the apolipoprotein alleles are critical genetic factors for the understanding of CVD. For example, statins are effective with the -3 and -4 alleles, but not so for the -2. The difference in response suggests to me that drug test that do not account for genetic differences in the subjects are likely to be deeply flawed. The 80% of the population who can benefit from statins are an example. And has he written about the use of niacin to reduce LDL particles? I did read his discussion of Lp(a) and Vitamin C, which were interesting.

Reply to  Robert Stewart
November 25, 2018 1:52 am

Robert Stewart

I’m not the person to ask. Malcolm Kendrick is. If you pose him those questions I’m quite certain he’ll respond.

Walter Sobchak
Reply to  HotScot
November 24, 2018 6:39 pm

my statements on fats trans and oterise ere satiircal of the state of hysteria in the media.

For my own part, I believe there is no bad food, only bad people

Peta of Newark
November 24, 2018 4:36 am

Ever wondered what a Martian looks like?

Inside 50 years, just take a look in any mirror.

Carbon Bigfoot
November 24, 2018 5:11 am
The above article explains how palm oil was used as a cheaper substitute in chocolate making.
In 1980s my engineering firm was involved with modifications to a palm oil facility in SE Pennsylvania when I became aware of this process.
Discouraging to see how misinformed mistreatments can destroy entire industries all in the name of “alternatives”.
Condoleezza Rice Cakes has her hands all over this and other Climate Change in her recommendations to one of the Dumbest Residents of the White House—and he was supposed to understand the Energy Business (sic).

R Shearer
Reply to  Carbon Bigfoot
November 24, 2018 8:16 am

I want to see her coach an NFL team.

November 24, 2018 5:19 am

Whenever government picks winners and losers, all citizens lose.

November 24, 2018 5:36 am

They forgot to mention the corn tortilla shortage caused by this policy as well.

November 24, 2018 5:38 am

Anyone with a Common Rail Diesel engine knows you don’t put products like BP’s ‘Diesel’ in your tank but only their ‘ultimate diesel’-
That’s because as they say about their- ‘Diesel blend with biodiesel
We make a diesel blend with up to 5 per cent biodiesel. It’s suitable to use in vehicles that run on mineral diesel and can be readily mixed with what’s already in your fuel tank.

Because our diesel blend contains no more than 5 per cent biodiesel it’s classified as diesel not biodiesel. This means it can be used in vehicles that are designed to run on conventional mineral diesel.’

It will make your CRD engine run woolly over time but what’s more when you open that ‘Fuel consumption’ tab you’ll note-
‘Energy content is about 0.5 per cent lower than standard diesel. There may be a minor increase in fuel consumption, but this wouldn’t be noticeable under normal operations.’

Trust Australian diesel owners that you can notice the difference alright which is why the majority of servos in my metropolitan city only stock the various premium diesel brands as pre CRD engines die off. It’s the same with ethanol petrol blends where you get what you pay for in terms of reliability and fuel economy. What an appalling waste of arable land.

November 24, 2018 5:42 am

Dontcha love those weasel words- “It’s suitable to use in vehicles that run on mineral diesel and can be readily mixed with what’s already in your fuel tank.”

Bruce Cobb
November 24, 2018 5:56 am

“Destroying the environment in order to save the planet” could be the Greenie’s motto. Or one of them. The other could be “hurting mankind in order to save him from himself”.

November 24, 2018 6:15 am

George W. Bush’s 2007 State of the Union address was a proposal for the largest-ever cut in the nation’s use of gasoline.


February 2008, just two months after Bush signed the biofuels mandate into law

According to the graph here

US palm oil imports had already surged massively prior to Bush’s mandate.

Also, as usual, the US is depicted as the big villain in this. Not so, according to this list of top palm oil importing nations for 2017.

Reply to  Charlie
November 24, 2018 7:51 am

Thank you Charlie for the good reference at
“An edible vegetable oil, palm oil is derived from the reddish pulp of oil palm plant fruit. Palm oil is a highly saturated vegetable fat used for lower-cost cooking, blending into mayonnaise and as a butter substitute. Palm oil is also an ingredient for biodiesel fuels.”

Blaming George Bush for palm oil biodiesel is a deliberate misdirection by the NY Times – the Greens are to blame for the biofuels debacle. When the truth becomes widely known, they blame others – like Bush.

Fact is, most palm oil is used for food, especially cooking oil in SE Asia. I just returned from Thailand, where my host, a retired Canadian physician, lives in the country, surrounded by plantations of rubber trees and oil palms.

anna v
November 24, 2018 6:15 am

The law of unexpected consequences at work. As well as the parable of the apprentice magician.

November 24, 2018 7:01 am

“I suspect generations to come will look back in horror about what the world is doing now, supposedly in the name of saving the planet.”

Can’t happen. NO future generations. Anthropogenic Catastrophic Global Warming/Climate Change/Climate Disruption/Climate Weirding is going to kill us all, and prevent any “generations to come.” Except for tardigrades. Likely, they’ll be fine.

R Shearer
Reply to  JMichna
November 24, 2018 8:23 am

LOL, Yogi said, “no one goes there anymore because it’s too crowded.”

Lars P.
November 24, 2018 7:09 am

I wonder why did it took them so long to recognize this? What did they do for decades? Who buried their heads so deep in sand that they did not see it coming?

This was very clear from the beginning, as it is very clear that cutting woods to create pellets to burn in stoves is wrong as is said again and again in the real news sites.

We know that a couple of centuries ago most woods in Europe almost disappeared. These recovered slowly only since the use of ‘fossil’ fuels. And now we go back to that not out of necessity but out of some 2°C scare?

“However, I suspect generations to come will look back in horror about what the world is doing now, supposedly in the name of saving the planet.”

Unfortunately yes.
Meanwhile the ‘good guys’ will run with a new scare, having not learned anything from what has happened.

The New York Times is as guilty as many other outlets that were and are continuously pushing the global warming, the sky is falling fear, without a balanced presentation of real facts and contrarian analysis.

Farmer Ch E retired
November 24, 2018 8:48 am

If a decision in DC can destroy the environment half-way around the world, just imagine what a global government in Brussels could do. At least, with the California renewable mandate, the voters will get to see first hand the environmental destruction and the increased costs of their energy bills. Hopefully they will vote to limit this damage. Anyone who thinks 100% renewables is possible without depopulating the earth (and their voter base) is ideological & doesn’t understand or care about the real science.

Dr. Bob
November 24, 2018 10:34 am

This article by Hileman, et. al. has a chart in it showing that palm oil with land use change has 2X the emissions of conventional fuels. Many others have shown the same results if they honestly assess the slash and burn technique for clearing forests for palm plantations. Jim Hileman was at MIT at the time of this article and is now head of FAA Science and Technology which supports the airline industry efforts to reduce GHG emissions. Some of this is good and some is futile, but it is the way the airlines are taking to “save the planet”.

Stratton, R. W., et al. (2011). “Quantifying Variability in Life Cycle Greenhouse Gas Inventories of Alternative Middle Distillate Transportation Fuels.” Environmental Science & Technology 45(10): 4637-4644.
The presence of variability in life cycle analysis (LCA) is inherent due to both inexact LCA procedures and variation of numerical inputs. Variability in LCA needs to be clearly distinguished from uncertainty. This paper uses specific examples from the production of diesel and jet fuels from 14 different feedstocks to demonstrate general trends in the types and magnitudes of variability present in life cycle greenhouse gas (LC-GHG) inventories of middle distillate fuels. Sources of variability have been categorized as pathway specific, coproduct usage and allocation, and land use change. The results of this research demonstrate that subjective choices such as coproduct usage and allocation methodology can be more important sources of variability in the LC-GHG inventory of a fuel option than the process and energy use of fuel production. Through the application of a consistent analysis methodology across all fuel options, the influence of these subjective biases is minimized, and the LC-GHG inventories for each feedstock-to-fuel option can be effectively compared and discussed. By considering the types and magnitudes of variability across multiple fuel pathways, it is evident that LCA results should be presented as a range instead of a point value. The policy implications of this are discussed.

Tombstone Gabby
November 24, 2018 12:44 pm

“Central Kalimantan, on the island of Borneo” Kalimantan is the native name for the entire island of Borneo. So “on the island of Borneo” is not exactly correct. I note that this phrase is from the NYT article. So what did I expect. Worked in that part of Borneo – oil exploration – United Geophysical Corp. – in ’68/’69. Brings back memories. Such as? Had a Polaroid camera – photographed locals – paid for my beer and cigarettes…..

Colin MacDonald
November 26, 2018 4:27 am

Gotta love unintended consequences! Here’s another one now: the removal of palm oil from the food chain. This past year there’s been an outcry about the environmental destruction wreaked by palm oil cultivation, however the finger of blame has mainly been pointed at the food companies, you have to dig fairly deep to discover that the extra production goes wholly towards ecofuel. I happen to believe that palm oil is much healthier than the seed oils that otherwise go into processed foods, now there’s a compaign to remove it, at least here in Britain.

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