Palm oil made on tropical plantations is one of the leading causes of deforestation worldwide. The biofuel, once believed to be a “natural alternative” and better for the environment than fossil fuels, is highly sought after in the European Union for its use in vehicles.
It was found that in 2014 just under half of the palm oil used in Europe was by cars, trucks and public transportation vehicles. Its use has eclipsed six-fold from 2010-2015, overtaken only by rapeseed. Palm oil alone is responsible for the 34% increase in the production of biodiesels during the period, according to researchers.
Palm oil is found in multiple sources, ranging from food to animal feed, but palm trees remain the primary source. Due to extensive lobbying by environmental organizations against multinational corporations, palm oil use has decreased in the last year. Nevertheless, corporations are hesitant to release information regarding just how much they use biofuels.
“We now know why the industry is withholding these numbers,” says Jos Dings, from the department of Transport & Environment
“They show the ugly truth of Europe’s biofuel policy, which drives tropical deforestation, increases transport emissions, and does nothing to help European farmers,” he said during a press release.
Paradoxically, research has shown that biofuels such as rapeseed, palm, soy and sunflower oils result in more carbon emissions than the fossil fuels they sought to replace – especially once the impacts of deforestation are taken into account. Also of concern is how vast plantations of trees are grown for biofuels which displace farmers and much-needed land for growing food.
A recent analysis has confirmed these findings, revealing that palm oil emits more greenhouse gases per unit of energy when compared to diesel or fossil fuels.
The European Union however finally recognized the paradox last year, and imposed a cap on the amount of crops that can be used for biofuels. The EU is also advising nations to look into the development of more advanced biofuels that can be created from garbage and waste, or recyclables.
With figures showing some 10 million litres of palm oil being burned daily, numerous environmentalist groups have been pressuring the EU to remove plant-based biofuels from its member nations entirely by 2020.
News Source: Phys