The US Government’s Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently concluded a visit to Malaysia as part of their assessment of greenhouse gas (ghg) savings from palm oil based biofuels. The final assessment will inform the decision of whether palm oil derived biofuels meet sustainability requirements under the US renewable fuel standard.
The field visit to Malaysia comes after complaints that the EPA’s initial assessment could not be scientifically substantiated.
Biodiesel produced from Malaysian palm oil is both a sustainable and cost effective renewable energy source. Malaysian palm oil plantations represent a net CO2 sink. Biofuels produced from Malaysian palm oil constitute a sustainable energy source with significant ghg emissions savings.
The Malaysian industry has grown substantially over the last 20 years. Much of this expansion has occurred on land zoned for agriculture, degraded lands, or previous rubber and cocoa plantations.
As a result, ghg emissions from forests cleared for palm oil plantations is relatively small. Especially compared to Malaysia’s vast forest resources: around 60 per cent of Malaysia is still covered by permanent forests, and almost 20 per cent is covered by plantation tree crops. In total, approximately 80 per cent of the country is under tree cover.
At the same time, Malaysia is a developing country pursuing higher living standards. The palm oil industry contributes significantly to achieving this goal, particularly by driving rural development amongst small scale farmers. There are around 700 000 palm oil smallholders in Malaysia.
The market for biodiesels is important driver behind the success of the Malaysian palm oil sector. Malaysian biodiesel output is expected to double in 2013. However these market forecasts, and their associated economic benefits to national development, could be threatened if key export markets do not accurately recognise Malaysian palm oil derived biofuels as a sustainable source of renewable energy.