Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia Malaysia pledged to preserve its tropical rain forests Wednesday despite efforts to expand palm oil cultivation for lucrative bio-fuel projects.
Claims by U.S. and European environment groups that thousands of hectares (acres) of jungle have been cleared to make way for new plantations are false, said S. Vijayaratnam, parliamentary secretary of the Plantation Industries and Commodities Ministry.
Current palm oil cultivation is only carried out in existing plantations and farms, Vijayaratnam was quoted as saying by the national news agency, Bernama.
“We’re only striving to enhance yield and also the oil extraction ratio,” Vijayaratnam said in a briefing at Parliament. He couldn’t immediately be reached to confirm the comments.
Malaysia, the world’s biggest palm oil producer, has been working to promote fuel blended with palm oil as an alternative to traditional fuel. Global interest in alternative energy sources has increased amid escalating crude oil prices.
But Western activists warn that the palm oil industry in Malaysia and neighboring Indonesia — coupled with rampant logging activities — was destroying large tracts of forests and encroaching on the habitats of endangered species.
Malaysia is researching other crops and vegetables that could be blended into bio-fuels, Vijayaratnam said, noting that bio-diesel is believed to be better for the environment because it uses renewable resources and contains less sulfur and hydrocarbons compared to pure fossil fuels.