Netherlands — The Dutch government will exclude palm oil from “greenenergy” subsidies as growing evidence suggests that palm oil is often lesssustainable than advertised.
Key to the decision was research presented by Wetlands International that showedthe climate impact of the conversion of carbon-rich peat lands for oil palmplantations. Wetlands found that peat lands conversion and associated firesmaybe be responsible for emissions of more than 2 billion tons of carbon dioxidein some years, making Indonesia the third largest emitter of greenhouse gasesdespite having the world’s twenty-second largest economy. Oil palm plantationsin the country have expanded from 600,000 hectares in 1985 to more than 6million hectares in early 2007.
In a statement, Wetlands International said it welcomed the Dutch government’sformal ban on new subsidies for palm oil.
The Dutch government says it will only consider lifting if the palm oil industry”is able to develop a clear certification scheme that guarantees thefulfillment of sustainability criteria”, according to Wetlands. “Suchcriteria must involve a full carbon account and exclude palm oil produced onpeatlands and recently deforested areas. In addition, criteria must take accountof social issues.”
Biofuels = big subsidies for industrial agriculture
The biofuels sector is heavily subsidized. According to the Financial Times (October30, 2007), support for ethanol and biodiesel production in OECD members costs$13 to $15 billion per year.
“The cost of support per litre of ethanol varies between $0.29 and $0.36per litre in the US and $1 in the EU,” writes Martin Wolf, author of theFinancial Times article. “Support for biodiesel varies between $0.2 perlitre in Canada and $1 in Switzerland. But the cost of petrol, in terms ofequivalent energy units, is $0.34 and of diesel is $0.41. Thus, the subsidy tobiofuels is often greater than the cost of the fossil fuel equivalent.”