Biodiesel's big bad

Biodiesel could be more carbon intensive than the fossil fuels it replaces. Specifically if it’s made from palm oil, the most popular source at present.

Before oil palms, which are small and scrubby, are planted, vast forest trees, containing a much greater store of carbon, must be felled and burnt. Having used up the drier lands, the plantations are moving into the swamp forests, which grow on peat. When they’ve cut the trees, the planters drain the ground. As the peat dries it oxidises, releasing even more carbon dioxide than the trees. In terms of its impact on both the local and global environments, palm biodiesel is more destructive than crude oil from Nigeria.

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0 thoughts on “Biodiesel's big bad

  • biodiesel advocate

    Less than 5% of all the biodiesel in the world is derived from Palm Oil. Biodiesel is one of the few renewable fuels that has a shot at displacing foreign petroleum diesel….lets not get crazy and throw the baby out with the bathwater. Biodiesel is also greenhouse gas neutral which means every carbon unit emitted in use is absorbed by the feedstock plant on the front side. Everytime we get a positive thing going on the environmental/sustainable front somebody has to try to find something negative about one aspect of it. If they want to put there energies on something that needs change….try the status quo. If they want to rage against something, rage against big oil…not the little renewable fuels that are trying to make a dent.

  • Ian

    Less than 5% at present, but the point of Monbiot’s article was that this could rise dramatically to hit the European target, having the opposite to desired effect as forests are cleared.

    Check the archives and you’ll see that I’m a big fan of bio diesel. However, I don’t think so many crops should be grown just to create fuel, that’s counter productive. It’ll be far better to use waste material as your source, though initially that’ll be a far lower yield.