Green Incentives See Rainforests Felled in Search for Biofuel
by Chisaki Watanabe (Sidney Morning Herald) What started as a way to cut Japan’s dependence on imported fossil fuels has led to an unexpected surge in a different and equally controversial shipment: palm oil.
Government incentives introduced after the Fukushima disaster in 2011 guarantee prices for power generated by renewable sources such as solar, wind and biomass. Palm oil, scorned by some environmentalists, who say its production destroys rainforests and peatlands, is becoming more popular because facilities that burn it are among the cheapest to build.
“The program is flawed,” said Miyuki Tomari, who heads the Biomass Industrial Society Network, a non-profit group promoting the use of sustainable biomass resources. “What had been expected of the feed-in tariff originally was to utilise unused wood materials from forests in Japan,” she said, referring to the government guarantees backing the projects.
“Palm oil is carbon-neutral while, with fossil fuels, the more you use the more CO2 is emitted,” said Masaru Kubo, vice president of Osaka-based Sankei Energy, which built a 2-megawatt plant to burn the fuel. “We think using palm oil will help deter global warming,” he said, adding he was hopeful there would be more certified palm oil available to ensure the sustainable use of the fuel. READ MORE