Yay or Nay – Will EU Really Say No More Palm-Based Biodiesel?
by Helena Taveres Kennedy (Biofuels Digest) … Environmental groups have long been against palm oil plantations on these crucial climate fighting forests. But consumers are using more palm oil products, from cosmetics to biofuels to food ingredients, and the demand for palm oil continues to increase, thus pushing along the expansion of palm oil plantations. A vicious cycle that no one can seem to stop…that is, until the EU stepped in with a proposed palm oil ban.
The EU proposes a ban on the use of any vegetable oil, including palm oil, in biodiesel production starting in 2021. Palm oil is the second most popular biodiesel feedstock in the EU and nearly half of that is used up by the biodiesel sector. The EU has a target of sourcing 10% of transport fuels from renewables by 2020, coinciding with a five-fold increase in the use of palm oil for biodiesel, according to The Guardian.
It won’t be easy becoming law though, as the proposal needs signed agreement from member states and the European Commission – and with the reactions from several EU member states so far, we aren’t so sure that will happen quickly or easily.
In France, Sweden, and a number of other EU countries, ambassadors and government officials are speaking out against the European Union’s planned ban on palm oil on the grounds that it is discrimination.
Just last week, Ambassador of Sweden to Malaysia Dag Juhlin-Dannfelt voiced opposition to the European Union’s ban on palm oil saying that the requirement to be phased out before others is discrimination.
Over 1,700 Malaysian stallholder farmers protested against the EU proposal outside the European delegation’s offices in Kuala Lumpur, as reported in The Digest in January. The head of Felda said as many as 3.2 million smallholder farmers could be negatively impacted by such a policy. The protest included handing over more than 103,000 signatures protesting the European Parliament’s vote on the issue.
Glen Pownall, managing director of Peter Cremer Canada told Western Producer that the European Union decision to ban palm oil biodiesel will not likely lead to an increase in canola oil biodiesel.
So what would fill the gap if the European Union rejects palm oil biodiesel? His prediction is Argentina soybeans, not Canadian canola.
Minister Datuk Seri Mah Siew Keong told The Malay Mail at a joint press conference with the new Chinese ambassador to Malaysia, Bai Tian, “We expect in two years’ time China to be the biggest importer of our commodity. We are also looking at more joint ventures especially for biomass technology in Malaysia…we have got a lot of biomass and this is an area we can work on.”
Either way you slice it, the message is clear from the EU – yes to sustainable advanced biofuels like waste-based biofuels, but no way to food or crop-based biofuels. The EU wants to support biofuels that are good for the environment and sustainable while helping their domestic economy – palm oil from abroad doesn’t seem to fit the bill for either of those two goals.
What they may not realize is that this offers up opportunity for other countries like China to swoop in and up their palm oil imports. But it also offers up opportunity for advanced biofuels and non-food based biofuels to step up their game and take off with much needed support and demand. READ MORE
Sweden not in favour of EU palm oil ban (The Malaysian Reserve)
Netherlands latest EU member to voice disagreement on palm oil ban (New Straits Times)
Netherlands against EU palm oil ban (The Malaysian Insight)
More action needed to stop EU’s palm oil ban (Malaysian Reserve)
Malaysia to press EU on planned palm oil ban in biofuels (Channel News Asia)