Great Apes threatened by Biofuel Plantation

Even the creation of green energy isn't without its dark side. While biofuel is seen as an alternate green energy fuel source, the act of acquiring through palm oil plantations seems to far outweigh its benefits.

Large swathes of tropical rain forest in Jakarta, Indonesia are being clear cut so that palm oil plantations can be created. Palm oil is mixed with diesel to create a carbon-neutral energy source that is highly sought after as one of the cheapest biofuels available.

The European Union alone aims to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions by 20% by 2020 and has a mandate for 10% of vehicles to use biofuel, driving up the demand for production. As a result some are estimating that 98% of the forests in Malaysia and Indonesia could be gone by 2022.These forests are home to animals like the Asian elephant, the Sumatran tiger and great apes like the orangutan.

Now a sanctuary for endangered orangutans in an unprotected Indonesian forest is threatened.

According to the WWF-Indonesia and other groups, Asia Pulp & Paper has a license to clear hundreds of acres of trees neighboring the Bukit Tigapuluh National Park on Sumatra Island. Since 2002 the area has been used to release rehabilitated orangutans back into the wild. Many of these great apes have been orphaned as a result of the encroaching palm oil plantations, with 5,000 to 10,000 orangutans killed each year. Some are predicting the extinction of orangutans within 15 years.

The company plans to follow all legal procedures including carrying out a third party environmental assessment regarding conservational threats. Activist groups have written an official complaint letter to the government, but will they be heard? Palm oil production is big business for Indonesia, as the world's top producer with 15 million acres of plantations and more on the way.

If destroying the natural habitat of critically endangered animals wasn't enough, the benefits of palm oil as a carbon neutral fuel are also under attack. Dutch researchers from Wetlands International learned that the process of draining and burning the peat land for plantation development created huge carbon dioxide emissions: an estimated 1,400m tonnes of carbon dioxide each year!

Conversationalists are worried that introducing a palm oil monoculture to a previously diverse ecosystem will expose the environment to disease. There's also a conspiracy theory that creating palm oil plantations for green energy is just a smoke screen to strip Indonesia's remaining timber.

While the intention to create sustainable, clean and cheap biofuel is a good one, you know what they say about good intentions…

Posted by Matt on May 21,2009 at 8:44 AM

Human beings are an intelligent species? yeah right.

Posted by Richard Zimmerman on May 20,2009 at 5:59 PM

Thanks for mentioning this devastating news. Orangutans are critically endangered in the wild because of rapid deforestation and the expansion of palm oil plantations. If nothing is done to protect the orangutans, they could be extinct in just a few years!

Visit the Orangutan Outreach website to learn how YOU can make a difference!

Reach out and save the orangutans!

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