Sat, Feb 03, 2007 - Page 9 News List

Once a dream fuel, palm oil may be an eco-nightmare

Cleaner than fossil fuels like coal, biofuel has generated enthusiasm from governments and energy companies alike, but many have overlooked the complexities of the product

By Elisabeth Rosenthal  /  NY TIMES NEWS SERVICE , AMSTERDAM

For the moment Wetlands is backing the certification system for palm oil imports. But some environmental groups say palm oil cannot be produced sustainably at reasonable prices. They say palm oil is now cheap is because of poor environmental practices and labor abuses.

"Yes, there have been bad examples in the palm oil industry," said Arjen Brinkman, a company official at Biox, a young company that plans to build three palm oil electricity plants in Holland, using oil from palms grown on its own plantations in a manner that it says is responsible.

"But it is now clear that to serve Europe's markets for biofuel and bioenergy, you will have to prove that you produce it sustainably -- that you are producing less, not more CO2," Brinkman said.

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