As the world continues to seek alternatives to fossil fuels, many products have been evaluated, but few are as efficient to produce as palm oil biodiesel. Combined with an extraordinarily low environmental impact, palm oil is a sustainable, renewable biofuel that is hard to beat.
Palm oil uses less land, energy, and fertilizer than other comparable crops, but amazingly, is able to generate nearly 10 times the energy it consumes.
In comparison, products such as soybeans and rapeseed oil cannot generate more than three times the energy invested in production. As a result, palm oil is by far the most energy-efficient oilseed product available.
When it comes to U.S. acceptance of palm oil biodiesel as a renewable fuel, however, the market has suffered due to inaccurate emissions conclusions. As per US Environmental Protection Agency rules, only biodiesel that saves 20% or more on emissions when compared to conventional fuels can meet the Renewable Fuel Standard. According to the EPA, palm oil only provides a 17% savings.
A study conducted by Neste Oil, however, has found that greenhouse gas emissions from palm oil can actually be 47% lower than conventional fuels. Other studies have found that palm oil can actually provide over 60% reductions, which can be increased to over 70% when coupled with methane capture technology.
These findings have been supported by notable leaders. Dr. Robert Shapiro, former Undersecretary of Commerce under President Clinton, has stated that, “The EPA should favor the use of the palm-oil based fuels. Without incorporating the highly-speculative values for the emissions associated with indirect land use changes… palm oil-based fuels would produce substantially lower GHG emissions,” of between 58 and 64%.
The EPA’s opinions are based on assumptions regarding deforestation and emission of CO2 in palm oil cultivation that are simply not true. When proper accounting is made for the net effects of palm oil cultivation, the EPA’s 17% number no longer holds, making palm oil biodiesel a true renewable fuel.
In addition, palm oil can be used in a number of other items, from detergent to cosmetics. And oil palm by-products have a wide variety of applications. For example, palm fibers are currently used in many everyday products, such as car seats, ropes, and mattresses. Continuing research will no doubt uncover a wealth of other uses for the versatile and renewable products of the oil palm tree.
As the world seeks alternatives to fossil fuels, it should look no further than palm oil. This clean, sustainable, and incredibly energy-efficient product has everything that industries and consumers could want in an alternative fuel.
Video by The Prospect Group