Thu. Feb 25th, 2021

JAKARTA — An Indonesian government program to phase out diesel for an alternative made from palm oil could spur massive deforestation for palm plantations spanning an area a fifth the size of Borneo. The biodiesel transition program, the world’s most ambitious, will require 15 million hectares (37 million acres) of new oil palm plantations, according to Arifin Tasrif, the minister for energy and mines. Speaking at a parliamentary hearing last month, he said that was how much new palm oil production would be needed to replace current oil consumption of a million barrels a day. A newly published study puts the figure of new plantations to supply the program at 9.3 million hectares (23 million acres). Although this is a lower projection than the ministry’s, it still represents an area two-thirds the size of Indonesia’s Java Island. The program is meant to both ease Indonesia’s dependence on crude oil imports and make the shift to so-called biofuel, which the government touts as a cleaner alternative to conventional fossil-fuel diesel. The government is rolling out the program in stages, blending progressively higher concentrations of palm oil-derived biodiesel into conventional diesel. The program is currently at the B30 stage, which means the diesel sold at the pump contains a 30% blend of palm oil-derived biodiesel. It’s expected to reach the B50 stage, a 50:50 blend, by 2025. But to do that, the total planted area of oil palms will have to be at least 22.7 million hectares (56 million acres), according to…This article was originally published on Mongabay
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