Friday, July 13, 2007

Surging demand for biofuels leads to destruction of forests

Plantation owners in Indonesia, responding to the quickly growing demand for biofuels, are clear-cutting forests like crazy in order to grow more oil palms, according to this July 13 Reuters story (via
Palm oil companies are burning peat forests to clear land for plantations in Indonesia's Riau province, despite government pledges to end forest fires, environment group Greenpeace said on Thursday.

Forest fires are an annual menace for Indonesia and the country's neighbours, who have grown deeply frustrated at the apparent lack of success in curbing the dry-season blazes and vast smoke clouds, or haze, that smothers the region.

Apart from the health risks to millions of people and damage to the environment, the smoke also releases large amounts of carbon dioxide, fuelling global warming.

[...]Indonesia has a total forest area of more than 225 million acres (91 million hectares), or about 10 percent of the world's remaining tropical forest, according to, a portal on rainforests (

But the tropical Southeast Asian country -- whose forests are a treasure trove of plant and animal species including the endangered orangutans -- has already lost an estimated 72 percent of its original frontier forest.

The country is now the world's second-largest palm oil producer and has about 5 million hectares planted with oil palm. The government aims to develop an additional 2-3 million hectares by 2010.
As I mentioned yesterday, the Kyoto Protocol's carbon credit scheme can lead to this kind of unintended consequence as well.