Sustainable alternative energy – biofuels in Indonesia

From Financial Times (registration necessary),

Indonesia’s Sinar Mas Agro Resources and Technology signed a deal yesterday with China National Offshore Oil Corporation (CNOOC) and Hong Kong Energy Holdings to develop biofuel projects worth $5.5bn in two remote provinces.

The three companies intend to plant 1m hectares of oil palm, sugar cane and cassava over the next eight years in Kalimantan and Papua to generate bioethanol from the latter two crops and palm oil, according to a Sinar Mas statement…

Susili Bambang Yudhoyono, Indonesias president, has said he want to prioritise alternative energy development to reduce dependence on oil and gas, in spite of objections from environmentalists. This includes targeting $22bn in investment to develop 6m hectares of plantations for biofuels…

The Sinar Mas Group is controlled by Indonesia’s Widjaja family whose Asia Pulp & Paper in 2001 defaulted in $14bn in debt in the biggest corporate default in emerging markets history. Kalimantan is the Indonesian portion of Borneo, while Papua is the country’s easternmost province on New Guinea island.

The Papua development will involve clearing vast swathes of virgin rainforest, including additional areas for support facilities. Many communities will almost certainly be uprooted, according to Palm Oil Watch, a non-governmental organisation monitoring the sector…

“We are also worried about the impact these vast monoculture plantations will have on the environment, particularly as the Chinese don’t have much experience in this sector.”…

Is clearing the rainforest in order to produce biofuels a good idea? Obviously, “sustainable” and “alternative” does not necessarily mean “good”.

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2 thoughts on “Sustainable alternative energy – biofuels in Indonesia

  1. The temptation was just too great. Following the (temporarily) scrapped GoI plan to convert the Borneo highlands into palm oil plantations earlier in 2006, it seems that this time the biofuel lobby has the upper hand. Will the NGOs be successful again this time to halt the plan? It has already been proven that there is plenty of idle land in the Kalimantan lowlands that could be used for oil palm, instead of clearcutting natural forests.

  2. I strongly recommend the biofuel lobby understanding that biofuel might just be an alternative to the fossil energy but certainly not a sustainable one. It’s probably a good business idea fuelled and supported by politics, but only the fact of the great monoculture impact spreading at most locations where biofuel is produced, is worth to abandon this idea and finding real alternatives. Using the input that human produce on a daily basis: – -waste- and convert it to gazified and liquefied energies. We would be better served if we could re-use and thus reduce our own waste, prior to produce more.

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