Tuesday, November 06, 2007


Hawaii Palm Oil Biofuel Contract Under Review

Reproduced with permission. Please consider sending your comments to the address given:


The Hawai`i Public Utilities Commission has opened Docket 2007-0346 to examine a proposed contract between Hawaiian Electric Company (HECO) and Imperium Renewables Hawaii LLC

Comments may be sent to: "Karen Higashi" <Karen.H.Higashi@hawaii.gov>

Imperium is trying to go both ways -- saying they are committed to palm oil (in official governmental filings) and they are not going to use palm oil (in public meetings).

Imperium Renewables Inc filing with the United States Securities and Exchange Commission

(September 13, 2007) "We plan to use significant amounts of palm oil from Southeast Asia, primarily Indonesia and Malaysia, in the production of biodiesel.''

BBC News Biofuels 'crime against humanity' (27 October 2007)

A United Nations expert has condemned the growing use of crops to produce biofuels as a replacement for petrol as a crime against humanity. The UN special rapporteur on the right to food, Jean Ziegler, said he feared biofuels would bring more hunger. The growth in the production of biofuels has helped to push the price of some crops to record levels.

Bio-fuelling Poverty (Oxfam International,

November 2007)

Sustainable for whom?

Under the right conditions, biofuels offer important opportunities for poverty reduction by stimulating stagnant agricultural sectors, thus creating jobs for agricultural workers and markets for small farmers. Unfortunately such conditions, including national and corporate policies with clear pro-poor, environmental, and social objectives, are not evident in the emerging agro-industrial model. Instead, a scramble to supply the European market is taking place in the South, and poor people are getting trampled.

Destruction of livelihoods:

The clearance of critical ecosystems, such as rainforests, to make way for biofuel plantations has rightly raised serious concerns from an environmental perspective. But millions of people also face displacement from their land as the scramble to supply intensifies. Those most at risk are some of the poorest and most marginalised in the world. ... Once people lose their land, they lose their livelihoods. Many will end up in slums in search of work, others will fall into migratory labour patterns, some will be forced to take jobs – often in precarious conditions – on the very plantations which displaced them.

Indecent work:

Labour standards on plantations can be horrific. Sugarcane plantation workers in Brazil are paid according to how much sugarcane they cut – they may earn a little over one dollar per tonne. This piece-rate system systematically discriminates against women who are usually unable to cut as much as men. Workers can live in squalid conditions without access to clean water, and may be forced to buy their food and medicine from the plantation at inflated prices. In some cases, the resulting spiral of debt bonds the workers to the estate, effectively resulting in slave labour. On oil-palm plantations in Indonesia, women are often drawn into unpaid work in order to help their husbands meet production quotas.


No to the agrofuels craze!

GRAIN, 27 June 2007

We believe that the prefix bio, which comes from the Greek word for 'life', is entirely inappropriate for such anti-life devastation. So, following the lead of non-governmental organisations and social movements in Latin America, we do not talk about biofuels and green energy. Agrofuels is a much better term, we believe, to express what is really happening: agribusiness producing fuel from plants as another commodity to in a wasteful, destructive and unjust global economy.

In a special issue of Seedling, launched today, we zoom in on the situation in different parts of the world: Latin America, Asia and Africa. We analyse what is happening and talk to the people involved. The conclusion is pretty much the same across the board: the push for agrofuels amounts to nothing less than the re-introduction and re-enforcement of the old colonial plantation economy, redesigned to function under the rules of the modern neoliberal, globalised world. Indigenous farming systems, local communities and the biodiversity they manage have to give way to provide for the increased fuel needs of the modern world.  http://www.grain.org/nfg/?id=502

Wall Street Journal: The Growing Danger of Ethanol, Biofuels (Dec. 5, 2006, Page A1)

''Among the world's most fabled islands, Borneo --which is divided between Indonesia and Malaysia --is considered by environmentalists to be one of the last great tropical wildernesses. It's home to rare and unusual species, including the wild orangutan, the clouded leopard and the Sumatran rhinoceros. ... Now, the palm-oil boom threatens what's left.

As fires burn deep into the dry peat soil beneath Indonesia's forests, centuries of carbon trapped in the biomass are released into the atmosphere. A study presented last month at a U.N. Climate Change Conference in Nairobi showed that Indonesia is the world's third-biggest carbon emitter behind the U.S. and China, when emissions from fires and other factors are considered.''

USA Today Worldwide backlash hits biofuels (October 27, 2007)

Biofuels appear at the root of examples of environmental and humanitarian abuses around the world: Scientist Jane Goodall says the rush to grow biofuels is threatening primate habitat in Uganda and Indonesia. Brazil is trying to crack down on near-slave labor conditions that have helped keep down the cost of ethanol production. Paramilitary groups are forcing peasants from their land in Colombia to make room for palm oil plantations, raising the specter of "blood biofuels." ... The problems aren't limited to Third World nations. Corn ethanol production requires the burning of fossil fuels, and threatens water quality and availability, according to a new study by the National Academy of Sciences. "What we do here triggers impacts around the world," including raising the price of grain, said Chad Hart, an agriculture economist at Iowa State University.

Henry Curtis, Executive Director, Life of the Land, 76 N. King Street, Suite 203, Honolulu, HI  96817. phone: 808-533-3454. cell: 808-927-0709. Web Site: http://www.lifeofthelandhawaii.org/  email:henry.lifeoftheland@gmail.com


I never thought I would see the day that our self serving needs would destroy another part of the world, disrupt people's lives and endanger the orangutan. I'd rather conserve what energy we already have then buy palm oil from Borneo. Can we grow palm oil trees here?

There are several efforts underway in Hawai`i to analyze what biofuels we can grow using sustainable methods. (UH Manoa and Hilo; Hawaii Agriculture Research Center; Pacific Biodiesel; Oceanic Institute).

The significant issues of concern are where we will get the water, what land we should use, where the labor will come from, what crops are ideal, and how can we compete against low cost foreign sources.

HECO has submitted a letter to the Public Utilities Commission written by Dr. William Mokahi Steiner, Dean of the UH Hilo College of Agriculture, Forestry and Natural Resource Management (CAFNRM) which states that local biofuel producers, in order to compete against low-cost foreign producers, would need, for a couple of years, a subsidy of 50 cents to a dollar per gallon. HECO wants to pay that subsidy to use biofuel to produce electricity.

At the private Governor's Hawaii Biofuels Summit (2006), Rocky Mountain Institute wrote that we must ''Clarify the water access issue'', that is, steal water from constitutional protected uses to further agricultural uses (Hawaii Biofuels Summit Briefing Book, August 8, 2006, http://www.lifeofthelandhawaii.org/Bio_Documents/Hawaii_Biofuels_Summit_Briefing_Book_2006.pdf)

Michael D. Poteet (Hawaii Agriculture Research Center, formerly the Hawaii Sugar Planters Association), wrote: ''Primary constraints for biodiesel production on each island will include land and water availability and the lack of a community of growers with knowledge of the production schemes that must be implemented to successfully produce oilseed crops. The increasing competition for water across Hawaii will drive up costs of production for any agricultural operation, so utilization of marginal lands and crops with low water requirements should be taken into consideration.'' ( Biodiesel Crop Implementation in Hawaii http://www.lifeofthelandhawaii.org/Bio_Documents/Biodiesel_Crop_Implementation_In_Hawaii_HARC_2006.pdf)

Life of the Land's position is that one acre of solar and 99 acres of food produces the same energy as 100 acres of bioenergy crops. We should use our agricultural lands for food. We should use our rooftops for micro-wind, solar water heaters and photovoltaic. We can safely use our oceans for offshore Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion (OTEC), Sea Water Air Conditioning (SWAC), and Wave Energy Hubs. Hawai`i can become 100 percent self-reliant by 2020, but it means changing our path by overcoming vested interests. This has to start from the ground up, building a movement, then the governmental leaders will climb aboard.

I know that in upper Puna, there never seems to be a water shortage because it rains all the time. Maybe some of the owners on large tracts of land(5 or more acres) might be interested in growing these fuels. Hawaiians used to use the kukui nut oil for their lamps. Kukui nut trees seem to thrive in damp areas. How come we can't use kukui nut oil instead of palm oil for fuel?

Thanks for the post from Henry Curtis. Coming from corn field country in the mid west when we hoped to feed the world, and having seen the massive palm oil plantations in Mayalsia replace the native rainforests I appreciate your concern.

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