(To the best of my knowledge the information below is true, please report any errors)
Indonesia has one of the world’s worst deforestation rates, averaging at around 2 million hectares a year. In 1950 the forest cover of Indonesia was about 160 million hectares, today less than 48 million hectares are left.
Massive deforestation of Indonesia began in the 1970s with the expansion of the timber industry. Then came the pulp and paper industry followed by the palm oil industry. Today, the major driving force behind Indonesian deforestation comes from the international demand for palm oil to make biofuels. An October 2009 report by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) found that: “95 per cent of the increased production of palm oil in Malaysia and Indonesia was driven by the growing demand for biodiesel”, and that “two-thirds of the current expansion of palm oil cultivation in Indonesia is based on the conversion of rainforests”.
This demand comes essentially from India, Europe and China who are all promoting palm oil biodiesel as tomorrow’s best renewable “green”energy to combat climate change. But reports show that converting forests into oil palm plantations for biofuel actually worsens climate change. Palm oil bio-diesel is not really about combating climate change, it is just about making money.
The Indonesian archipelago is made of about16000 islands for a total area of 1 900 000 km2. Orangutans in the wild can now only be found in the forests of Sumatra and Borneo.
Indonesia is the largest palm oil producer in the world and plans to expand its palm oil plantations from the present 7 million hectares to 20 million hectares in the years to come.
Besides bio-diesel, palm oil is also used to process a broad range of final products in a number of industrial sectors:
Palm oil is valued by the food industry for its competitive price compared to other oils and fats, its nutritional advantages over other fats and the fact that it contains hardly any cholesterol. Ingredients derived from palm oil are used in margarine, frying fat, shortenings, mayonnaise, sauces, salad oil, potato chips, crisps, instant noodles, snacks, biscuits, bread, cakes, pastry, chocolate, confectionaries, ice cream, coffee whitener and many other food products. It is often labelled as vegetable oil.
Soap and detergents industry
Lauric oils are indispensable in soap making. Good soap must contain at least 15% lauric oils for quick lathering, while soap made for use in sea water is based on virtually 100% lauric oils. Palm oil is still used to make soap as well, but on a declining scale.
Palm oil has the advantage of being more easily absorbed by the skin than other oils, so it is found in beauty creams, lotions, shampoo, lipsticks…
Leather and textile industry
Palm oil is used for greasing and softening leather. In the textile industry it is used as a lubricant, since it has the advantage of being easier to remove than mineral oil.
Palm oil is used on a large scale for cold rolling of thin metal sheet, and sharpening and polishing special steels.
Palm oil and palm kernel oil are used for the production of plasticizers and as additives to plastics, rubber and textiles. They are also used in the production of paint and surface coatings.
Palm oil is also used as a substrate for cultivating yeast, as a lubricant additive, as a component in ski wax and printing ink, to make candles, as an ingredient for insecticides and fungicides, and substances used in the electronics industry…