orm of 4,000 tonnes of palm fatty acid distillate and 12,000 tonnes of pharmaceutical grade glycerine. Neste Oil of Finland plans to produce 800,000 tonnes of biodiesel per year from Malaysian palm oil in a new Singapore refinery from 2010, which will make it the largest biofuel plant in the world, and 170,000 tpa from its first second-generation plant in Finland from 2007-8, which can refine fuel from a variety of sources. Neste and the Finnish government are using this paraffinic fuel in some public buses in the Helsinki area as a small scale pilot.
Growers in Indonesia are also increasing production of palm oil to meet the global demand spurred by biofuels, with the government looking for it to become the world's top producer of palm oil.
In additional to servicing its traditional markets, it is looking to produce biodiesel. There are new mills and refineries being built by major local companies, such as PT. Asianagro (150,000 tpa biodiesel refinery), PT. Bakrie Group (a biodiesel factory and new plantations), Surya Dumai Group (biodiesel refinery) and global companies such as Cargill (sometimes operating through CTP Holdings of Singapore, building new refineries and mills in Malaysia and Indonesia, expanding its Rotterdam refinery to handle 300,000 tpa of palm oil, acquiring plantations in Sumatra, Kalimantan, Indonesian Peninsula and Papua New Guinea) and Robert Kuok's Wilmar International Limited (with plantations and 25 refineries across Indonesia, to supply feedstock to new biodiesel refineries in Singapore, Riau, Indonesia, and Rotterdam)
However, fresh land clearances, especially in Borneo, are contentious for their environmental impact. NGOs and many international bodies are now warning that, despite thousands of square kilometres of land standing unplanted in Indonesia, tropical hardwood forest are being cleared for palm oil plantations. Furthermore, as the remaining unprotected lowland forest dwindles, developers are looking to plant peat swamp land, using drainage that unlocks the carbon held in their trees and begins an oxidation process of the peat which can release 5,000 to 10,000 years worth of stored carbon. Drained peat is also at very high risk of forest fire, and there is a clear record of fire being used to clear vegetation for palm oil development in Indonesia. Drought and man-made clearances have led to massive uncontrolled forest fires over recent years, covering parts of Southeast Asia in haze and leading to an international crisis with Malaysia. These fires have been variously blamed on a government with little ability to enforce its own laws while impoverished small farmers and large plantation owners illegally burn and clear forests and peat lands in order to reap the developmental benefits of environmentally-valuable land.
On 23 November 2006 Australia's first palm oil based biodiesel plant opened in Darwin, using Lurgi AG's biofuel refinery technology. The plant has a capacity to produce 122,500 t of biodiesel, and 12,250 t of glycerine annually. The same company is also building a 600,000/60,000 tpa biodiesel/glycerine facility with cogeneration in Singapore, scheduled to come into full production in mid-2008.
Palm is native to the wetlands of Western Africa and south Benin already hosts many palm plantations. Its government's 'Agricultural Revival Programme' has identified many thousands of hectares of land as suitable for new oil palm plantations to be grown as an export crop. In spite of the economic benefits, NGOs such as Nature Tropicale claim this policy is flawed as biofuels will be competing with domestic food production in some existing prime agricultural sites. Other areas comprise peat land, whose drainage would have a deleterious environmental impact. They are also concerned that genetically-modified plants will be introduced for the first time into the region, jeopardizing the current premium paid for their non-GM crops.
Kenya's domestic production of edible oils covers about a third of its annual demand, estimated at around 380,000 metric tonnes. The rest is imported at a cost of around US $140 million a year, making edible oil the country's second most important import after petroleum. Since 1993 a new hybrid variety of cold-tolerant, high-yielding oil palm has been promoted by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations in western Kenya. As well as alleviating the country's deficit of edible oils while providing an important cash crop, it is claimed to have environmental benefits in the region, as it does not compete against food crops or native vegetation and it provides stabilisation for the soil.
In the 1960s about 18,000 hecatares were planted with palm. Colombia has now become the largest palm oil producer in the Americas, and 35% of its product is exported as biofuel. In 2006 the Colombian plantation owners' association, Fedepalma, reported that oil palm cultivation was expanding to a million hectares. This expansion is being part-funded by the United States Agency for International Development in order to resettle disarmed paramilitary members on cultivatable land, and by the Colombian government which proposes to expand land use for exportable cash crops to 7m hectares by 2020, including oil palms. However, while Fedepalma states that its members are following sustainable guidelines, there have been claims that some of these new plantations have been appropriated on land owned by Afro-Colombians driven away through poverty and civil war, while armed guards intimidate the remaining people to depopulate the land, while coca production and trafficking follows in their wake.
Palm oil is a very common cooking ingredient in the regions where it is produced.
Its heavy use in the commercial food industry elsewhere can be explained by its comparatively low price, being one of the cheaper vegetable or cooking oils on the market, and by new markets in the USA, stimulated by a search for alternatives to trans fats after the Food and Drug Administration required food labels to list the amount of trans fat per serving. Identifying the exact source of an oil can be complicated by labelling, as palm oil is often described on food labels simply as "vegetable oil".
Red palm oil is known to be healthier than refined (discolored) palm oil. This is a result of several mitigating substances found in the red palm oil. These compounds are:
betacarotenes (present in higher amounts than in regular palm oil)
co-enzyme Q10 (ubiquinone)
Palm oil is applied to wounds, just like iodine tincture, to aid the healing process. This is not just done for its oily qualities; like coconut oil, unrefined palm oil is supposed to have additional antimicrobial effects, but research does not clearly confirm this.
6.1. Blood cholesterol controversy.
The palm oil industry emphasizes that palm oil contains large quantities of oleic acid, the healthful fatty acid also found in olive and canola oil, and claims that palmitic acid also affects cholesterol levels much like oleic acid. Many health authorities counter that palm oil promotes heart disease, citing research and metastudies that go back to 1970.
For many years now, it has been established that the primary cholesterol-elevating fatty acids are the saturated fatty acids with 12 (lauric acid), 14 (myristic acid) and 16 (palmitic acid) carbon atoms with a concomitant increase in the risk of coronary heart disease. Monounsaturated fatty acids such as oleic acid is as effective in reducing serum total and low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol levels as polyunsaturated fatty acids such as alpha-linoleic acid. The World Health Organization in its report states there is convincing evidence that palmitic oil consumption contributes to an increased risk of developing cardiovascular diseases. Research in the US and Europe support the WHO report.
In a response to the WHO report, the Malaysian Palm Oil Promotion Council has argued that there is insufficient scientific evidence to produce general guidelines for worldwide consumption of palm oil and cited research a study in China comparing palm, soybean, peanut oils and lard (all of which contain saturated fat) showing that palm oil increased the levels of good cholesterol and reduced the levels of bad cholesterol in the blood, and that palm is a better solid fat to use in products where trans fats would otherwise be chosen.
An older study by Hornstra in 1990 also supported the claims of the Malaysian Palm Oil Promotion Council.
A study by the Departments of Agricultural, Food and Nutritional Science and Medicine, University of Alberta showed palmitic acid to have no hypercholesterolaemic effect if intake of linoleic acid was greater than 4.5% of energy, but that if the diet contained trans fatty acids, LDL cholesterol increases and HDL cholesterol decreases.
The studies supporting the Malaysian Palm Oil Promotion Council only addressed the issue of the effect of palm oil on blood cholesterol levels and not its total effect regarding cardiovascular diseases.
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