The Newsletter 58 Autumn 2011

A new equation for oil palm

Paul BurgersAri Susanti

Never before have food, energy, and climate been so closely linked. Firstly, the world population continues to grow and will reach 9 billion by 2050. In order to feed the growing population, food production is estimated to have to increase by 70% (FAO, 2011). Although the exact amount of additional land required to meet the demands for food is unsure, the FAO estimates it will be around 70 million hectares in 2050. It is also said to be possible. However, these figures do not yet take into account the need for land necessary to satisfy the growing demand for biomass, for purposes other than food. The International Energy Agency (IEA) estimates that land requirements for biofuel production under the IEA Alternative Policy scenario will amount to 52.8 million hectares in 2030 (IEA, 2006). Hence, competition for the remaining land base increases. Finally, the recent crisis has demonstrated that under certain conditions (high oil prices, government support) the use of crops for biofuels can expand rapidly. This is particularly the case where crops can be used for both food and fuel. The most well known crop in this respect is oil palm.

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