What Is Palm Oil Biodiesel?

Dee S.
Dee S.

Palm oil biodiesel is an alternative to petroleum fuel. It is made from the oil that is extracted from the fruit and seeds of the palm tree. Cars, trucks, boats, and other machinery that have an internal combustion engine can run on palm oil biodiesel. It can be pure in form or it can be mixed with varying amounts of petroleum as well. Although use of palm oil biodiesel may emit less carbon than other fossil fuels, its widespread use also carries with it many negative repercussions.

Biodiesel may present an alternative to traditional diesel fuel.
Biodiesel may present an alternative to traditional diesel fuel.

About ten percent of the palm tree is used when extracting palm oil. The rest is considered waste in some areas, while other places use the waste as cooking briquettes. Although palm trees are found in many geographic locations, Malaysia exports the most palm oil globally, much of which is used as palm oil biodiesel.

Palm oil biodiesel, because it comes from a food source, is often criticized as an alternative to oil.
Palm oil biodiesel, because it comes from a food source, is often criticized as an alternative to oil.

There are several benefits of using palm oil biodiesel. For example, refineries or mills for the biodiesel are being constructed in many countries around the globe, such as the United States, the Caribbean, Central America, and Asia. The refineries create jobs and boost the local economies. In addition, using palm oil biodiesel will not emit pollution-causing carbon when it is burned. This makes it cleaner than many other fossil fuels.

The leading producer and exporter of palm fruit oil is Malaysia.
The leading producer and exporter of palm fruit oil is Malaysia.

Many scientific experts believe that the detriments of using palm oil biodiesel far outweigh the benefits. For example, palm oil can be used as a food source. This creates a debate as to whether the oil should be used as a biodiesel or used to feed people across the world. Since it is in high demand for both sources, the cost has risen substantially over the last few years.

Refineries for biodiesel are being built in many countries.
Refineries for biodiesel are being built in many countries.

Other arguments against using palm oil biodiesel include its environmental impact. Given the large demand for palm oil both as a biodiesel and as a source of food, some companies have logged large areas of palm trees for oil. This large-scale deforestation is bad for the natural habitat and makes it difficult to sustain the growth of the palm trees over a long duration. In addition, since the demand has caused the price of the palm oil to rise, it has become very expensive when compared to other biodiesel alternatives, such as vegetable oil.

Water polluted by oil can cause harm to plants and animals that live in and depend on the water.
Water polluted by oil can cause harm to plants and animals that live in and depend on the water.

Some environmentalists also argue that the fuels, energy, and waste used and created during the construction of the palm oil refineries and mills results in large amounts carbon pollution. In fact, some claim that the carbon emitted from the construction is far greater than the carbon saved by using the biofuel itself. In addition, they claim that the overuse of pesticides, fertilizers, and other chemicals on the palm trees creates additional pollution to the land and waterways.

Many types of palm trees grow naturally in rain forests or areas that typically have tropical or subtropical climates.
Many types of palm trees grow naturally in rain forests or areas that typically have tropical or subtropical climates.
Dee S.
Dee S.

Dee is a freelance writer based in Colorado. She has a B.A. in English Literature, as well as a law degree. Dee is especially interested in topics relating to medicine, legal issues, and home improvement, which are her specialty when contributing to wiseGEEK.

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