Can coco-diesel stop the super-typhoons?
Exhibiting a severe case of Brazil-envy, Philippines President Gloria Arroyo signed the Biofuel Act of 2006 into law last week, mandating that all diesel fuel and gasoline used in the country include set percentages of biodiesel and ethanol. The goal: energy security. Just like Brazil.
With one key difference. In Brazil, ethanol is manufactured from a sugar cane, and biodiesel is made mostly from soybeans. In the Philippines, the magic feedstock is coconut.
There are a lot of coconuts in the Philippines. But 2006 was a rough year for coconut farmers. The Philippine islands were ravaged by a string of super-typhoons, devastating production. Now, reports Biopact, legislator Juan Miguel Zubiri, the author of the Biofuel Act, is suggesting that profits from the biofuel program be allocated toward the replanting of coconut plantations in the affected areas.
Biopact frames Zubiri’s suggestion in the context of a climate change paradox. The lack of hurricanes in North America this past summer has subdued, for the moment, the clamor of those who are eager to draw a direct connection between Hurricane Katrina and global warming. But while the skies were calm in the Gulf of Mexico, typhoons bigger than any in memory ransacked Southeast Asia. Biopact firmly believes that the replacement of fossil fuels with biofuels will help reduce the greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to climate change. But for that to happen in the Philippines, the coconut trees that have already been destroyed by climate change (theoretically) will have to be replanted!
But that’s only the first part of the paradox. Coconuts are an important source of food in South Asia, and the export of copra, or dried coconut meat, is a big industry. If coco-diesel production is ramped up, while at the same time copra production is maintained at current levels, that can only mean, as the executive director of the Asia & Pacific Coconut Community declares, happily, that South Asia must plant even more coconuts. That, in turn, may mean dire consequences for the remaining rain forests of Southeast Asia, and possibly, even with more production, price hikes for coconut diet staples. The spike in corn prices in the U.S. is raising concerns about a food vs. fuel showdown in North America. Could the same dynamic be set to play out in the Philippines?
Will energy security result in less food security? Will the net gain, as measured by greenhouse gas emissions, from burning coco-diesel instead of crude oil outweigh the loss of biodiversity and rain forest caused by expanding coconut plantations?
The same questions are being asked everywhere, across the globe. They are no longer rhetorical. The Philippines is not alone in aiming to emulate Brazil. Scores of countries are instituting biofuel incentives, and in every region, local crops are being evaluated for their potential energy production. Hang on for a wild ride.
UPDATE: Chalk this one up into the “learn something new every hour” category. Biopact responds, telling me something I didn’t know about coconuts. They don’t grow in the rainforest.
UPDATE TO THE UPDATE: It keeps getting better. Now, someone who has done anthropological work in Southeast Asia chimes in with a rebuttal to Biopact’s points about coconut plantations and the rainforest.
More Related Stories
- Slave descendants seek equal rights from Cherokee Nation
- Peace Corps to allow gay couples to volunteer together
- Is abortion about to doom Republicans again?
- Anti-voter-fraud Tea Party group sues the IRS
- The Bachmann-inspired romance novel
- Nate Silver: Why the scandals aren't hurting Obama
- How to oust Michele Bachmann from Congress
- Rand Paul: Congress should apologize to Apple, not the other way around
- Who is Toronto Mayor Rob Ford?
- Colorado judge rules Abercrombie parent company violates Disabilities Act
- When America became a third-world country
- Inhofe and Coburn: Red state hypocrites
- It's Whitewater all over again
- Teen activist to meet with Abercrombie CEO
- Anyone regret slashing National Weather Service budget now?
- Oklahoma senator: Tornado aid "totally different" from Sandy aid
- Aloof, shifty Obama: Nixon times ten thousand!
- Obama: Moore "needs to get everything it needs right away"
- California Tea Party group files first IRS lawsuit
- Still no polling backlash for Obama
- Oklahoma senator wants to offset tornado aid with other cuts
Featured Slide Shows
The week in 10 picsclose X
- 1 of 11
Lisa Montgomery embraces her nephew Thursday after a tornado tore apart her home in Cleburne, Texas. The twister killed six people and destroyed entire swaths of the North Texas town.
Credit: AP/LM Otero
Jack McMahon, the defense attorney for abortion doctor Kermit Gosnell, speaks outside the Criminal Justice Center in Philadelphia Tuesday. His client was convicted of killing three babies in his clinic, and will serve multiple life sentences.
Credit: AP/Matt Rourke
A photo taken Monday captures Vice President Joe Biden's response to a Milwaukee second-grader's innovative proposal to end America's epidemic of gun violence. This guy!
Credit: AP/Jenny Aicher
Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., flanked by a grouper-eyed Michele Bachmann, addresses the IRS' admission that it targeted Tea Party groups in advance of the 2012 election. In an op-ed for CNN Thursday, the Kentucky senator slammed the president for his faux outrage.
Credit: AP/Molly Riley
Ousted IRS chief Steven Miller is sworn in on Capitol Hill Friday. Miller testified before the House Ways and Means Committee on the extra scrutiny the agency gave conservative groups applying for tax-exempt status.
Credit: AP/J. Scott Applewhite
Attorney General Eric Holder pauses as he testifies on Capitol Hill before the House Judiciary Committee Wednesday. Holder is under fire, among other things, for the Justice Department's gathering of phone records at the Associated Press.
Credit: AP/Carolyn Kaster
O.J. Simpson sits during an evidentiary hearing at Clark County District Court in Las Vegas, Nev., Thursday. Simpson, who is currently serving a nine-to-33-year sentence in state prison for armed robbery and kidnapping, is using a writ of habeas corpus to seek a new trial.
Credit: AP/Las Vegas Review-Journal/Jeff Scheid
Major Tom to ground control: On Sunday astronaut Chris Hadfield recorded the first music video from space, a cover of David Bowie's "Space Oddity."
Credit: AP/NASA/Chris Hadfield
When it rains it pours. President Barack Obama speaks during a news conference Thursday with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, inexplicably inspiring an #umbrellagate Twitter meme.
Credit: AP/Jacquelyn Martin
A smoke plume rises high above a road block at the intersection of County A and Ross Road east of Solon Springs, Wis., Tuesday. No injuries were reported, but the the wildfire caused evacuations across northwestern Wisconsin.
Credit: AP/The Duluth News-Tribune/Clint Austin
Recent Slide Shows
- 1 of 11