Dutch filling stations to sell forest fires

Those who currently drive a diesel car will soon, unknowingly, be running on a fuel that causes forest fires and farm bankruptcies in Indonesia as well as accelerates global warming, according to Rolf Schipper and Nur Hidayati.

The Dutch government is seeking to change current regulations regarding diesel. This means that in the coming three years we will potentially be filling up with more palm oil in the Netherlands. Current laws that regulate the mix of regular diesel with so-called biodiesel were originally conceived to combat climate change. But it now evident that palm oil diesel produces three times more CO2 emissions than regular diesel. Who wants that?

Although this kind of story doesn’t make the news on a daily basis,  this past summer alone there were hundreds of forest fires here in Indonesia. The reason? The last surviving rainforests on our planet are being felled or illegally burnt to the ground at an unrelenting rate to make way for the cultivation of this ‘environmentally-friendly’ diesel.

Meanwhile, human rights violations are going unpunished and endangered species like the orangutan and Sumatran tiger are losing their homes. And none of this is due to natural disasters. It’s all for the sake of palm oil production. This is a tragic example of the consequences of policy decisions made in Brussels and in the Netherlands.        
Indonesia is the largest  exporter of palm oil in the world. One-third of all palm oil worldwide is imported by the European Union. Half of this palm oil ends up in cars – although, not yet in the Netherlands. The Dutch government should draw a line right here and state categorically that it will not permit diesel to be mixed with palm oil and other food crops. It should do so not tomorrow, but now – immediately.

Parliament is set to discuss the issue of new diesel regulations as proposed by outgoing Minister Sharon Dijksma next week. The European Union is scheduled to decide on the expanded use of palm oil in fuels for the period 2021 to 2030, at the end of this year [2017]. The European Parliament has already ruled against the use of palm oil in biodiesel. The European Union and the Dutch government should follow its lead on this point.

The fact is, palm oil production has devastating effects for both the rainforests and its inhabitants. In the fishing village of Pungkat (Sumatra), a palm oil company managed to acquire an illegal permit to cut down the local forest using dangerous chemicals in the process. And now residents are unable to build their boats, no longer have access to clean drinking water and most of the fish have disappeared. Furthermore, their ancient, traditional way of life has been destroyed. And here they are with no work, no land and no food.

Let’s do this for these people. Let’s make sure that the Netherlands and the rest of Europe avoid this dirty fuel that feeds off the misery of destroyed primeval forests.

(Nur Hidayati is director of WALHI, a sister organization to Milieudefensie in Indonesia. Rolf Schipper is Spokesperson/Campaign Coordinator for Forests at Milieudefensie.)

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