21/03/2008 (English Chosun) - Most Koreans are now aware that the prices of black bean-sauce noodles and instant noodles have risen because Americans are using corn ethanol to fuel their automobiles. As a consequence of feeding human foodstuff to motor vehicles, 800 million hungry people in the world grow hungrier. And studies show that using ethanol in automobiles is of little help in reducing greenhouse gases.
Another petroleum substitute is biodiesel. Ethanol is used mainly in the U.S. and Brazil, and biodiesel in Europe. While ethanol is produced from American cornstalks and Brazilian sugar cane, biodiesel is made from coconuts grown in Indonesia and Malaysia. Biodiesel involves no fewer problems than ethanol.
Many would doubt the truth of the notion that Indonesia is the world's third largest producer of greenhouse gases. Indonesia ranks 15th in the world in consumption of coal and petroleum, but greenhouse gases come from more than just fossil fuels. When trees are logged, the roots decay and produce carbon dioxide. With the rampant logging of its rainforests, Indonesia discharges the largest quantity of greenhouse gases in the world after the U.S. and China.
A problem unique to Indonesia is the widespread cultivation of palm tree plantations in marshes called peatlands. Peatlands are densely forested but their beds are swampy. Lying beneath the water are great masses of condensed organic matter, normally more than two meters thick. When trees and plants die and sink to the peatland floor, the plant material doesn't get a chance to fully decompose. Covered by water, it is deprived of oxygen. This organic matter slowly decays over hundreds and thousands of years and eventually turns into coal.
In the cultivation of palm tree plantations, the swamps are dried and the native trees are logged. The thick layers of organic matter that have built up over hundreds and thousands of years then decompose in just a few years, releasing carbon dioxide. Sometimes forests are deliberately set on fire to make plantations. A satellite investigation of the Riau region by Indonesian authorities in July last year revealed no fewer than 124 mountain fires.
Last November, Greenpeace issued a report entitled "How the Palm Oil Industry is Cooking the Climate." Indonesia has 10 percent of the world's tropical forests -- 91 million hectares, of which 20 million hectares are peatland. Palm tree plantations have been cultivated in 1.5 million hectares of peatland. Over the next 10 years, an additional 3 million hectares is slated to become palm tree plantations.
This is because of Europe. Europe is forging ahead with a plan that calls for increasing the current 1 percent bio-energy ratio to 5.75 percent in 2010 and to 10 percent in 2020. As an alternative to petroleum, European countries have turned to palm oil imported from Southeast Asia. As a result, the price of palm oil has doubled in the past two years. This is bound to accelerate the destruction of more peatlands in Indonesia. The carbon dioxide emitted from Indonesian peatlands alone reaches 1.8 billion tons a year, more than three times South Korea's emissions.
European countries supposedly use biodiesel to help prevent global warming, and doing so does indeed reduce the quantity of carbon dioxide emitted in Europe. But in consequence, Southeast Asia, on the opposite side of the globe, emits more carbon dioxide. It doesn't matter where it is emitted -- carbon dioxide spreads across the entire globe. European countries count as "accomplishments" any reduction in carbon dioxide emissions. They even sell their carbon credits on the market. It all seems like some kind of international fraud.