Saturday, 16 February 2008

Hawaii Palm Oil Press Release

Hawaii Environmental Organizations Urge Leaders to Reject
Imported Palm Oil, Seek Locally Sustainable Energy Strategies

Coalition of groups intensifies public education efforts as world leaders gather in Honolulu for Energy Security and Climate Change meetings

January 27, 2008
For Immediate Release
For more information contact:
Rob Parsons, 808-280-1369 Maui Tomorrow Foundation Inc.

MAUI—As a major climate change meeting of the world’s 16 biggest carbon-emitting nations is held in Honolulu, local environmental and cultural organizations are calling for an end to plans to open up a “palm oil pipeline” from Southeast Asia to Hawaii.

Members of several environmental, cultural, and student organizations will conduct educational demonstrations to coincide with the Major Economies Meeting on Energy Security and Climate Change (MEM), to be held at the University of Hawaii East-West Center this week.

Hawaii is the most petroleum-dependent state in terms of electrical production, with over 90 percent of the state’s energy needs coming from imported oil. Despite abundant potential for solar, wind and wave power, the Hawaiian Electric Company (HECO) has spent the past year supporting proposals to construct two huge biodiesel refineries by Imperium Renewables on Oahu, and by BlueEarth Biodiiesel LLC on Maui.

If constructed, their combined production, 220 million gallons yearly, exceeds the potential output that could be produced in Hawai`i, even if all available statewide agricultural lands were utilized solely for biofuel crops. The companies intend to import palm oil and these refineries will be among the largest palm oil refineries in the United States.

“Switching from imported petroleum to imported palm oil does nothing for Hawaii’s energy security”, said Lance Holter, Chairman of the Sierra Club-Maui Group. “We have abundant local energy resources we should be utilizing, including solar, wind, and wave technologies.”

“The world community knows that palm oil plantations in Indonesia, Malaysia, and elsewhere are an ecological disaster with immense negative climate impacts”, said Rob Parsons, Executive Vice President of Maui Tomorrow Foundation. “Palm and soy plantations are destroying biodiverse rainforests and peat swamps, creating huge carbon emissions through slash and burn clearing, threatening endangered species, and trampling on the rights of indigenous people. Why in the world would Hawaii’s leaders choose to be a partner to all of that?”

According to Kasha Ho`okili Ho of San Francisco’s Rainforest Action Network, “The world’s rainforests are our last, best defense against catastrophic climate change. Agribusiness companies are tearing down rainforests in places like Malaysia and Indonesia to produce palm oil biodiesel which they are then marketing as a solution to global warming. Their false solutions aren’t making the world safer, they are just making a corporate profit.”

According to Environmental Defense scientist Stephanie Fried, a former Fulbright Scholar who conducted research in Indonesia with East Kalimantan forest communities, “This month, Smithsonian scientists found that biofuels made from palm oil may be worse overall than fossil fuels. This comes as no surprise to anyone who has ever visited these palm oil plantations.”
Last summer, HECO held public meetings to discuss possible criteria for procurement of “sustainable palm oil”. More than fifty local and international organizations registered concerns with the draft language. Another 8,000 people sent e-mails to Governor Linda Lingle, urging her to veto a bill to provide state Special Revenue Bond Funding to support $59 million of the funding for the BlueEarth Biodiesel facility on Maui.

“We are educating our leaders to help them understand the huge difference between small, local steps towards sustainable production of biodiesel crops, and the importation of oil from huge mono-crop plantations thousands of miles from Hawaii, with a track record of deforestation and human rights exploitation”, said Annie Nelson of the Sustainable Biodiesel Alliance.

According to Kelly King of Hawaii’s homegrown company Pacific Biodiesel, which since 1996 has produced transportation fuel from used restaurant oil, “Rapid expansion is risky, and over-sizing a biodiesel refinery to accommodate mega-million gallons of imported oil discourages local efforts to plant and harvest crops. It is critical that our state move toward true sustainability with the understanding that all sustainability is local. We call on our leaders to learn the difference between green and “greenwashing.”

Renewable energy advocate Henry Curtis of Life of the Land (Hawaii) objected to the closed-door meetings held with the world’s top producing nations of carbon emissions and other greenhouse gasses. “This secret exclusive meeting includes the largest polluters on earth but excludes their devastated victims, including the vulnerable Pacific Island Nations that are most susceptible to rising sea levels from global warming.

On Wednesday afternoon, January 30 at 4:30, the Sierra Club, Hawaii Chapter is organizing Project Blue Line, as a visual demonstration of the impacts of a projected one meter sea level rise by the end of this century. For more info, contact: or call 538-6616.

“Hawai`i has a chance to show the world how sustainable energy production can be done, and that what’s sustainable can also be profitable”, said Parsons. “Let’s move away from damaging proposals such as the import of palm oil. This is our golden opportunity to influence our leaders and return the “power to the people”.