Saturday, 10 May 2008

Police detain Greenpeace activists dressed as orangutans


Neste filling station closed by anti-palm oil demonstration
Police detain Greenpeace activists dressed as orangutans

Greenpeace demonstrators dressed as orangutans converged on the Neste Oil filling station in the Eläintarha district of Helsinki on Wednesday morning, protesting the use of tropical palm oil in Neste's new diesel fuel.

At about ten in the morning, the simian-clad protesters placed locks on the nozzles of the fuel pumps at the Neste station dispensing the new Green-diesel fuel, putting them temporarily out of service. They also distributed leaflets to customers arriving at the station.

Greenpeace claims that the biofuel is not as green an option as it is claimed to be, as its widespread use encourages the clearing of rain forests in Indonesia and Malaysia.

"We launched the protest because Neste has not given up on the use of palm oil in the production of its Green-diesel, in spite of demands", said Greenpeace representative Sini Saarela. The protest lasted about an hour. The police first cordoned off the area, broke the locks that had been placed on the fuel nozzles, and detained 11 demonstrators.

Four people were still detained at 6:00 PM. Police say that there was no intention of placing anyone under arrest.

Neste Oil says that it will issue a criminal complaint and demand compensation for lost sales revenues over the protest.

Neste Oil introduced its new Green-diesel at all of its filling stations in the Helsinki region with staff. The new fuel contains at least ten per cent of Neste's own NExBTL fuel, produced from renewable raw materials according to a process developed by Neste Oil.

The main raw material for NExBTL is Malaysian palm oil. Greenpeace opposes the use of palm oil as a raw material for fuel, because the increase in demand for palm oil will encourage the establishment of oil palm plantations in land reclaimed from rain forests.

The clearing of rain forests releases carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, accelerating climate change. "People think that they are doing the right thing by buying diesel made out of palm oil, although the opposite is true", Saarela said. She also said that Greenpeace has proof that Neste's subcontractor, the IOI Group, is cutting down rain forests on the island of Borneo, and destroying the habitat of the endangered orangutans.

Neste Oil rejects Greenpeace's accusations. Simo Honkanen, Neste's director responsible for NExBTL, says that when correctly produced, palm oil is an excellent raw material for diesel fuel.

"When we consider the life cycle of the raw material and the production of the final product, palm oil causes the least carbon dioxide emissions of all biologically-based raw materials", Honkanen says. "We take responsibility for using raw material that is produced according to the principles of sustainable development."

Honkanen did not want to comment on the activities of IOI in Kalimantan, the Indonesian part of the island of Borneo. The IOI Group is the world's second-largest listed company producing palm oil. In a press release issued by Neste Oil, a representative of IOI said the company has committed to palm oil production which follows the standards of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO).

The IOI representative did not give any detailed comments on Greenpeace's claims that rain forests were being cleared from land in Indonesia owned by a company in which IOI is a partial owner.