Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Malaysia should focus on the production of second generation biodiesel using waste oil instead of palm oil

The federal government should redirect its focus to produce biodiesel or biofuel using waste oil instead of precious palm oil which is food product by itself.

Plantation Industries and Commodities Deputy Minister Hamzah Zainudin said that the fuel is currently sold at six petrol stations in Putrajaya and 107 petrol stations in Malacca. He said that beginning 1 August 2011, 156 petrol stations in Negri Sembilan would sell the B5 palm-oil based biodiesel. As many as 247 petrol stations in Kuala Lumpur will begin selling B5 on Sept 1 and then Selangor will follow suit on Oct 1 with 634 stations offering the fuel to customers. He said that so far, there will be 1,150 petrol stations in the central region retail the B5 biodiesel.

While claiming that there is no adverse effect of palm oil-based biodiesel reported to date from the use of palm oil-based B5 biodiesel in diesel engine vehicles, the government should redirect its focus by utilizing waste oil to produce B5 biodiesel instead of using palm oil.

The utilization of palm oil or other feedstocks to produce biodiesel has sparked off the “food vs. fuel” dilemma in some countries. According to Wikipedia, “Food vs. fuel” is the dilemma regarding the risk of diverting farmland or crops for biofuels production in detriment of the food supply on a global scale.

Although Brazil has been considered to have the world's first sustainable biofuels economy and its government claims Brazil's sugar cane based ethanol industry has not contributed to the 2008 food crisis, Malaysia should not take the dilemma lightly as an unsustainable biofuel policy will definitely dampen the economic burden of Malaysians with higher prices of cooking oils.

I urged the government to also study the possible negative impact of mass production of biodiesel or any other types of biofuel which will affect prices of food items. It will be counterproductive if the government were to further subsidise food items if a further price hike for food items happened due to the production of biodiesel from food items like palm oil with the intention of reducing subsidies for fossil fuels. Such treat cannot be taken lightly as Malaysia is currently producing biodiesel from crude palm oil which is also a raw material to produce edible cooking oil in Malaysia.

One alternative that we should explore is to utilize waste industrial oil and waste cooking oil to produce second generation biodiesel as these byproducts are readily available in large quantity with lower cost of production. However, more researches are required to study its feasibility. I believe our government will be investing in the right direction if more allocations are channeled for such researches to be carried out.

Environmental protection and greener surrounding is not for show only. It is something that we have to work hard in order to bear fruits.

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