Academic Paper from the year 2010 in the subject Environmental Sciences, grade: 1,0, University of Göttingen (Centre for Nature Conservation), language: English, abstract: In recent years, palm oil, due to its versatile usages in the food and mechanic industry, experi-enced a rapidly growing demand on the world market. Market researchers predict an even in-creasing importance of the already leading oil seed crop, because of its role as a feedstock for biofuel. Despite its unexcelled yield per unit of cultivated area, oil palm "Elaeis guineensis" is among the most controversially discussed agricultural products. There is a confusingly high number of stakeholders involved, and strong lobbying from both, proponents and opponents of palm oil, make any impartial balancing of the potential uses and/or destructiveness a difficult task. Beyond dispute is the fact, that with the growing demand, ecologically justifiable acreage becomes increasingly scarce which enhances the pressure for land conversion. Unfortunately, the climatic tolerance limits of "E. guineensis" restrict its successful cultivation to tropical realms, eco-sensitive areas with the highest biodiversity levels. Scientists watch with despair how mono-cultures are spreading at an ever-increasing pace, often replacing food crops and subsistence farming plots nourishing local people, and even more often at the expense of the world's few virgin forests remnants. Various policies and strategies on an international (REDD, CDM, RSPO) and national (national laws) level have been pronounced and partially implemented, to ensure a more sustainable palm oil production. Currently, however, political incapacity, corruption, loopholes and beguilements, paralyze the intentions to capitalize the factual benefits of palm oil as a productive feedstock for renewable energy, and as an economy and welfare booster for less developed areas. Under present conditions an increased productivity of palm oil is overpaid for dearly, by the local people and the international community with widespread deforestation, resulting GHG (Green House Gas) emissions, an incredible loss of biodiversity and ecological integrity. In short, palm oil has great potential to help meet the growing energy demand in a more sustainable way, but it is a long way to go and currently the impacts crucially outweigh the benefits.
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