PAC: Warning coconut oil not the answer to fuel problems - 06/02/2008
As a new coconut oil plant In Samoa prepares to start production,
pacific countries have been warned that coconut oil is not the answer to
all their fuel problems. The newly formed Pacific Oil company plans to
start operating in April and as Barbara Heggen reports more and more
countries in the region are considering coconut oil as a fuel alternative.
Presenter - Barbara Heggen Speaker - Samau Etuale Sefo, General Manager
of Pacific Oil Company; Gerhardt Zieroth, Manager of the Pacific Islands
Energy Policy and Strategic Planning
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HEGGEN - Pacific Island nations rely almost exclusively on oil-based
fuel for their energy needs so their economies are especially vulnerable
to the increasing cost of oil. It's no surprise then that alternatives
are being explored and the front runner is coconut oil. Due to the
economic bargaining power of developed nations, pacific countries don't
get the best prices for the product on the global market which is
another good reason to use the product locally. Gerhard Zieroth is the
Manager of the Pacific Forum's Energy Policy and Strategic Action
Planning. He's been studying the feasibility of coconut oil as a fuel
alternative to generate electricity.
ZIEROTH - If you have your oil here at the wharf in suva at today's
prices it might be better to sell it and buy diesel oil proper instead
of using coconut oil as a a fuel, however as i said for remote islands
it is an interesting option because of transport costs both ways,
transport of fuel into the islands and transport of coconut oil out of
the islands......so if you substitute for your fuel with a local product
you actually save twice.
HEGGEN: There are various small scale examples throughout the Pacific of
coconut oil being used as a fuel. In Samoa the government there has just
given approval for a new company to produce coconut oil for bio-diesel .
The Pacific Oil Company plans to be operating in April and aims to
provide 35 percent of Samoa's bio-diesel needs. Samua Etuale Sefo is the
SEFO: A lot of countries are going to look at what samoa is doing
......there is great potential for this technology that we are now using
to produce bio-diesel because the fuel it produces can be used a hundred
percent and it does not need to be blended with diesel so it means that
any country that has that can produce copra can also produce this
bio-diesel and especially if we can produce it at a price that is
competitive with the current price of diesel.
HEGGEN: Yet another reason to move towards coconut based bio-diesel is
climate change. Pacific countries are critically aware of the issues
around global warming and through the Regional Environment Program are
working towards reducing fossil fuel emissions by 33%. However like any
other region involved in the bio-diesel industry land use conflicts will
become critical. Before even starting production, Samoa's Pacific Oil
Company faces a shortage of Copra.
SEFO: The problem with the local industry is that it's seen a decline
over several years and we have a lot of old trees that are not producing
prime nuts so what we're going to do is work with the ministry of
agriculture to revive the industry and for the farmers to start on
replanting and replacing old trees.
HEGGEN: Etuale Sefo and Gerhardt Zeiroth both agree that coconut oil
shouldn't be seen as a fix all solution. Mr Zeiroth says that there's
plenty of good reasons for the industry to expand but that is should
proceed with caution.
ZIEROTH: Land, land ownership, land use who controls the land is one of
the hottest topics in the pacific which is at the core of many many
problems we see in this region and the world so if you do something of
strategic importance and that involves land then you've got to be really
really cautious and you should proceed with utmost caution.
Check for earlier Pacific Biofuel posts: http://pacbiofuel.blogspot.com/