In Southeast Asia, hope for biofuels turns to early disappointment

Aerial view of palm oil plantation on deforested land, Sabah, Borneo, Malaysia. WWF Deutschland

Aerial view of palm oil plantation on deforested land, Sabah, Borneo, Malaysia. WWF Deutschland

BOGOR, Indonesia (1 February 2013)_Governments across Southeast Asia had high hopes for biofuels several years ago: At a time of upwardly spiralling oil and gas prices, renewable energy made from palm oil, sugarcane or jatropha was seen as a way to reduce dependency on fossil fuel imports, improve livelihood opportunities for rural communities and play a part in global efforts to mitigate climate change.

But all of the countries failed to meet their own targets, according to a recent study by the Center for International Forestry Research, partly because — in a region where oil and gas has long been heavily subsidized — consumers had little incentive to switch to a more costly, sustainable alternative.

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