Context expanded to south east Asia leading to


1.   Introduction

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2.   The palm oil Business

3.   Pollution- CO2 emissions and smog

4.   Wildlife and Tribal villages

5.    Uses for the oil

6.   Alternatives

7.   Conclusion


oil originated from west Africa and was gown in the wild as a food crop for as far
back as 5000 years. As the industrial revolution hit Brittan and other
surrounding European countries there became more of a demand for industrial
lubricants which lead to the introduction of the palm tree in the 1870s. This meant
that the small industry of palm oil located in west Africa had to spread
plantations around the world to supply the high demand for Europe. The trade
expanded to south east Asia leading to the first commercial planting in Selegor
1917. The trade was successful. The Palm oil business reduced the dependence on
the leading Rubber industry in Malaysia. Therefor government saw an opportunity
to reduce the number of unemployed and decided to introduce land settlement
schemes for planting palm oil; in an attempt to eradicate poverty for landless
farmers and smallholders. To account for the demand in quantity of output that
the palm oil plantations were producing, rapid deforestation started to take
its toll on Malaysia and Indonesia. (

This sparks
a debate. How has the movement of the Palm oil industry helped Malaysia and Indonesia,
and is it sustainable? Meaning that It can have the ability to continue over a
period of time by causing little or no damage to the environment, by thinking
ahead to the future (  For my EPQ I will be answering the question
‘Is the continued use of palm oil sustainable in Malaysia and Indonesia?’ For
my Essay I would like to analyse this question in a number of different
sections. Referring to the positives and negatives of this movement of palm oil
in terms of sustainability.

 Firstly, I will look at statistics and graphs
of well-known palm oil plantations to see if their output is positively impacting
the Malaysian and Indonesian economy for the future. Furthermore, I will look
at employment rates a pay to see whether it is fair for the workers. Next, I
will investigate the effects on the air condition (how much CO2 this industry
has realised) and smog due to the burning of trees from the planation. I will
also include primary research. After that I want to look at the effects on
wildlife and what has happened to specifically the orangutans by looking at a
number of sanctuary’s. Alongside that I will research what has happened to the tribal
villages and the members. The next section will be on the uses of the palm oil,
how necessary it Is for our day to day lives and how heathy it is. After that I
will compare palm oil with other alternatives and look and the advantages and disadvantages
of the alternatives regarding sustainability. Finally, I will finish off my EPQ
essay with a conclusion to evaluate all of my findings and answer my EPQ
question based on my findings and opinion.

2.      .

3.      One of the biggest concerns when it
comes to palm oil is the consideration of global warming, one of the side
effects of burning down a mass of trees, is the quantity of CO2 that is emitted
into the atmosphere. This has become more aware to us shown by the rise in temperatures
around the world. Which is leading to melting of polar ice caps, (shown in
figure 1 and 2 bellow)















It is said that Palm cultivation is responsible for 2-9% of CO2 emissions
(between 2000 and 2010). This is a result of the Indonesian and Malaysian forests
storing even more carbon per hectare than the Brazilian Amazon thanks to their
carbon-rich soil.   In Malaysia, the
carbon stock of tropical forests can range up to 99 million kilograms of carbon
per square mile. Which is equivalent to the emissions from driving an average
car from New York to San Francisco and back 76 times.  These emissions are released during the
burning of the forests just before planting a new yield. (
15/01/2018). These figures
are absolutely staggering. Furthermore, we have not considered the food miles
on the palm oil which additionally transfers CO2 when transporting to different
countries. A graph shown below (Figure 3) illustrates where the oil is exported
to in the world in comparison to the population.





From this graph I can see that the highest consumptions of palm oil are
in the EU (10,576 km away)  (
15/01/2018) and the USA
(15,061 km away) (…167395.168491.0.169380.….0…1c.1.64.psy-ab..0.2.152…0i8i7i30k1j0i8i30k1.0.tD2yI_XL1a4=active=on
15/01/2018) . With the
sheer quantity that these main importers are consuming, there is extremely high
food miles on the oil, that also accounts for the rising CO2 levels from
aircrafts or containerships fuel.


Yet there is a secondary effect that the whole of south east Asia experiences
first hand around the September October time of year. Smog is a type of haze intensified
by smoke or other atmospheric pollutants. (  15/01/2018) This is a result of the mass burning
that takes place for the old palm oil trees to replace with new ones.  This smog has increased breathing and heart
problems for many of south east Asia that were unable to get sufficient


I decided to interview in groups around Alice smith school so I could
hear first-hand what their experiences were during the 2015 smog and how it affected
there day to day life. I decided to use the informal interviewing in small
groups method of primary research by interviewing 5 groups with 3 people each. This
method proved to be best as it was valid and respondents were relaxed and I
could gain a lot of information quickly. I decided to make the interviewees anonyms
so that they felt more conferrable to be more open in their responses. I found
out that as a result of the high smog levels the students had about two weeks
off school which disrupted there learning despite the use of video conferences
with teachers and setting homework. When school was finally open the students
were not allowed outside (only between lessons) and had to eat food in the
hall. Many peoples breathing was affected meaning that it was essential to
bring around an inhaler in case of asthma attacks, the school did provide masks
in order to reduce the risks.  I can tell
that from these responses from the interviewees that as a result of the smog
school life was disrupted and made difficult.


Overall the world’s climate and pollution levels does not look positively
wards the concept of palm oil. Furthermore, in terms of sustainability palm oil
has not helped keep the earth clean of CO2 which has led to secondary problems
such as smog which effects our day to day lives. Meaning that it is not
environmentally sustainable.


first problem that usually comes to mind when looking at palm oil, is the
wildlife that naturally are located in the thick jungles of Malaysia and Indonesia.
A prime example would be orangutans. It is estimated that there only 50,000-65,000
orangutans left in the wild and 2,000 to 3,000orangutangs are killed every year
from the movement of palm oil into the jungle! It is predicted that in 50 years
the orangutans will be extinct with this rate of reduction. Is this sustainable
for a clearly endangered species? ( 23/01/2018) The lucky few orangutans that become
homeless fortunately go to an orangutan shelter or sanctuary. Such as Sepilok
Orangutan sanctuary in Sabah. (sill continuing this section) ( 23/01/2018)

5.      .

6.      Besides researching at all of the
positives and negatives of palm oil in terms of sustainability, so far through
this essay. I also wanted to look at the alternatives for palm oil; to compare
and asses why we don’t use them in the majority of our products. In the
previous section I assessed the attributes that are proven useful from palm oil.
Which leads on well to the Alternatives section. Throughout this part of the
easy I want to continuously be asking myself these questions. Is the alternative
product more sustainable? And what would happen if this product was to replace
palm oil?


An obvious replacement for the oil would be similar alternatives such as
Rape seed, sunflower and soybean oil. A graph bellow shows the yield comparison
for each of the oils.





According to
green palm the global choice for palm oil is mainly due down to efficacy, a
necessity when we consider our growing population. Trees produce ten tonnes of
oil per hector, far more than alternatives. Thus, making the product cheaper to
buy.  The importance of palm oil becomes clear
when we consider that many people in the developing world rely on it as a cheap
and available cooking medium. Animal fats and other oils are not even
considered as they are over the budget for many when it comes down to cooking a

are also keen on the low price of the palm oil, and the consistency of it. Soybean,
sunflower ad rapeseed oil is liquid form at room temperature. Where as palm oil
is a solid with a texture that is similar to the overpriced animal fats. Making
it ideal for cakes and other mass-produced bakery products.

Oil Alternatives
other than plants or animal fats have been unheard of until recently. The
university of bath discovered that Yeast could replace Palm oil to make a considerably
large amount of oil. The industry would be in labs meaning that the jungles of
Malaysia and Indonesia will be left untouched.  With a £4million grant from the government to
boost its launch, developers are sceptical that to start sales of the new oil
will require businesses willing to look for a more sustainable option. Dr Chris
Chuk at the university of Bath stated “Palm oil itself is a pretty volatile
market, but it retails at anything between $500 to $1,200 (£370–£890) a tonne
… We would be looking at that $1,000-a-tonne end, that’s where we’d want to be.
“Currently the team in Bath are improving their knowledge on genetics of yeast
and plan to scale up the fermentation to an industrial level. However, the real
question is: would consumers be willing to pay this higher price for a more
sustainable option?

algae has been looked as a major competitor of palm oil in the United Arab of
Emirates (UAE). The bonus of the algae, is that they can grow in fresh or salt
water, “that means you don’t need to waste freshwater and you can grow it, if
you want to scale up, in desert areas for instance.” Says Kourosh
Salehi-Ashtiani, associate professor of biology at New York University in Abu
Dhabi. Currently algae are being used in laundry liquids by the company Ecover.
Which has received a great deal of backlash on the product. The problem being
that the algae that was being produced is genetically modified. In the UAE
experiments are proceeding to find an alternative for algae that is not so
controversial, by not genetically modifying it.

announced last month that the New York University in Abu Dhabi had been working
on new species of algae. The findings show that naturally algae produces large
quantities of palmitic acid – the fatty acid that is a major component in palm
oil. This can potentially be a good substitute for palm oil if the manufactures
can get it down to a price that consumers are willing to pay.

conclusion I can tell that palm Oil is going to be a difficult oil to replace
with alternatives. Due to the locational factors such as cheap and available labour
and ideal tropical temperatures around 30 degrees making the trees grow fast. Furthermore,
the yield from the trees are exceptionally high making the production efficient
and difficult to beat in price by competitors. Therefor meaning that palm oil
has the majority of the market share for oils.

From the different
oils I have researched in my opinion feel like algae would be the best competitor
for palm oil in terms of sustainability. By using this method of making oil we
would be using natural resources (salt water) to produce. This would mean that
in Malaysia and Indonesia Deforestation and carbon dioxide levels would be
reduced. Also, orangutans and other animals could be rehomed back into the
jungle again. However, this already set up industry in Malaysia and Indonesia
could result in millions of job losses and an extreme economic slump if Algae
was to be a raging success. Setting back the development of the countries as a
whole. (,



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