Maybe the Green NGOs aren’t always right

I’ve just returned from a lightning visit to Kuala Lumpur, in Malaysia, where I was a guest of the Malaysian Palm Oil Council (MPOC).  From 1987 to 1990 (more than twenty years ago, I’m horrified to say) I lived in Malacca, Malaysia, and worked as Managing Director of a British Joint Venture textile company (our partner was the Tabung Haji, the Malaysian Pilgrim’s Bank).  The company employed around 300 people, and I was the only Westerner.  I sometimes reflect wryly on that, when political opponents assume that because I’m eurosceptic, I am necessarily chauvinistic and xenophobic, and hate foreigners.  I recall that I did have inter-racial issues to contend with, but they were all between my Malay and Chinese employees.

It was a huge pleasure, therefore to be invited back to Malaysia, though as so often with business trips, I saw no more than the insides of the airport, the taxi, and the Marriott Putrajaya.

You may ask whether it was worth twenty-four hours on planes to spend 45 minutes speaking to the MPOC.  I think it was, and having left the UK on Sunday morning, I was back at my desk in Brussels around 11:00 a.m. on Wednesday.

I had the mid-afternoon session of the conference, and an audience of around 400 (including, as I later found out, a representative of the EU delegation in KL).  The two previous post-lunch speakers were extremely erudite and knowledgeable, but also very technical, so the audience was ready for some rabble-rousing, which was a good thing as my subject was “The Global Climate Change Debate and Tax-Payer Funded Environmentalism”.

Despite all the work I’ve done over the years on climate, I’d never taken an overview of the reasons why the public is losing patience with man-made global warming, and I found it interesting and instructive.  The audience responded very positively, and I noticed heads nodding at several points.

The MPOC is very concerned about the EU’s environmental score-card for bio-fuels, which purports to measure both the emissions savings, and the impact of changes in land use associated with each bio-fuel.  The MPOC clearly feels that the criteria applied, while theoretically objective, in fact reflect prejudices based on the propaganda of green NGOs (which, as we recall, are mostly funded by the EU itself — which means funded by you, the tax-payer).  The NGOs constantly say that use of palm oil for bio-fuels forces up food prices, that palm oil development drives deforestation and contributes to CO2 emissions, and that palm oil cultivation threatens endangered habitats and in particular the orang utan.  These points, it seems, are greatly overstated or just plain wrong (and I may cover them in another blog).  But the symbiotic relationship between green NGOs and the European Commission means that the NGOs carry greater weight than diplomatic or commercial interests — and more weight than a fair, unbiased analysis would justify.

As a result, palm oil bio-fuel suffers severe discrimination in the EU as against other food crop bio-fuels.

And what does all this matter to East Midlands voters, I hear you ask?  Well probably two thirds of the packaged food products they buy in the supermarket contain palm oil (which in nutritional terms is remarkably similar to olive oil).  And palm oil is an excellent prospect to substitute for the transfats which are currently believed to represent a threat to health.  So perhaps it deserves someone to speak up for it.

Meantime I wait for Leo Hickman of the Guardian to call up and ask me who paid for my air fare.  A clue: it wasn’t the tax-payer.

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9 Responses to Maybe the Green NGOs aren’t always right

  1. Alfred says:

    “… and more weight than a fair, unbiased analysis would justify.”

    In my experience this is increasingly difficult to obtain in almost any area where governments and NGOs are involved.

    If someone considers a subject important, then they need to carry out their own analysis these days and read all sides of the argument. If time is a constraint, then the old adage of “Follow the Money” seems to produce remarkably quick results.

    I haven’t carried out such an analysis of Palm Oil, but stuffing food products into your fuel tank just seems plain wrong to me, when people are starving and there is a supposedly world shortage of food.

    • Alfred, I understand your concern about burning food. But unlike maize in the US, palm oil price spikes relate to input costs, not bio-fuel use, which is relatively tiny. And in 2020 when oil is $200 a barrel, we might find that palm oil biofuel is a lower-cost alternative.

      • Alfred says:

        Without trying to sound trite, that must be a first. If the payer isn’t prepared to pay the price for palm oil then the price cannot be maintained by any producer but the most obstinate. There is a law of supply and demand.

        However, I understand that you are saying that palm oil production and food production are not linked.

      • Nishma says:

        Funny how even the UN disagrees with you… But then you can’t believe in scientific evidence from them when they lack the unbiased influences of the palm oil industry itself.

  2. Roger Helmer says:

    In my last sentence above I said that I would wait for a call from Leo Hickman from the Guardian. It came within hours.

  3. Pimpernel says:

    Roger, Next time he calls ask him about the tax avoidance measures taken by the Guardian Media Group and whether he would like to make a comment about what the lost tax revenue could be spend on in these tough times.

  4. The mainstream media needs to look at issues such as so-called “climate change” and the “green agenda”, from all perspectives. Unless this starts to happen, the public will continue to believe some of the misconceptions and half-truths which surround these subjects and many others. In addition, more scientists and economists should become involved in discussing these issues. More specifically, by expressing their personal evaluations – rather than what may satisfy a pre-determined ideology or political agenda. As so often, Roger Helmer seems to be leading the way!

  5. Pingback: Maybe the Green NGOs aren’t always right | The Oil Palm

  6. Pingback: Maybe the Green NGOs Aren’t Always Right | The Oil Palm

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