Green & Energy Solutions

Sep 5th, 2008, in Business & Economy, by

CallumCallum on slash and burn farming, energy subsidies, ways to tackle the issues of high food and fuel prices.

Local Solutions for Climate Change, Rising Energy & Food Prices

In our previous articles we looked at the causes and local effects of rising energy & food prices and climate change. In this article we will look at some solutions that may help Indonesia contribute to solving these dangerous global trends.

Solving Climate Change:

Climate change is a global phenomenon; as such any solutions will have to be based on the participation of all countries both in the developed and developing world. While many would argue that the developed countries created the problem it must also be understand that large developing countries like China, India, Brazil and Indonesia are by themselves becoming major greenhouse gas emitters. The developed countries are in a better position to fund new technologies that will help mankind become better stewards of this planet, but any attempt to solve this problem without the participation of the developing world will be doomed to failure owing to their rapid industrialization.

Stop Slash and Burn Farming

Not only is this very damaging to Indonesia’s reputation with her neighbors Singapore and Malaysia who resent choking on the air pollution, but it by far Indonesia’s largest source of greenhouse gas emissions. There are 2 primary sources; the first is the subsistence farmers who let their fields go fallow every 3 or 4 years to stop the soil from completely degrading. After the field recovers and is ready to be cultivated again the farmer will cut down all the small trees and bushes and set them a light. After the fire has stripped the field of all plant life the farmer will plant his crop of dry-land rice, cassava or corn. Farmers use this method because they have not been taught better methods. Simply trying to ban the practice will not work; the farmer must be given incentives to use better land management practices. These can include:

  • Crop rotation that will mitigate the necessity to have the field lay fallow.
  • Paying farmers for the biomass from the fallow fields that can be either composted to create natural fertilizer of burned in an efficient biomass power plant.
  • Using the waste to produce biogas for the farmers own cooking needs.

All of these are cost effective solutions that will benefit the farmer as well as the planet.

The second source of haze is from palm plantations. They use fire because it is a very cheap way to clear land. This group will only be deterred by rigid enforcement of the law. First offences should be dealt with by delivering a financial penalty many times higher than the cost they would have to pay if they cleared land in a less environmentally destructive way. Second offences should be dealt with by expropriation of the property.

Stop Subsidizing Fuel

There is perhaps nothing that illustrates irresponsible behavior or lack of commitment to solving these problems than some countries insistence on continuing to sell motor fuels at below the cost of production. When it should be clear to every government on this planet that climate change presents as great a threat to humanity as any we have ever faced, subsidizing petroleum is the epitome of short sighted stupidity. Not only does it insulate the user from the cost of their damaging activity but it encourages wasteful use of valuable resources and prevents any meaningful attempts to introduce less damaging solutions.

Why would anyone in Indonesia want to buy a hybrid, fuel cell or electric automobile when the government provides subsidized fuel? None of the new technologies to make more efficient vehicles will ever reach Indonesia as long as this persists. With many of the developed countries are now studying the introduction of carbon taxes on their domestic industry you can be sure that countries that insist on subsidizing hydrocarbons will see their exports met with punitive tariffs that reflect the environmental damage that these policies encourage.

Solving High Food Prices:

In the past year, the world has witnessed the unintended effects of diverting food crops like corn and palm oil to make biofuel: In part because of competition from the hot biofuels market, food prices are skyrocketing and food stocks vanishing. Rain forest is being cut down to grow more "green" fuel.

As such problems have emerged, it has become almost a mantra among investors and politicians that newer "second-generation" biofuels - made from nonfood crops like reeds and wild grasses - would provide green energy, without taking food off the table.

Second-generation biofuel plantations growing Jatropha, a genus of succulents, have sprung up all over Africa. Jatropha, the darling of the second-generation biofuel community is being cultivated widely in East Africa and promoted by entrepreneurs and, most prominently, the Clinton Foundation.

Ethanol Production
Ethanol Production

Jatropha is easy to grow in tropical climates and does not require the intensive use of fertilizers and pesticides. It is an ideal alternative to palm oil and sugar. It has the additional benefit of being the second lowest in terms of the amount of fossil fuel input as a percentage of energy output and the highest in reduction of greenhouse gas emissions per kilometer traveled by replacing fossil fuels in conventional vehicles over the full production cycle of the biofuel.


Bio Diesel Production

Solving High Energy Prices:

Indonesia is very well placed when it comes to fossil fuel energy resources. Up until a few years ago Indonesia was a net oil producer. It is also blessed with abundant natural gas reserves all well as coal deposits. The area where it is deficient in fully utilising the energy resources is in the necessary energy infrastructure.

Most of the natural gas reserves are located some distance from the main population centers in Java. If they could be connected by pipelines it would solve most of Indonesia’s energy problems. With 3 trillion cubic meters of proven reserves and annual production of 66.7 billion cubic meters, of which half is exported as LNG, Indonesia has enough to reserves to last 45 years at current production levels. If all the automobiles in Indonesia where converted to run on natural gas instead of Benzine it would only shorten the production life to 40 years.

Concerted efforts should be made to create the necessary energy infrastructure to bring the natural gas to the consumer. It is by far the best solution for Indonesia energy problems. The gas could also be used to produce electricity and make up the 10,000 MW electricity shortfall in Java and Bali. The government must do whatever is necessary to encourage the private sector to meet this challenge. This would be a much better use of public funds, to solve Indonesia long term energy needs, than wasting it on a policy of subsidized Benezine.

These problems though daunting are not insurmountable, but they will require political leadership to make them happen. The question that every Indonesian should be asking themselves in the run up to next years elections is do any of the politicians have what it takes to meet these challenges.


9 Comments on “Green & Energy Solutions”

  1. avatar sputjam says:

    most neglected green energy in indonesia is harnessing electricity by sea currents(especially if flow of water is between two land mass that comes to a narrow channel) and thermal from volcanic situations.

  2. avatar Purba Negoro says:

    Whatever pollution Indonesia generates- it is far les than the smallest polluter of the G8.

    Not only is entirely unfair, it is obscenely insulting that carbon expelling minnow Indonesia should be damaged by the greed of the hydrocarbon-addicted West.

    Quite simply- whatever green initiatives should be undertaken in Indonesia should be entirely paid for by the guilty West pro bono for the benefit of the People of Indonesia- whose lands will soon be submerged.

    Sputjam- entirely agree- geothermal is currently being investigated- isn’t it ironic that Chevron is one of the world leaders in geothermal and deep bore technology.

    I have no idea why it is not implemented further- I can only imagine that the issue is geo-graphic stability or that one industry would be entirely insular in that it would not be part subsidising another- ie coal and coal fired plants- a huge industry with perpetual ongoing costs.

    Russians currently have dug the deepest bore into the lower crust- so Russians have excellent expertise in this area too.

    Indonesia has masses of gas- an excellent and highly efficient fuel- if Indonesia is to adopt conventional yet clean(-ish) prower production- I agree LNG fired turbines is very attractive too.

    But the West should pay for it- especially hot air expeller, historic enemy of ethanol, electric cars and diesel enemy number one: USA.

    Those arrogant bastards ruined the planet- let them pay to fix it.

  3. Purba NEgoro wrote “Whatever pollution Indonesia generates- it is far les than the smallest polluter of the G8.”

    This is a commonly held belief but is just not true.

    If you measure CO2 emissions only by what come out of smokestacks and tailpipes the Indonesia produces more than the smallest emiter of the G8 Countries.

    Indonesia Produces 378,250,000 Metric Tons of CO2 annually, while France Produces 373,693,000 Metric Tons.

    If you also take into account, Slash and Burn farming, Peat Bog Destruction and Deforestation as they contribute to the planets CO2 load, the Indonesia is Ranked number 3 in the World behind the US and China.

  4. avatar Purba Negoro says:

    Perhaps the countries of the G7 can instead of willingly paying for:

    palm oil from plantations known to have been caused from slash-and-burn/deforestation
    purchasing exotic timbers and slow-groing such as ebony, mahogany etc
    keenly outsource undesirable polluting manufacture to third world countries and spoil their environments by subverting their environmental laws

    can actually put its’ money where its’ mouth is and pay for some restoration work instead of constantly pillaging.

    Furthermore Callum, your argument is rather hollow.
    Indonesia has only become a “leading polluter” in the past decade or so.
    You also cleverly do not factor in Australian high-sulfur brown low-calorific value coal export.

    We have not been exploding atmospheric nuclear devices or drained nations of their oil reserves, nor been inincerating coal for more than a century- unlike the US and UK.

    Callum’s data correction does not parry the thrust of the argument- this is merely poor attempt at undermining the solid fundamental logic of the argument via trivia.

    The West has polluted the most for longest
    thus the West should foot the bill for planetary restoration and reparation- NOT the johnny-come-lately Third World.

  5. avatar sputjam says:

    more than a decade ago, dr mahathir suggested that developed countries pay less developed countries to keep their jungles free from being developed as a carbon sink.
    Today, we hear norway, willingly contribute by paying brazil hundreds of millions for the service. Maybe indonesia should initiate similar moves.

  6. avatar Purba Negoro says:

    Good suggestion.

    Maybe the West should pay us to keep our trees, instead of paying us to clear fell them- then pointing the blaming stick back at us.

    If the West is so concerned- where are the donations of solar panels?

  7. avatar Enigmatic says:

    Purba Negoro Says:

    September 8th, 2008 at 8:09 pm
    Good suggestion.

    Maybe the West should pay us to keep our trees, instead of paying us to clear fell them- then pointing the blaming stick back at us.

    If the West is so concerned- where are the donations of solar panels?

    Well then again PN, if we’re having gloomy skies because of the fog, we won’t be maximising the panels would we? Besides, would the West trust Indonesia with the panels and hope that the parties that deserve it really get it when the corruption is still endemic? I don’t think so.

  8. avatar Danielle says:

    Well you seem to have all the answers, don’t you. If fuel in Indonesia weren’t subsidized, you’d be able to afford it, but the vast majority would not. How’s the local farmer going to get his veggies to the market?

    People in Indonesia would not buy a hybrid, fuel cell or electric automobile regardless of whether the fuel is subsidized or unsubsidized because the cost of those vehicles are prohibitive to most Indonesians (not to mention myself).

    Doing the ‘right’ thing is always easier when you can afford it, isn’t it.

  9. avatar Lyl says:

    So, what is the plan ? Would the lovely Indonesia become the most poluted country in the world or be a better contry ? I’ve been hearing from people left and right that more and more children (Indonesian future generation) get allergies and respiratory problem. Why we have to ask other country hand out all the time. Can we do better than asking donation ?

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