Vegetable oil takes center stage in the midst of the global energy crisis




The rise in energy and fuel prices has accelerated the transformation of agricultural sectors traditionally linked to human consumption. A) Yes,
biodiesel production has become an increasingly profitable alternative
for products such as palm oil in many countries in Asia and Latin America. In Indonesia, the world's largest producer of this vegetable fat, this sector already supplies 30% of the fuel generated in the country, a scheme that is replicated in other countries such as Argentina and the United States with products such as soy . According to experts, this phenomenon can have a direct effect on the energy independence of many countries at times, such as the current one, of strong geopolitical tensions.

In the case of
Colombia, the fourth Latin American oil producer,
the decision to strengthen its energy independence by drawing on the agricultural sector is already generating results. There, the commitment made by the Government in 2004 was combined with the need to diversify the applications of a product, palm oil, which, for years, has been subjected to a smear campaign in Europe and the US. for its alleged negative health effects. Although organizations such as the Colombian employers' organization Fedepalma flatly deny these dangers, this sector has intensified its investments to find an outlet for its large production in 'green' fuels. «Biodiesel is a market built from public policies in all countries», Explain Monica Cuellar, researcher and specialist in the biofuel sector in the country.

Colombia has managed to cut its energy dependence by 30% thanks to

The Colombian case follows in the footsteps of the European Union and the US, where the use of fuels made from products such as soybeans and corn has been promoted. Target? Reduce dependency on foreign partners at a time of border tensions. In the case of Spain, biofuels are already the most widely used source of renewable energy in transport. In this sense, a recent study by the National Center for Renewable Energies, dependent on the Ministry of Science and Innovation, opted this year for "advanced" biofuels, those that use "solid biomass of local origin", thereby reducing the cost of importing and resulting in a development of the national industry thanks to products such as recycled oils. This resource, little known and valued by the general public, has experienced a notable boom in international markets to become a sought-after export product.

Between the mountains

In the town of Facatativá, a small town an hour from Bogotá, he works at full capacity BioD, the largest of the twelve biodiesel factories in Colombia. TOThere, in the middle of green mountains, two hundred employees transform La Palma oil that arrives in trucks from the "hot" areas of the country into biodiesel, where La Palma trees that generate this reddish oil are grown. Its production is delivered to gas stations in the country, where it is sold mixed with 'traditional' diesel with a ratio of 90 (traditional) to 10 (vegetable). This modest weight collides with the claims of its producers, who defend that the proportion of biofuel could be raised to 100% without affecting cars, aspirations that collide with the reluctance of the 'traditional' refiners and car manufacturers.

In the case of Colombia, palm oil could throw the country's energy self-sufficiency on its back. In fact, according to Fedepalma, there are currently 590,000 hectares planted with this product, an area that, they point out, could be multiplied by ten without having to affect any natural or protected area. This would allow the country to reduce almost to zero its dependence on energy from abroad while favoring the development of its rural areas, for years subdued by violence and coca crops.

This great leap could be compared to that achieved in the United States through the expansion of 'fracking', a controversial technique for extracting gas and oil from the subsoil that has drastically reduced the traditional energy dependence of the world's leading economy. In the Colombian case, with a population similar to that of Spain, they have already managed to cut their energy dependence by 30% thanks to biodiesel and at the moment only 20% of its fuels are imported.


The initiatives of countries such as Colombia and Indonesia respond to a global trend. According to data from the Oil World Annual of 2021, an internal publication of this sector to which ABC has had access, the world production of biodiesel has grown by 8% per year in the last ten years. At the moment, the world's leading producer is the European Union, followed by the United States, Argentina, Brazil, Malaysia, Indonesia and Colombia.

Within the materials used, palm oil concentrates 39% of production and soybeans 25%. Behind there are other vegetable fats such as rapeseed oil, more common in Europe. What do all these products have in common? They are of natural origin, which allows countries that do not have their own reserves of crude oil or natural gas to have their own energy source at a time of tension in Eastern Europe, Russia, the Pacific and the Middle East.

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