Coconut Oil: An Environmental and Economic Source of Renewable Power

image005Some sources of renewable power have the potential to dramatically change the economy. For instance, the solar industry is on its way to competing with fossil fuels in price, and it will change and shape the power infrastructure in the future.

In the Philippines, biodiesel made from coconut oil could bolster their economy and provide a source of clean energy and renewable power. Already used in cars throughout the United States, Thailand, Canada, and some European countries, coconut methyl esther (CME) is a morally superior choice to biodiesel made from some other sources, like corn grown in the United States.
The United States subsidizes its farmers to grow corn, meaning that they actually pay farmers to supplement their income and drive the price of corn down. In part due to the size of the corn industry, several “dead zones” have developed in the Gulf of Mexico, after fertilizer washed into nearby rivers, finally making its way to the ocean.

All that extra fertilizer floods the Gulf with nutrients, particularly nitrogen, leading to a burst in algal and plankton growth. Bacteria feed on the waste and, in the process, use up all the oxygen in the water, rendering life at the bottom of the ocean in that area impossible.

In contrast, CME, also known as Coco-Biodiesel, will create a sustainable and stable market in a developing country. CME also has benefits for drivers, since it has superior lubrication and cleaning, requiring less vehicle maintenance. This source of renewable power also has lower emissions of sulfur oxide and nitrous oxide, the primary components of smog.

Of course, a reliance on an energy source that needs to be shipped, even a renewable power source, must always be considered carefully. Depending on how close you live to the Philippines, it may or may not be a sustainable choice. In addition, an extremely high demand could make the coconut industry less environmentally-friendly if they turn to less sustainable farming methods in the long run. However, it is certainly not a bad choice for many people, and should be one component of a better energy plan in the future.

Image (c) National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

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