U.N. report: Biodiesel creates jobs worldwide

By Ryan C. Christiansen | September 16, 2008
Web exclusive posted Sept. 30, 2008 at 12:44 p.m. CST

As global biodiesel production rose to 2.1 billion gallons in 2007, the biodiesel industry worldwide helped create thousands of jobs. However, according to a United Nations Environment Program report published Sept. 24 and titled "Green Jobs: Towards Decent work in a Sustainable, Low-Carbon World," in many parts of the world, the jobs that have been created are not decent jobs.

Oilseed crops that can be used for biodiesel production in developing countries hold the most promise for job creation because the oilseeds must typically be harvested manually rather than with the help of machinery. According to the U.N., harvesting castor oil requires 12 workers for every 10 acres of castor, harvesting jatropha requires 10 workers, harvesting palm oil requires 8 workers, and harvesting soybeans requires 3 workers.

India's National Biodiesel Program estimates that a jatropha farm might provide 20 person-days of employment per acre over the long haul. Of these oilseed crops, palm oil is the main feedstock currently used in Malaysia and Indonesia's biodiesel production and for many palm oil plantation workers, the wages are low, the working conditions are often extremely poor, and their rights are suppressed, according to the U.N. report. It's estimated that 500,000 people, many of them Indonesian migrant workers, are employed in the palm oil production industry in Malaysia, the largest producer. Indonesia is planning a major expansion in palm oil production and, according to the Singapore Institute of International Affairs, is projecting some 3.5 million new plantation jobs by 2010.

Meanwhile, employment in biodiesel-related jobs worldwide is expected to increase. Chinese officials think that long-term as many as 6 million jobs will be created in China's agriculture and biodiesel production industry.
 
 
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