Not all biofuels are the same
Just this week, Cambodia opened its first biofuel production facility, an ethanol factory managed by the South Korean MH Bio-energy Group. The group plans to buy cassava from Cambodian farmers in order to produce ethanol for sale on the international market. While some farmers are already growing cassava, the group said it will encourage farmers to convert more land to cassava production.
However, not all biofuels require agricultural commodities. Some biofuels can be derived from post-consumed goods—like used cooking oil converted into biodiesel. This kind of biodiesel not only turns a waste product into a valuable resource, it is considered to be more environmentally friendly fuel than petro-diesel. Planet Biodiesel, a non-profit based on environmental sustainability in Cambodia, currently produces biodiesel in this manner, collecting used cooking oil from restaurants in Phnom Penh. However, as with most benefits, there is a cost to consider as well. As demand for biodiesel grows in Cambodia, Planet Biodiesel may become a competitor to street vendors, who also require the inexpensive used cooking oil to make their living.
These were just some of the factors we considered at PEPY when we recently purchased a small diesel truck (some have called it the Green Machine). We currently buy clean-burning biodiesel (at a price fixed to that of petro-diesel) from Planet Biodiesel to fill up our tank. While we still use our own two legs to get around as much as possible, a vehicle became more of necessity this year because of our substantial growth. Rather than renting a gasoline-guzzling truck or bus every time we need to transport materials or people, we felt that purchasing a biodiesel burning truck was the best option for PEPY, both from an environmental and cost standpoint.
Simply put, the decisions we make and the actions we take on a daily basis have long-lasting environmental effects. There are not always ideal solutions, but if we continually make choices that minimize our use of natural resources, we can live in a more sustainable manner. Using products like biodiesel made from recycled vegetable oil is just one way we feel we are making PEPY a greener organization.