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Bush supports Indonesia biofuel initiatives

Written by: Staff

BOGOR, Indonesia, Nov 21: The United States is ''very supportive'' of biofuel initiatives, President George Bush said during a visit to Indonesia, which is trying to develop that sector as it copes with growing energy demand.

Bush and Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono said yesterday the issue was a major topic in their discussions, and that the United States had agreed to help Indonesia with technology in the area.

The United States, the world's largest economy, is looking at efforts to rely more on biofuel and cut reliance on imported oil while Indonesia, the world's fourth most populous country and its second largest palm oil producer, recently increased its efforts to produce more biofuel, including from palm oil.

''I am very supportive of biofuel initiatives, starting in our own country. It's important for us to develop alternative ways to power our vehicles if we want to become less dependent on oil,'' Bush told reporters in the hill town of Bogor south of Jakarta.

Bush, on his second visit to Southeast Asia's largest economy, was speaking at a joint news conference with Yudhoyono.

''The president and I spent a fair amount of time talking about the ability to develop biofuels, particularly in Indonesia's case from sugar cane as well as palm oil, and the technologies are available to convert sugar into ethanol,'' Bush said, referring to Yudhoyono.

Indonesia has said the bulk of its biofuel production will come from palm oil-based biodiesel produced by the private sector.

Indonesia and Malaysia, the world's two leading palm producers, plan to set aside up to 40 per cent of their output for biodiesel, with Jakarta estimating 600,000 tonnes of crude palm oil will be used by the biodiesel industry next year.

Indonesia's calendar year 2007 palm oil production is forecast to rise to 17.60 million tonnes from an estimated 15.90 million in 2006, overtaking Malaysia as the world's largest producer, industry sources said.

Some Indonesian plantation companies have announced plans to build biodiesel plants, such as PT Bakrie Sumatra Plantations Tbk, PT Astra Agro Lestari Tbk and privately-owned PT Asian Agri with a combined annual capacity of around 450,000 tonnes.

Several foreign companies also plan to enter the Indonesian biofuel industry, like Malaysia's Golden Hope Plantations, Genting Bhd and Sime Darby Bhd, and Singapore's Wilmar Holding Pte Ltd.

As part of the government's plans, two state-owned companies, PT Rajawali Nusantara Indonesia and PT Perkebunan Nusantara III, plan to build biofuel plants using palm oil and sugarcane.

Earlier this year, the government allowed retailers to blend 10 per cent of biofuels into fuel products. State oil and gas company Pertamina is retailing biodiesel, made up of 5 per cent crude palm oil blended with 95 per cent diesel oil.


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