Oil palms are a vegetable oil plant more wasteful of water than other plants.

Minyak sawit merupakan minyak nabati yang lebih boros menggunakan air dibandingkan dengan tanaman lainnya.

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Oil palm’s productivity of biomass and oil is very high. The high productivity equally needs a high level of intake. However, whether a plant is wasteful in its water consumption has to be measured using the same output unit. Gerbens-Leenes et al (2009), in their research entitled The Water Footprint of Energy from Biomass: A Quantitative Assessment and Consequences of an Increasing Share of Bioenergy Supply, found an interesting result about which plant is most efficient in its water consumption to produce bioenergy. The results of the research published in the Journal of Ecological Economics 68:4 found that oil palms belong to the most efficient group (after sugarcane) in water consumption for producing each gigajoule (GJ) of bioenergy.The bioenergy-producing plants most wasteful in their water consumption are rapeseed, followed by coconut, cassava, corn, soybean and sunflower. To produce each GJ of bioenergy (oil), rapeseed plants (European vegetable oil plants) need 184 m3 of water, while coconut, which is abundant in Indonesia, the Philippines and India, requires an average of 126 m3 of water. Cassava (a producer of ethanol) needs an average of 118 m3 of water (Table).

Table:      Water requirement to produce one gigajoule of bioenergy in various plants

Types of plantsAverage water consumption
(m³/gigajoule of energy produced)
Cassava118
Coconut126
Corn105
Oil palm75
Soybean100
Sugarcane28
Sunflower87
Rapeseed184

Source: Gerbens – Leenes et al, (2009)

 

Meanwhile, soybean as the main vegetable oil plant in the US needs an average of 100 m3 of water. Sugarcane and oil palm turn out to be the most efficient in consuming water for producing bioenergy. To produce each GJ of bioenergy (palm oil), oil palms only use 75 m3 of water.

With this fact, it is clear that oil palms turn out to be relatively efficient in their water consumption for producing bioenergy. Existing views saying that oil palm is wasteful in water consumption are disproved by the research results.

Produktivitas minyak dan biomas tanaman kelapa sawit sangat tinggi. Produktivitas yang tinggi memerlukan asupan yang juga tinggi. Namun boros/tidak tanaman menggunakan air harus diukur dengan satuan output yang sama. Gerbens-Leenes, dkk (2009) dalam penelitiannya berjudul: The Water Footprint of Energy from Biomass: A Quantitative Assesment and Consequeences of an Increasing Share of Bionergy Supply, menemukan hal yang menarik tentang tanaman apa yang paling hemat air dalam menghasilkan bioenergi. Hasil penelitian yang dimuat dalam Journal Ecological Economics 68:4, menemukan bahwa kelapa sawit ternyata termasuk paling hemat (setelah tebu) dalam menggunakan air untuk setiap Giga Joule (GJ) bioenergi yang dihasilkan.

Tanaman penghasil bioenergi paling rakus air ternyata adalah minyak rapeseed, disusul oleh kelapa, ubi kayu, jagung, kedelai dan tanaman bunga matahari. Untuk menghasilkan setiap GJ bionergi (minyak), tanaman rapeseed (tanaman minyak nabati Eropa) memerlukan 184 m3 air. Sementara kelapa yang juga banyak dihasilkan dari Indonesia, Philipina, India, rata-rata memerlukan 126 m3 air. Ubi kayu (penghasil etanol) rata-rata memerlukan 118 m3 air (Tabel).

Sedangkan kedelai yang merupakan tanaman minyak nabati utama di Amerika Serikat, memerlukan rata-rata 100 m3 air. Tebu dan kelapa sawit ternyata paling hemat dalam menggunakan air untuk setiap bioenergi yang dihasilkan. Untuk setiap GJ bioenergi (minyak sawit) yang dihasilkan, kelapa sawit hanya menggunakan air sebanyak 75 m3.

Tabel.     Kebutuhan Air untuk Menghasilkan Satu Giga Joule Bioenergi pada Berbagai Tanaman

Jenis TanamanRataan Kebutuhan Air
(m³ / Giga Joule Energi yang Dihasilkan)
Ubi Kayu118
Kelapa126
Jagung105
Kelapa Sawit75
Kedelai100
Tebu28
Bunga Matahari87
Rapeseed184

Sumber : Gerbens – Leenes et al., (2009)

 

Dengan fakta-fakta di atas, jelas bahwa kelapa sawit tenyata relatif hemat air dalam menghasilkan bioenergi. Pandangan selama ini yang mengatakan sawit adalah boros air terbantahkan oleh hasil penelitian tersebut.

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