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 plants
||Average water consumption
(m³/gigajoule of energy produced)
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.