A New, Global Oil Quandary: Costly Fuel Means Costly Calories - Peak cooking oil? Answered
The interconnectedness of the world can sometime be striking. I noticed yesterday that Safeway, a west coast grocery store chain, has converted it trucks to biodiesel. Due to increased fuel-demand for things that were previously only considered foodstuffs, the cooking oils carried by the biodiesel-fueled trucks were probably significantly more expensive. In Malaysia, this has even idled some plants design to refine oils into biodiesel:
Here on Malaysia's eastern shore, a series of 45-foot-high green and gray storage tanks connect to a labyrinth of yellow and silver pipes. The gleaming new refinery has the capacity to turn 116,000 tons a year of palm oil into 110,000 tons of a fuel called biodiesel, as well as valuable byproducts like glycerin. Mission Biofuels, an Australian company, finished the refinery last month and is working on an even larger factory next door at the base of a jungle hillside.
But prices have spiked so much that the company cannot cover all its costs and has idled the finished refinery while looking for a new strategy, such as asking a biodiesel buyer to pay a price linked to palm oil costs, and someday switching from palm oil to jatropha, a roadside weed.
from the NYT article A New, Global Oil Quandary: Costly Fuel Means Costly Calories
And there's more: as more and more baked goods eliminate trans-fats, those fats are often replaced with palm oil, so the pastries carried by the biodiesel-fueled trucks are themselves consuming more edible oil.
While this will increase the price to make and ship a snack cake in the US, it has much greater effect elsewhere. Since people in the developing world get such a large percentage of their calories from cooking oil, increased prices have caused riots:
No category of food prices has risen as quickly this winter as so-called edible oils -- with sometimes tragic results. When a Carrefour store in Chongqing, China, announced a limited-time cooking oil promotion in November, a stampede of would-be buyers left 3 people dead and 31 injured.