Biodiesel: His Majesty the King’s vision

Cindy Zimmerman

I am not making this headline up. It is straight out of today’s “Thai Day.” Basically, the short version is that the king of Thailand is promoting the use of biodiesel made from palm oil, but I just love the way the story is written for the Thai audience. It reads like a fairy tale …

Sometime in the early 1980s, as Sumet Tantivejkul remembers it, His Majesty the King took his trusted aide aside and said that he wanted him to look into the feasibility of using palm oil as an alternative to diesel as an energy source.

According to Sumet, His Majesty wished to keep his request quiet at the time and asked that the research be conducted discreetly, noting that the need for an alternative fuel would be realized in the decades to come.

Today, more than 20 years later, the need for an alternative to petroleum-based energy is all too apparent and HM the King’s idea of using palm oil as an alternative substitute for diesel is now a reality. As His Majesty declared in his birthday address to the nation, “palm oil seems to be a viable substitute.” He later went on to say that Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra “may have seen a royal car that runs on biodiesel, 100 percent of which is produced from palm oil. The exhaust smells good and doesn’t cause cancer.”

In response to His Majesty’s address, the Energy Ministry announced that it would promote biodiesel through tax incentives. HM the King’s interest in biodisesel became more pronounced in 2000, when petroleum prices started to soar. The Thai government responded by launching the country’s first “car-free” day to conserve oil reserves in an effort to raise public awareness of air pollution and energy conservation. But a symbolic day was hardly going to make a difference: what the country needed was a long-term solution to the problem of the earth’s rapidly diminishing oil reserves. As His Majesty realized, one solution lies in biodiesel, a substitute made from organic matter – in Thailand’s case, palm oil.

And they all lived happily ever after….

The picture is of the biodiesel reactor at the Pikul Thong Royal Development Study Center in Narathiwat.

Biodiesel, International