So, Gabon’s president has decided to diversify the economy . . . from oil to palm oil.  You . . . have . . . got . . . to . . . be . . . joking.  First, you are trading one primary commodity for another – in other words, the economic problems of price instability and complete dependence on the consumption of others are not in any way addressed by this shift.  This is not diversification, this is retrenchment to a commodity that the British colonial government more or less stopped promoting in relatively nearby Ghana by 1920!  And don’t tell me about biofuels – palm oil suffers from the same problems as nearly every other form of biofuel, in that it is at best carbon-neutral in and of itself, but requires energy to be converted to usable fuel . . . thus making it carbon positive (i.e. a net carbon emitter).  The market for biofuels of this type is not really there yet, so this is not going to fly all that well.

Second, Gabon is home to a significant amount of high quality, old growth rainforest – home to all kinds of species not seen elsewhere, and part of the equatorial belt of rainforests that suck up 18% of annual global carbon emissions.  The last thing we need is to see Gabon trading this forested area for palm plantations.  One need only look to the situation in Indonesia, where this exact conversion is taking place, to see the kinds of fraud and environmental damage that this shift to a “benign” crop is creating.

Gabon desperately needs a new path to the future, but palm oil is not that path.  Oh, and BBC: some level of analysis that points out any of these issues would have been nice . . .