It is a shock to think of Indonesia as the world’s third largest emitter of greenhouse gases. How could a country that boasts one of the world’s most diverse ecosystems be spewing out more carbon and methane than economic powerhouses such as Germany and Japan?

The answer lies in the forest. Or what’s left of it. Indonesia has cleared close to half of its forested land for agricultural development. The country’s peat forests, which sequester immense quantities of carbon are often targeted by developers, resulting in a disproportionate amount of emissions.

The village of Muara Tae and its indigenous population have come to represent the human impacts of this trend. Like so many other villages, they are facing displacement, or by some accounts extinction, to make space for a palm oil plantation.

“In 1993 it came my time to continue my parent’s tradition of guarding the forest” says Petrus Asuy, a Dayak leader who has organized against the expansion of the palm plantation. He and his group have enlisted the help of NGOs Telepak and the Environmental investigation Agency to push back the the bulldozers.

“What we want is simple: They have to be responsible by paying penance for the destruction of our habitat.”

In the US, Indonesian palm oil interests are looking for a new trade partner. The Renewable Fuel Standard, which was expanded in 2007, requires US gas to include an ever expanding amount of renewable fuels. Will the EPA stick by its original findings that the impact of land clearing makes palm based biodiesel not as green as some would like us to think, or bend to the pressure of lobbyists from the palm oil industry?

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