May 1, 2008

Brazil Has a Clear Advantage in Biofuels

Recently, there have been several attacks in the media on biofuels and how ethanol is posing a risk to agriculture. The Brazilian Government has been quick to establish the differences between Brazil’s successful sugar-cane ethanol program and the U.S. corn-based model. Sugar-cane is 2.5 times more productive in terms of use of land. While Brazil produces 7,500 liters of ethanol per acre, the U.S. produces only 3,000 liters.  Improved productivity comes from agro-technology, ideal soil conditions and lower operating cost. The end result is that Brazil’s ethanol costs US$0.20 per liter with no federal subsidies, while it costs US$0.47 for the American corn ethanol with US$ 6 billion a year in federal subsidies.  The U.S. taxpayer is contributing to an unsustainable model. Another important difference is that 15% of Brazil's sugar cane crop is being rotated with soy or beans, which eliminates the argument that ethanol takes land away from agriculture dedicated to food production. In fact, the country is expanding its agricultural footprint.  Brazil is expected to set another record grain production this year: 140 million tons. So, no matter what the critics might say, decades of research and development has proven that Brazil has taken a leading role in developing a renewable source of fuels and should continue leading the way.

1 comment:

Eric said...

Yes the advantage is clear. But certain nations who profit from peak oil are not comfortable welcoming a new frontline player "to the table" in the global energy economy. Brasil culturally and politically approaches innovation and change differently than the US or Europe or the OPEC nations. Fortunately, negative media linking biofuels with increased world hunger has little impact on a nation that, as JK said, can complete fifty years of change in five.