Ethanol Summit 2011 underlines Brazil’s Role In Global Quest for Low-Carbon Solutions

The third edition of one of the world’s top events dedicated to renewable energies, with special focus on ethanol and other sugarcane by-products, is confirmed for June 6th and 7th. Dignifying for all Latin-American subjects, it is not based on any city of the northern hemisphere, in contrast, the Ethanol Summit, launched in 2007 and held every two years, is organized by the Brazilian Sugarcane Industry Association (UNICA)  at Sao Paulo’s Grand Hyatt Hotel.
The defining phrase adopted this year – “Solutions for a Low-Carbon Economy” – sounds promising on a regional scale, and demonstrates that the sustainability battle is tackled all around the world.  Yet, the question is, how did this attainment came to happen?

Key Elements On Ethanol Blooming

The ethanol industry in Brazil is more than 30 year-old and even though it is no longer subsidized, production and use of ethanol was stimulated through the following main factors:

Low-interest loans for the construction of ethanol distilleries.

Guaranteed purchase of ethanol by the state-owned oil company at a reasonable price.

Retail pricing of neat ethanol so it is competitive if not slightly favorable to the gasoline-ethanol blend.

Tax incentives provided during the 1980s to stimulate the purchase of neat ethanol vehicles.

Nowadays, Brazil is considered to have the world’s first sustainable bio-fuels economy and the bio-fuel industry leader, a policy model for other countries; and its sugarcane ethanol “the most successful alternative fuel to date.” [According to the economist, The New York Times, and Sperling, Daniel and Deborah Gordon (2009). "4 Brazilian Cane Ethanol: A Policy Model”]

What about the environmental gain? Ethanol Fuel Benefits

     
     

 Bio fuel worlds exemplar vested in South America: Brazil
Ethanol produced from sugarcane provides energy that is renewable and less carbon intensive than oil. Bio-ethanol reduces air pollution thanks to its cleaner emissions, and also contributes to mitigate global warming by reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Greenhouse Gas Emissions

The reduction of greenhouse gas emissions compared to gasoline, is very significant, because, as much carbon dioxide is taken up by the growing plants as is produced when the bio-ethanol is burnt, with a zero theoretical net contribution. Several studies have shown that sugarcane based ethanol reduces greenhouse gases by 86 to 90% if there is no significant land use change, and ethanol from sugarcane is regarded the most efficient bio-fuel currently under commercial production in terms of GHG emission reduction.

 

 Bio fuel worlds exemplar vested in South America: Brazil
UK estimates for the carbon intensity of bioethanol and fossil fuels. As shown, Brazilian ethanol from sugarcane is the most efficient biofuel currently under commercial production in terms of GHG emission reduction.

Air pollution

The widespread use of ethanol brought several environmental benefits to urban centers regarding air pollution. Lead additives to gasoline were reduced through the 1980s as the amount of ethanol blended in the fuel was increased, and these additives were completely eliminated by 1991.

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Even though the development seems promising, some people say the industry is going through a mid-life crisis, as recent fluctuations in the price of sugar obliged Brazil to import Ethanol from the U.S. (another gigantic ethanol producer), added to other contextual factors. Yet, the nation is not letting down the matter and enormous quantities of funds are being injected by the Development Bank (BNDES) and the Brazilian Innovation Agency (FINEP) to support the Technological Innovation in the sugar-based Energy and Chemical Sectors (PAISS).
The PAISS will focus on three key areas:

1. Second Generation Bioethanol,

2.New Sugarcane Products (including development from sugarcane biomass through biotechnological processes)

3. Gasification (with an emphasis on technology, equipment and processes).With the support of the PAISS and Brazil’s massive supply of low-priced biomass, the country hopes to become a pioneer in the production of cellulose-ethanol and other advanced biofuels in order to keep its leadership in the sector. Let’s hope this helps as an example for the rest of the developing region, and for the rest of the world.