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Brazzil - Energy - July 2004

Brazil Puts Biodiesel in the Tank

While developed nations around the world are working on
diversifying 10 to 20 percent of their energy sources, in Brazil,
41 percent of the energy sources are renewable (14 percent is hydro
and 27 percent is biomass, with sugarcane growing fast). Petroleum
represents 43 percent and natural gas 7.6 percent of the used energy.

Nielmar de Oliveira


Picture The executive secretary of the Brazilian Ministry of Mines and Energy, Maria das Graças Foster, reports that in November Brazil will begin adding 2 percent biodiesel to diesel fuel, making it another source in Brazil's energy scheme.

Foster declared that the government is aware of the importance of petroleum and gas as an energy source, and in the provenience of taxes and income at the federal, state and municipal levels.

But she pointed out that the supply situation today is extremely worrisome, even though Brazil should be self-sufficient in petroleum by the year 2006.

"Compared to the last petroleum crisis, in 1990, today the situation is much more delicate. In 1990, the difference between demand and supply was running at around 10 percent. Today it hovers at 3 percent.

"What that means is that we have world demand at around 78 million barrels per day, while the available supply is only 80 million barrels per day. That is a very tight fit," she declared.

Today developed nations are working on diversifying 10 percent to 20 percent of their energy sources, says Foster, while Brazil already has a much more diversified scheme: 41 percent of Brazil's energy sources are renewable (14 percent is hydro and 27 percent is biomass, with sugarcane growing fast). Petroleum provides 43 percent and natural gas 7.6 percent.

Sugarcane Fuel

Foster also says that the Brazilian government is hard at work to transform the country into a significant exporter of its sugarcane-based fuel, which is actually a form of ethanol, but is called alcohol in Brazil. At the same time an effort is being made to increase the domestic use of the product, she reports.

"At the last world conference on petroleum, which took place in Germany, it was clear that our sugarcane-based fuel is an attractive trade product for Brazil. The country is seen as a supplier, a big potential exporter, one that is preferred by large nations who face the task of diversifying their energy sources," declared Foster.

Brazil and US

Last April, Minister of Mines and Energy, Dilma Rousseff, and Minister of Foreign Relations, Celso Amorim, met with the US secretary of Energy, Spencer Abraham in Brasília.

At that time Brazil talked about its interest in using sugarcane-based ethanol to generate electricity and discussed a bilateral cooperation agreement with Abraham for studies on the development of not only ethanol and biomass fuels, but a hydrogen fuel.

"We would like to have a workshop this year on biomass with the Americans," said Rousseff, adding that, "The long-term goal is to develop a hydrogen fuel because it is the most efficient and least polluting."

But, she pointed out, it will probably take 20 years to put a viable hydrogen fuel on the market to substitute natural gas, diesel and gasoline in power plants and vehicles.

At the moment, said the minister, a timetable is being drawn up for research and technological exchange programs between the US and Brazil.

Nielmar de Oliveira works for Agência Brasil (AB), the official press agency of the Brazilian government. Comments are welcome at lia@radiobras.gov.br.
Translated from the Portuguese by Allen Bennett

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