Brazil Makes the Case That It Can Expand Ethanol and Keep Its Forests

Sugarcane plantation in Brazil The president of Brazil, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva is going to present on November 17, in São Paulo, in the Brazilian southeast, an agricultural zoning plan that is currently being prepared by the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Supply of Brazil.

The study should be disclosed at the opening of the international conference on biofuels "International Conference on Biofuels: Biofuels as a driving force of sustainable development", to take place from the November 17 to 21.

"The study is going to show the areas for expansion of agriculture in the country, without including the Amazon, the Pantanal (wetlands in the west of the country), native Indian areas, forests, cities, etc.," said, in an interview to foreign correspondents, ambassador André Amado, undersecretary general for Energy and Top-End Technology at the Itamaraty, who is responsible for the event.

According to him, the research is effectively going to reveal the areas to be used by several crops, including sugarcane for production of ethanol, without this implying in deforestation. The study shows land that is currently underused. "It will be a great advance in this area, as details are lacking," he said.

According to figures disclosed by the ministry, the country has 65 million hectares available for the expansion of sugarcane, being 37 million now in grazing land. In early October, the minister of Agriculture of Brazil, Reinhold Stephanes, said that the cultivation of sugarcane should expand into these grazing grounds, which are well distributed throughout Brazil.

Stephanes added that over the next eight years, Brazil should need from four to five million hectares to double production of sugarcane. He also said that zoning is a system to generate compatibility between food and biofuel production and respect to the environment.

From time to time, production of biofuels is the target of criticism of other countries due to the fear that it may occupy areas turned to food and may also boost deforestation. For over a year now the government of Brazil has been working on showing that this is not the case in Brazil. The conference this month was announced by president Lula at the UN General Assembly in 2007.

According to André Amado, the target of the conference is to objectively discuss the potential of biofuels. In Brazil, ethanol has been broadly used in vehicles for over 30 years and the country dominates the whole chain of production and use of the product.

The ambassador pointed out that it is possible to prove on black and white that biofuels are currently the cleanest and cheapest forms for generation of electric energy.

"We do not plan to convince people to import ethanol from Brazil, but to export the idea that biofuels are currently the cleanest source of energy in the world," he said. "Also due to the fact that domestic demand in Brazil should reduce the possibility of exports," he explained.

The ambassador added that the sector productive chain may represent a development alternative for poor nations, especially in Africa. "There are African countries whose annual consumption of energy is similar to that of Iguatemi Shopping center," he said, referring to a traditional shopping mall in São Paulo. "Imagine the importance an ethanol mill would have for a country like that," he declared.

Amado recalled that Brazil and the United States, the two main global producers of fuel alcohol, are already working on a program for promotion of ethanol in developing nations. Today the project promotes initiatives in Latin America and the Caribbean, but at a second moment it should be expanded to Senegal and Guinea Bissau, in Africa. "We want to share what we know about biofuels with other developing nations," he said.

Since the release of the idea of the conference, international economic conditions have changed. At the end of last year, the price of oil was rising, there was great inflationary pressure on food and also fear of lack of supply and the financial crisis had not yet caused the recent global financial losses.

The ambassador pointed out, however, that the discussion about biofuels is not conjectural, but structural. That is, the importance does not depend on what the main topic of international talks is. From last year to date, several countries, mainly in the European Union, have lightened their considerations regarding ethanol, especially with regard to the product made in Brazil.

The conference should include topics like energy safety, climate change, sustainability – including food safety and generation of income -, innovation – including the development of second generation fuels, like cellulose ethanol – and the discussion of commercial, technical and social and environmental rules.

Also, together with the US, Brazil is already working on the creation of a standard for ethanol so that it may be treated as a commodity. These talks, according to Amado, include other countries, like South Africa and India. According to him, the topic is also being discussed by other governments, including the European Union, and by the private sector.

In this area, another question considered important and that should be discussed is the creation of an international organization turned exclusively to the energy sector, which currently does not exist. "We want there to be one," said the ambassador.

He pointed out that between 35 and 40 international delegations headed by ministers have already confirmed presence in the conference, and around 500 people have registered on the Internet to see the debates.


Anba –


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