Biofuels: countries advised to follow Brazilian lead

Brazil has been producing ethanol from sugarcane since the 1970s Copyright: Rufino Uribe

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Developing countries should replicate Brazil’s programme for producing sugarcane ethanol to ensure a sustainable energy future, says Sao Paulo’s secretary for the environment.

José Goldemberg argues that ethanol production can be introduced to other countries at little cost to natural ecosystems.

Renewable sources of energy, such as biomass, currently make up just 13.6 per cent of global energy supplies, even though they are widely available and less polluting than fossil fuels.

Their widespread adoption is limited by the costs associated with importing the technology, such as wind turbines and solar panels.

But the Brazilian ethanol programme — launched in the 1970s — is based on indigenous industrial and agricultural technology that does not depend on imports, says Goldemberg in this article in Science.

Each year Brazil produces 16 billion litres of ethanol from sugarcane planted on three million hectares of land. Goldemberg suggests that expanding the Brazilian programme by a factor of ten in Brazil and other countries would supply enough ethanol to replace ten per cent of gasoline used by the world today.

Link to full article in Science