Ethanol and Brazil

In Brazil, ethanol fuel is produced from sugar cane which is a more efficient source of fermentable carbohydrates than corn as well as much easier to grow and process.

In Brazil, ethanol fuel is produced from sugar cane which is a more efficient source of fermentable carbohydrates than corn as well as much easier to grow and process. Brazil has the tropical climate that is required for the productive culture of sugarcane. Brazil has the largest sugar cane crop in the world, and is the largest exporter of ethanol in the world. High government sales taxes on gasoline, as well as government subsidies for ethanol, have cultivated a profitable national ethanol industry. Nearly all fueling stations in Brazil offer a choice of either gasoline type C or hydrated ethanol.


While US President Bush set 2025 as the target date for replacing three-fourths of the oil imported from the Middle East with American ethanol, Brazil already satisfies nearly half of its domestic passenger vehicle fuel demand with ethanol.

After decades of government intervention and subsidies, the industry here is a thriving free market business, complete with ethanol pumps at every filling station in Latin America's largest country. Millions of cars run on either ethanol, gas or any combination of the two. And there's plenty more land available for sugar cane cultivation as the planet's biggest sugar producer gears up to become its undisputed long-term ethanol supplier.

Brazilian ethanol producers and international energy experts agree that the United States will probably never come close to reaching Brazil's potential as an ethanol superpower. But they say Brazil offers clear lessons on how to boost domestic ethanol use.

With the 1973 oil crisis the Brazilian government, then run by the general Emílio Garrastazu Médici, initiated in 1975 the Pró-Álcool program.

The Pró-Álcool or Programa Nacional do Álcool (National Alcohol Program) was a nation-wide program financed by the government to phase out all automobile fuels derived from fossil fuels (such as gasoline) in favor of ethanol. It began with the anhydrous alcohol to blend with the gasoline. This mixture has been used since then and is now done with 24% of alcohol and 76% gasoline (commonly known as gasohol). The program successfully reduced by 10 million the number of cars running on gasoline in Brazil, thereby reducing the country's dependence on oil imports.

The decision to produce ethanol from fermented sugarcane was based on the low cost of sugar at the time. Other sources of fermentable carbohydrates were tested such as the manioc.

Many nations have produced alcohol fuel with limited destruction to the environment. Advancements in fertilizers and natural pesticides have all but eliminated the need to burn fields, however chemical pollution from runoff may turn out to be just as harmful to the environment as the smoke. To ensure long-term viability for Brazil's ethanol fuel industry, growers must be focused on sustainability rather than short-term productivity.

Brazil is trying to encourage ethanol use in countries from Asia to Europe. President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva said in Britain recently that Brazil wants "to plant the oil of the future" and promote radical changes in how the world generates energy.

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