Tuesday, April 10, 2007

A Brief History on Ethanol in Brazil

Not just in the field of electricity, but also in the field of fuel Brazil has a leading position in sustainable energy. Between 1983 and 1988 about 90% of all Brazilian cars were ethanol fueled.[1] The initiative for the use of ethanol was taken in 1975, as a reaction to the oil and sugar crises that coincided. In those times Brazil was dependent on foreign oil for 38% [2] and had a substantial sugar industry, so the crises could potentially bring the country’s development to a halt. But governmental project Proalcool transformed the disadvantages of both crises to an advantage by adding distilleries to the existing sugar industry plants. This way ethanol could be produced from sugar for car fuel. Additional advantages: more energy is created per unit in comparison to fossil fuel, and it is less polluting. This way the use of ethanol contributed to cleaner air in the urban areas, where 80% of the 180 million Brazilians live. When the oil market recovered though, oil became more cheaper again, and the use of ethanol dropped to 20%.

Currently the oil prizes rise again and as the prizes of ethanol are about 70% cheaper than fossil fuels, so the expertise from the 80’ is in focus again. By now, Brazil is producing 2 billion litres of ethanol each year, which is about 40% of annual global production. Factories are being opened for refinement of ethanol from sugar cane, like for example one in the favela of Cidade de Deus (City of God) in Rio de Janeiro, the slum where the awarded movie with the same name from 2002 was based on. Alvaro Barreto from the National Technological Institution, responsible for the project, thinks these developments will help to fight poverty.[3]

[1] Sugar Powers a revolution on Brazil’s roads – Tom Phillips, David Gow – The Guardian – November 23, 2005
[2] A brief history of energy biomass in Brazil – Marco Aurélio dos Santos – Universidade Federal de Rio de Janeiro
[3] Sugar Powers a revolution on Brazil’s roads – Tom Phillips, David Gow – The Guardian – November 23, 2005

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