"Brazilian Sugarcane Ethanol is The Most Competitive Renewable Energy Worldwide."
Interview with Jose Goldemberg, a Brazilian physicist and the current Secretary for the Environment of the State of Sao Paulo, Brazil, in which he explains the potential role of ethanol in the world energy market and the Brazilian Ethanol model.
What is the ethanol world production to date?
Officially in 2005 it was 12,150 million gallons (46 BLN liters) (http://www.ethanolrfa.org/industry/statistics/#E). But it has grown a lot since then, especially in Brazil (17.4 BLN liters in 2007) and the US (18.3 BLN liters in 2007).
What does it represent in relation to oil production?
A very small fraction. The world consumes 4.9 trillion liters (around one cubic mile) of oil each year. It is expected that world ethanol consumption will reach 54 billion liters by 2010, accounting for about 1 percent of world oil consumption (Which is estimated to exceeed 5.151 billion liters by 2010 according to the World Energy Coucil ).
Do you consider ethanol cost effective, compared to oil and other renewable
In Brazil it has reached full competitiveness with gasoline. Brazilian sugarcane ethanol is the most competitive renewable energy worldwide.
Would you say there is a Brazilian Ethanol model? Is it exportable?
Yes. It is based on subsidies in the early stages, being progressively removed. It depends, of course, on adequate feedstocks.
What role will Brazil play in the Biofuel market?
Brazil is an important benchmark for developing countries capable of growing sugarcane. It is also a provider of significant amounts of ethanol for export, replacing gasoline in the OECD countries.
Is ethanol truly safe for environment?
Local pollutant emissions are safe, carbon emissions are very low. Competition of fuel with food, feed and fiber, as well as protection of biodiversity and water resources, depend on adequate environmental safeguards (licencing, certification etc.).
Will the development of sugarcane for ethanol be a threat to other agriculture products for the food supply?
Not in Brazil, nor in many developing countries with rain-fed cultures. This development requires assessments of potential areas, which are plenty worldwide.
Beside ethanol, what other biomass-derived fuels are being developed?
Biodiesel is the second main Biofuel. We also have solid Biofuels being used to produce electriciy, e.g. sugarcane bagasse and wood chips. A major breakthrough technology development, hopefully soon to come, is production of ethanol from Cellulose.
Interview by Christopher Le Coq
José Goldemberg is a Brazilian physicist and the current Secretary for the Environment of the State of São Paulo, Brazil.