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. Brazil Seeks To Bolster Ethanol Sector

Last month, Rodrigues said he expected the demand for ethanol to double over the next eight years and if Brazil was going to keep its hold in the market, it would have to build 73 new ethanol-producing mills and increase its growing capacity by 50 percent.
by Carmen J. Gentile
Rio De Janeiro (UPI) Feb 06, 2006
Brazilian officials are jockeying for funding to increase the country's production of ethanol, a leading bio-fuel that is cleaner burning that petroleum.

Over the past few weeks, the ethanol industry in Brazil has garnered much attention both at home and abroad, with President George W. Bush saying in his State of the Union speech that the United States needed to reduce its dependency on volatile nations and their oil supplies.

In Brasilia, ethanol advocates like Agricultural Minister Roberto Rodrigues have called for a $10 billion investment in the sugarcane industry, which is already the largest in the world. Ethanol is most commonly produced using either corn or sugar.

Last month, Rodrigues said he expected the demand for ethanol to double over the next eight years and if Brazil was going to keep its hold in the market, it would have to build 73 new ethanol-producing mills and increase its growing capacity by 50 percent.

"Ethanol is strategic for the country," said the minister following meetings with Brazilian sugar and ethanol executives.

Rodrigues' $10 billion request and remarks appeared to have had a powerful effect on the market, prompting raw sugar prices to reach a 24-year high in January.

Such is the potency of the ethanol ideal, particularly the sugar-based variety, said PierPaolo Cazzola, an energy analyst at the Paris-based International Energy Agency.

Cazzola said sugarcane ethanol has "large potential to reduce C02 emissions," up to 80 or 90 percent. Ethanol produced from starchy materials can reduce carbon dioxide emission from 15-20 percent, he added.

Brazil is already leaps and bounds ahead of the United States and other developed countries when it comes to using ethanol's full potential, making its use a matter of law. All Brazilian gasoline must contain 25 percent ethanol and most vehicles produced in the country can run on any mixture of the two fuels.

Back in the 1970s, Brazil's Pro-Ethanol Program subsidized sugar mills to produce extra product specifically for the production of the bio-fuel in the wake of the oil price spike experienced worldwide. Now with oil prices skyrocketing amid unrest in the Middle East, Brazil is once again experiencing a boom in the ethanol trade.

Brazil's federal energy company Petrobras signed an agreement last week to carry out a feasibility study for a new $225 million pipeline to carry ethanol from the center-west state of Goia to the coastal state of Sao Paulo.

The pipeline would have a capacity to transport about 1 billion gallons of the fuel annually to Petrobras's refinery where it would be mixed with gasoline. It would also create new opportunities for ethanol exports through the state's ports, said Petrobras in a statement.

"We are the only country in the world that has the technology to build an ethanol pipeline," Petrobras Chief Executive Sergio Gabrielli. "To make the ethanol market grow is strategic for the world, not just for Brazil."

If Brazilian projections for ethanol demands come true, then the projected pipeline and the minister's request for additional sugar investment would fuel the growing global demand for alternatives to oil.

by 2010, domestic and foreign demand for ethanol is expected to rise to about 6 billion gallons a year, said an agricultural ministry study, up from 4 billion annually now.

Last year Brazil produced 13 million gallons, though it is in talks with several nations, including the United States, China and India, to export 65 million gallons in the coming years.

Even if projections for global and national ethanol demand come to fruition in the next four years, Brazil won't be reaping the benefits of its added fuel production if the United States isn't committed to exploring bio-fuel options, noted Cazzola.

"A demand market must first be developed" through policy that ensures ethanol makes its way to American filling stations, he said.

When Brazil first introduced ethanol to drivers, the government made it mandatory for Petrobras to sell the fuel at its stations.

Source: United Press International

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