Biofuel: Brazil’s courageous investment

Biofuels are currently the best environmentally conscious alternative to the use of fossil fuels. Brazil is the world leader in the production of biofuels thanks to the investment that its government has been providing for the past 40 years.

With Brazil’s success, other Latin American and Caribbean countries are also trying to develop biofuels with the support of groups such as the Inter-American Development Bank. The main producers of sugarcane in the region are Guyana, Jamaica and Barbados.

So far, the most recognized use of biofuels is in ethanol, a gasoline mix of biofuels and fossil fuels (oil). Brazil has developed to a point at which it exports a surplus of ethanol, and the vast majority of motor vehicles are of a flex-fuel design. Furthermore, the original ethanol “recipe” was 85 percent gasoline and 15 percent biofuel, but Brazil gradually has improved the mix to 75 and 25 percent.

Currently, the most widely used biofuel is ethanol, a gasoline mixture of biofuels and fossil fuels. Brazil has come to a point where they can even export their surplus production and most of their cars can use the mix efficiently. They have also succeeded in improving the original recipe from 85 percent gasoline and 15 percent biofuel to 75 percent gasoline and 25% biofuel.

Why it is so important to develop biofuels? Oil and Coal will eventually be depleted by humans in the future. Biofuels are produced from renewable crop therefore it is considered as an eco-friendly source along with solar, wind and geothermal energy. Another advantages is that biofuels emit less carbon dioxyde than fossil fuels.

Another research angle that scientist are currently analyzing is the possibility of converting pollution and waste materials into biofuels. This would in turn be used for vehicles and heating homes.

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Brazil has been investing in biofuels since the 1970′s when other nations were closing their doors for the development of this alternative energy source. This was especially hard for the Brazilian government as oil prices were low.

The spark for Brazil came with the Middle East oil embargo of 1973. Investments were required in agricultural production of sugarcane, and in building new facilities, backed by government subsidies and tax cuts. By 1990, Brazil was producing 20 times more ethanol than in 1973 and had become “energy independent,” an achievement that is the envy of other nations. The world’s first automobile to run on ethanol was a 1979 Fiat produced in Brazil.

Brazil is now sharing its knowledge about ethanol internationally with a focus on developing countries in Latin America, the Caribbean and Africa. Analysts are saying that results are starting to show with the decline in oil prices in the past couple of months.

Other countries are investing in developing their own biofuel with the resources available. Europe is currently focusing on wheat and sugar beets. Asia is using palm oil. China is using sorghum. The United States have replaced corn with soybean and switch grass. Great Britain is developing solid biofuels with dried farm manure and trash.

Even though other countries have made large investments, they have not been able to produce a biofuel that surpasses Brazil’s sugarcane.

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