Brazililian blogs follow the ethanol debate as it goes global

Ethanol has suddenly turned into a popular word among Brazilian bloggers, specially because of the foreign attention it attracts. In fact, “alcohol” is the word Brazilians have been using to call its sugar-cane derived biofuel since the 70s, when Proalcool started, but blogs are surely under global influence. As President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva traveled to attend an EU-sponsored biofuel international conference last week, some blogs are tracking the global media coverage on the ‘ethanol’ issue and reacting to it.

An article on the Spanish newspaper “El Mundo” reported on Friday that the UE doesn’t want Brazil’s “dirty alcohol”. The term adresses the block’s concerns over Brazilian sugar cane cultivation practices, which are seen by European leaders as potentially harmful to the environment. (…) Concerns over the Brazilian alcohol were manifested also by the Italian “La Repubblica”, who recalled the recent liberation of 1.106 workers in slave conditions in a sugar cane farm in Pará state. According to the newspaper, Lula — who is described as the leader “with the apostle role on biofuels” — “has not mentioned (in Brussels) the connection between the two reports”. (Folha Online) ** “European representative blames Lula on leading Brazil towards unsustainability”. The Green Party’s European representative David Hammerstein has said on Thursday that President Lula is “leading Brazil through a path of unsustainability” with the biofuels and that the EU should not finance the “Brazilian environmental destruction”. “The EU should give priority to feeding and not to transportation”, Hammerstein declared in a release. The representative’s speech was being divulged at the same time Lula was trying to convince the European leaders that the growth on biofuel production in Brazil would not represent any social or environmental risk.”
Replies to Alcoholism
A Nova Corja

That’s it. Lula came up with the line saying that “ethanol is the way for Brazil, that it’s the future’s fuel”… Ok, Lula. It is. But first you must have someone to buy it. And Europe is saying that they won’t buy from Brazil. Why? It’s simple, because they have, at least, to look like they were eco-correct. So, what they’re gonna do? They won’t buy the Brazilian ethanol because our cultivation practices (1) involve slave work and (2) harms the environment. Sincerely? They are right. I am not a critic of Lula’s government more than I am a FHC’s [former Brazilian president] critic but, actually, Lula has missed on this one. What does he expected? Just close his eyes so that they could devastate (further) the Amazon in order to grow sugar cane, hoping that it would be ok? To let them do what they always do, not only with the land, but also with the workers?
Now Lula has missed itBlog do/a Lus/z

The media coverage on the issue
tells us about a heated debate over the possibility of having ethanol as a real solution to the growing global demand on clean energy, and Brazil’s position on this debate can be easily explained by projections informing that the country will respond for 70% of the world ethanol exports by 2013. Lula is working hard to make his point to both developed and undeveloped nation leaders asseverating that the biofuel framework, if correctly designed from an environmental standpoint, plays in favor of a better world balance between the rich and the poor.

Strange as it seems, Lula is not being supported this time by other formerly aligned and friendly leftist world leaders, and those voices are fiercely denouncing possible harms that the biofuel revolution can bring to food production. Meanwhile, local bloggers are also exposing flaws on the environmental aspects of the President’s speech in Brussels.

In front of an audience of ministers, specialists, entrepreneurs and NGOs, the president rejected the major worries raised in relation to the growth of biofuel production in Brazil. “The Brazilian experience proves that there is no necessary opposition between the agriculture dedicated to food production and the production of energy through biofuels. Hunger has diminished in my country in the same period while we raised the use of biofuels. Sugar cane planting has not compromised or dislocated the food production”, he said. “We all know that there is no food shortage in the world, but we do have shortage of resources capable of guarateing the access of the poor to food. We are not here choosing between food and energy”. Lula answered the critics who affirm that the expansion of sugar cane production would turn into a menace to the Amazon forest saying that “sugar cane production is less than 10% of the cultivated land in the country, less than 0.4% of the national territory. This area, we should say, is very far from the Amazon”.
Lula tries to discard European concerns about

There is an incredible coincidence between the European reaction against the combustible alcohol and the war against biofuels started by Fidel Castro. However, the rich countries’ worries are conected with the environment, while Fidel and his Bolivian, Ecuatorian, Nicaraguan and Venezuelan followers are defending the food cultivation areas — which are to be harmed by the ‘wild capitalism’ usurary race for bigger profits. Latin American concerns over ethanol comes from the assumption that it will take the food from the poor in order to feed the automobile population of the opulent crowd…
Ethanol is attacked by Europeans and by Fidel
Blog do Miranda Sá

Badly advisored, Lula is generating embarassment with the jumbled remarks he echoes from his staff. In the Amazon, there are already expressively sized ethanol plants placed in Presidente Figueiredo (Amazon state), Ulianápolis (Pará state), Arraias (Tocantins state), besides the half dozen in Mato Grosso state. According to the last official survey from Conab, an agency from the Ministry of Agriculture, the last harvest had more than 19 million tons of sugar cane coming from the legal Amazon area, among Mato Grosso, Tocantins, Maranhão, Amazonas and Pará.
Sugar cane in the AmazonAltino Machado

Lula seems to be aware
of how Brazil’s position in the international scene is boosted by its ethanol leadership, and how the full development of the biofuel revolution can turn into a menace to countries confronted with the absence of available farmable land, like the EU and the US. The issue adds pressure also on those countries positioned in favor of the farm subsidies in the Doha trade talks, and we can even come to think that, this time, the clock is running against the so called developed countries. In other words, to Brazil, Doha’s failure until now may not be bad at all.

The data revealed by Secex [Foreign Commerce Secretary] for the sugar and alcohol sector were celebrated by the Credit Suisse’s analists. Despite the poor performance of the sugar market, ethanol’s strong push is already showing the effects of the production growth in the companies. According to the Bank’s report, ethanol exports volume has grown 61.4% in the year, reaching 214 million liters. The amount reflects the start of the harvest season, which suitably increases the production… On the basis of an optimistic perspective for the long run, Itau Broker is anticipating the need of continuous expansion in sugar cane cultivation areas. The institution believes that the rapid growth in the number of flex fuel vehicles [gas / alcohol capable engines] will require an additional amount of 200 million tons in 2013, and ethanol exports will demand another 99 million tons.
With bigger production, alcohol exports grow 61% in JuneInfoMoney

The culture of the use of alcohol
as car fuel in Brazil was originated as the country’s response to the first oil crisis in 1973. It was a local solution to a global problem. Now the problem is back, and the local solution is to be launched in global scale. Meanwhile, the blogosphere looks like a good place to look for clues that may help us understand why there are no magical solutions to the big world problems. We would like to mention a comment from an American citizen blogging from Brazil, who seems to have figured out the value of oil price policies in shaping national long-time strategies (culture?).

The US is about to shift to using more biofuels simply because the supply of inexpensive oil is shrinking and because it is increasingly concentrated in the hands of foreign regimes that are not necessarily friendly to its interests. It would be a mistake to think that this shift will result in lower prices at the pumps. Indeed the problem is that fuel prices in the US are way too low. Yes, Brazilians are switching from gasoline which presently costs, here in São Paulo, about $4.60 per gallon in US dollars to ethanol which runs about $3.50 (when the price is adjusted for lower mileage). But that $3.50 per gallon for ethanol is not only higher than the current US average for gasoline but it is an enormous price when faced by a population that has one fifth the average annual income of Americans. Brazilians are certainly leading the way toward having a bio-fuel economy that can provide self-sufficiency. But that is because the relative price of fuel is so high that they cannot afford gas-guzzlers and wasteful driving habits. The same thing will happen in the US when low costs at the pumps are no longer promoted by having no energy policy. As soon as the price is right, Americans (like Brazilians) will shift toward better technologies and behaviors.
Gasoline Prices, Ethanol and BrazilVisionShare

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