Energy, Environment, Nation Building, Sustainability, Transport

Bio-fuel – Ethanol – fuel for the 21st Century


Brazil is a world leader in the adoption and manufacture of ethanol (primarily from sugarcane) as fuel for motorcycles, cars and light vehicles, which has been the result of government policy.

Faced by the oil crisis of the 1970’s where 80% of Brazil’s oil consumption was imported. In 1975 the Brazilian government adopted an energy policy to reduce it’s country’s dependence on imported oil. Today, Brazil is the second largest producer of ethanol fuel. In 2009 Brazil produced 24,9 billion litres of ethanol  and exported 4.1 billion litres of ethanol.

This has also lead to the manufacture of flex vehicles that sense the blend of fuel used and automatically adjust to run any fuel from a 20% ethanol 80% gasoline blend to 100% ethanol. 92.3% of all new cars and light vehicles bought in 2009 were of the flex variety and 39% of the overall light motor vehicle fleet.  Fiat, Volkswagen. Chevrolet, Ford, Peugeot, Renault, Citroen, Honda, Mitsubishi, Toyota and Nissan all produce flexible fuel cars for the Brazilian market. There are 49 models available with 9.3 million sales in 2009.

Environmental benefits  from ethanol produced from sugarcane is that sugarcane is a renewable resource, is less carbon intensive and produces cleaner emissions. 8.3 energy units can be obtained from one unit of fossil fuel energy. Because carbon dioxide is absorbed by the plant during the growth phase, the burning of ethanol from sugarcane is carbon neutral.

A report commissioned by the United Nations found that because of the efficient processes used in Brazil, in some circumstances has been found to be carbon negative, i.e. reducing CO2 out of the atmosphere.

Residue sugarcane waste from sugarcane is also used to produce electricity to power the ethanol plant and produces additional electricity, which is fed into the power grid.

Ethanol is a renewable, carbon neutral or carbon reducing fuel source. Ethanol offers cleaner emissions for a world faced with growing concerns for greenhouse pollution and with a diminishing and increasingly expensive fossil fuel supplies.


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