Brazil signs sustainable ethanol deal with Sweden
June 27, 2008
Four firms — Cosan, Guarani, NovAmerica and Alcoeste — will sell 115 million liters of anhydrous ethanol certified to meet to certain social and environmental standards. The buyer, Sweden's Sekab, said the agreement is a response to consumer concerns over the sustainability of sugar cane ethanol.
"There have been many articles about forced labor in Brazil and also ecological issues, deforestation of the rain forest, local pollution... We are in the business and know many are exaggerated, some are false," Anders Fredikson, vice-president at Sekab, told Reuters. "But the public in general (in Sweden) doesn't know what to believe and it buys the biofuel for ethical reasons... so it's important to assure its sustainability."
Fredikson said the sustainable ethanol will result reduce carbon dioxide emissions by at least 85 percent relative to conventional petrol.
Brazilian mills will receive a 5 to 10 percent premium for the certified product, which cannot be produced using child or slave labor and must meet certain environmental standards. An independent auditor will monitor performance.
The announcement comes as part of a broader move by Brazilian firms to push certification schemes as a way to counter criticism from activist groups. Beef producers and the soy industry have recently launched similar initiatives.
Brazil's sugar cane ethanol is presently the most efficiently produced biofuel in the world, yielding 5.5 times as much energy per unit of input compared with U.S. corn ethanol. With a production cost less than a third the cost of conventional gasoline, nearly eight out of every ten new cars sold in Brazil are flex-fuel—capable of running on either an ethanol-gasoline mix ("gasohol") or bioethanol. Brazil has effectively replaced 26 percent of its gasoline with sugar-cane based fuel grown on 5 percent of its crop area.
Nevertheless, the industry has at times been the target of campaigns by NGOs that allege labor abuses and questionable environmental practices, including burning of cane fields, water depletion and pollution, and displacement of farmers and ranchers into more ecologically sensitive areas, like the Amazon rainforest. The new deal seeks to allay these concerns by tracking the environmental performance of production.
Brazil seizes cattle illegally grazing on Amazon forest lands
(6/25/2008) In an unprecedented move Brazilian authorities seized 3,100 head of cattle found grazing on illegally deforested lands in the Amazon, reports the New York Times. The cattle's owner had been fined 3 million reais ($1.86 million) in 2005 for illegal forest clearing and had ignored a court order to remove the livestock from the lands.
Biofuel production on abandoned lands could meet 8% of global energy needs
(6/23/2008) Using abandoned agricultural lands for biofuel production could help meet up to 8 percent of global energy needs without compromising food supplies or diminishing biologically-rich habitats, reports a new study published in the journal Environmental Science and Technology.
Amazon soy moratorium extended; may be expanded to other products
(6/23/2008) Soy crushers operating in the Brazilian Amazon have extended a two-year-old moratorium on the purchase of soybeans produced on rainforest lands deforested after 2006, reports Reuters.
Amazon beef producer creates eco-certified meat product with help of scientists
(6/8/2008) Independencia Alimentos SA, Brazil's fifth-largest beef producer, will create an "eco-certified", branded beef product from the Amazon's Xingu region. Certification will be based on criteria established by Alian?a da Terra, an Brazilian NGO that seeks to improve the environmental performance of ranchers and beef producers in the world's largest rainforest. The new beef product will include a per-kilo "ecosystem service fee" — calculated with the help of scientists at the Woods Hole Research Center — to facilitate a financial reward for the producer's environmental stewardship.
46% of Brazil's energy comes from renewable sources
(5/13/2008) Preliminary data from Brazil's energy ministry shows that bioenergy derived from sugar cane surpassed hydroelectric power as Brazil's secondary largest source of energy in 2007, reports Biopact.
Cellulosic energy may trigger dramatic collapse in the Amazon
(3/11/2008) Next generation biofuels may trigger the ecological collapse of the Amazon frontier and could have profoundly unexpected economic consequences for the region, warns a paper published in Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B. Dr. Donald Sawyer writes that "interacting with climate change and land use, the upcoming stage of cellulosic energy could result in a collapse of the new frontier into vast degraded pasture." The shift could increase the incidence and severity of fires, reduce rainfall in key agricultural zones, exacerbate forest die-back and climate change, and worsen social instability. Sawyer says that while difficult to anticipate, the worst outcomes could likely be avoided be promoting "intensified and more sustainable use" of already cleared areas, minimizing new deforestation, and encouraging "sustainable use of natural resources by local communities."