Saturday, May 23, 2009

Growing biofuel without razing the rainforest can't cultivate biofuel crops without cutting down trees, right? Not so, says Marcos Buckeridge, who tells Jan Rocha how Brazil can supply the world with green ethanol

Your aim is for Brazil to produce sustainable biofuel while preserving its rainforests. Isn't that close to having your cake and eating it?

It's true that those of us who think like this are in a minority, caught between those who don't worry about the environmental costs of bioethanol and those who claim it is impossible to produce biofuels sustainably. The answer to those who condemn all biofuels has to be to differentiate where these fuels are being produced: we must ensure that Brazil's biofuel is green and sustainable.

How do you do make it sustainable?

A few years ago, when the search for fossil fuel replacements became more urgent, Brazil rediscovered the sugar cane ethanol programme it put into place in the 1970s because of the oil crisis. Back then, nobody worried about sustainability. Now we have to show why Brazil's sugar cane ethanol is different from America's maize ethanol. It is unfair to lump the two together. Our bioethanol is produced by using less than 1 per cent of Brazil's total agricultural area. It does not destroy preserved areas or compete for land with food crops. In fact, Brazilian food production should increase in the next five years. People fear sugar cane will be planted in the Amazon rainforest, but it is too humid for sugar cane there. We want to supply the world with green ethanol without cutting down a single tree. That's the challenge. …

Growing biofuel without razing the rainforest

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