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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Title: Biofuels in Brazil: An overview

item Nass, Luciano
item Pereira, Pedro
item Ellis, David

Submitted to: Crop Science
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 4/23/2007
Publication Date: 11/1/2007
Citation: Nass, L.L., Pereira, P.A., Ellis, D.D. 2007. Biofuels in Brazil: An overview. Crop Science 47:2228-2237

Interpretive Summary: As the world demand for energy continues to increase, the cost of petroleum products also increase. Costs for transportation fuels are a prime indicator of raising oil prices. This has led to many research programs around the world which are looking at alternative, non-petroleum based sources for transportation fuels. Such fuels, principally from plants, are termed “biofuels” and include ethanol and biodiesel. Brazil serves as a global model for biofuel production because it has one of the longest continually run programs for ethanol production from sugar cane. Starting in the early 1930’s, the Brazilian government recognized the high price of dependency on foreign oil and subsidized programs for the production of ethanol as a biofuel. As the price of both oil and sugar, the alternative use of sugar cane, fluctuated, Brazil’s ethanol program also had its ups and downs. Today, Brazil is the world’s second largest producer of ethanol. Another form of biofuel, biodiesel, is a supplement to petroleum-made diesel and can be produced from vegetable oils. Although Brazilian research on biodiesel lagged that of ethanol production, today Brazil has active programs and national goals for the production of biodiesel. In this review we highlight the history of the Brazilian biofuel industry and add insight into the future direction of this industry.

Technical Abstract: The demand for food, fuel and energy resources continues to increase worldwide. Currently, there are many international efforts into renewable, sustainable, and environment friendly solutions for these problems. The spiraling price of petroleum, in addition to adverse effects of using non-renewable resources, are major reasons for interest in renewable sources of energy. Brazil, the fifth largest and fifth most populated country in the world, has been developing successful initiatives in renewable sources for energy for over 75 years. The production and use of ethanol, from sugarcane is a global model for ethanol production, distribution and use and therefore, the Brazilian ethanol industry has attracted interest from scientists, producers, and governments of both developed and developing countries. Like ethanol, biodiesel is also receiving increasing interest in Brazil as a biofuel, with the source material for biodiesel production varying widely between regions. Several oleaginous species have been used and others are being investigated as potential sources for biodiesel production. Biodiesel was introduced much later than ethanol in Brazil with the formation of the Brazilian Energy Matrix in January 2005 with a mandatory use of at least 2% (B2) biodiesel by 2008 and 5% (B5) by 2013. This paper presents a general view of the historic development of the ethanol and biodiesel programs in Brazil, and also emphasizes a strategic role of plant genetic resources as a pillar to support future improvements through plant breeding.

Last Modified: 06/25/2017
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