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Brazil: 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.

Uma reportagem do jornal espanhol “El Mundo” diz nesta sexta-feira que a União Européia não quer “álcool sujo” do Brasil. O termo é uma referência à desconfiança do bloco dos 27 em relação às práticas de cultivo de açúcar brasileiras, vistas por líderes europeus como potencialmente danosas ao ambiente. (…) A desconfiança em relação ao álcool brasileiro foi manifestada também pelo italiano “La Repubblica”, que recordou a recente libertação de 1.106 trabalhadores forçados de uma fazenda de cana-de-açúcar no Pará. Segundo o jornal, Lula – descrito como o líder “que faz o papel de apóstolo dos biocombustíveis”– “não disse [em Bruxelas] que as duas notícias estão interligadas”. (Folha Online) ** “Deputado europeu acusa Lula de levar Brasil à insustentabilidade“. O deputado europeu David Hammerstein, do Partido Verde, afirmou nesta quinta-feira que o presidente Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva “está levando o Brasil por uma estrada de insustentabilidade” com os biocombustíveis e que a União Européia não deve financiar a “destruição ambiental brasileira”. “A UE deve dar prioridade à alimentação e não ao transporte”, afirmou Hammerstein em um comunicado. A fala do deputado foi divulgada ao mesmo tempo em que Lula tratava de convencer os líderes europeus de que o aumento na produção de biocombustíveis no Brasil não representa nenhum risco ambiental ou social.”
Répilcas ao Alcoolismo
A Nova Corja

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

Pois é. O Lula veio todo com aquele papo de que “o etanol é a saída para o Brasil, é a o combustível do futuro”… É, Lula. É. Mas, primeiro, você tem que ter quem compre. E, do Brasil, a Europa não quer comprar. Porque? Ora, simples, porque eles têm que, pelo menos, parecer ecocertos. Então, o que eles vão fazer? Não comprar etanol brasileiro porque nossos meios de cultivo 1)envolvem trabalho escravo e 2)destróem o meio ambiente. Sinceramente? Certos eles. Não sou crítico do governo Lula mais do que sou crítico do FHC, mas, de fato, nessa o Lula pisou na bola. O que ele esperava? Fechar os olhos para devastarem(mais) a Amazônia e plantar cana, esperando que desse certo? Deixar fazerem o que sempre fazem, não só com a cana, com os trabalhadores?
Agora o Lula sentouBlog do/a Lus/z

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.

Diante de uma platéia que reuniu ministros, estudiosos, empresários e organizações não governamentais, o presidente negou as maiores preocupações levantadas em relação ao aumento da produção de biocombustíveis no Brasil. “A experiência brasileira mostra ser incorreta a oposição entre uma agricultura voltada para a produção de alimentos e outra para a produção de energia. A fome no meu país diminuiu no mesmo período em que aumentou o uso dos biocombustíveis. O plantio de cana-de-açúcar não comprometeu ou deslocou a produção de alimentos”, afirmou. “Todos sabemos que não há escassez de alimentos no mundo, mas escassez de renda capaz de garantir o acesso das populações mais pobres ao que comer. Não estamos aqui escolhendo entre comida e energia.” Contra as críticas de que a expansão da produção de cana-de-açúcar poderia ameaçar a floresta amazônica, Lula disse que “o cultivo da cana no Brasil ocupa menos de 10% da área cultivada do país, ou seja, menos de 0,4% do território nacional”.
“Essa área, é bom que se diga, fica muito distante da Amazônia.”
Lula tenta afastar remores europeus sobre biocombustívelDireitodoEstado.com

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 biofuelsDireitodoEstado.com

Há, na repercussão que o álcool combustível suscitou na Europa, a incrível coincidência de se somar ao combate que Fidel Castro abriu contra os biocombustíveis. Entretanto, a preocupação dos países ricos é com a preservação do meio ambiente, e a de Fidel e dos seus seguidores bolivianos, equatorianos, nicaragüenses e venezuelanos, é defender as áreas de plantio de alimentos – que serão prejudicadas pela corrida usurária do “capitalismo selvagem” para conquistar mais lucros. A desconfiança dos latino-americanos é de que o etanol venha tirar comida dos pobres para alimentar a população automobilística dos opulentos…
Etanol é combatido pelos europeus e por Fidel
Blog do Miranda Sá

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

Mal assessorado, Lula gera constrangimento com declarações desencontradas quando repete frases de assessores da Casa Civil. Na Amazônia, já existem usinas de porte expressivo em Presidente Figueiredo (AM), Ulianópolis (PA), Arraias (TO), além de meia dúzia no Mato Grosso. De acordo com o último levantamento oficial da Conab, um órgão do Ministério da Agricultura, de maio deste ano, na safra passada houve mais de 19 milhões de toneladas de produção de cana-de-açucar na Amazônia Legal, entre Mato Grosso, Tocantins, Maranhão, Amazonas e Pará.
Cana de Açúcar na AmazôniaAltino Machado

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.

Os dados revelados pela Secex (Secretaria de Comércio Exterior) referentes às exportações do setor sucroalcooleiro foram bem recebidos pelos analistas do Credit Suisse. Apesar do fraco desempenho da comercialização do açúcar, o forte avanço em etanol já mostrou os efeitos da maior produção por parte das empresas. Segundo relatório do banco, o volume de exportações de etanol cresceu 61,4%, na comparação anual, atingindo 214 milhões de litros. O montante é reflexo do início da época de colheita da cana-de-açúcar, que, conseqüentemente, amplia a produção… Com base em uma perspectiva de longo prazo otimista para o setor de açúcar e álcool, a Itaú Corretora prevê a necessidade de contínuos avanços nas plantações de cana-de-açúcar. Para a instituição, o crescimento dos veículos flex deve requerer uma capacidade adicional de 200 milhões de toneladas em 2013. E as exportações de etanol devem utilizar outras 99 milhões de toneladas.
Com maior produção, exportação de álcool cresce 61% em junhoInfoMoney

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

From local to global, and back to local.

4 comments

  • The comment goes as an update.
    Heres is the link of a page full of good links about ‘Brazil’s Ethanol Diplomacy‘:

    Brazil has also extended a hand to sub-Saharan Africa (Reuters), signing cooperation agreements with five different countries. Brazil’s national oil company, Petrobras, announced in May it plans to build an ethanol plant in Nigeria’s Niger Delta. The Brazilian government has also opened an agriculture research center in Ghana (Brazzil) to transfer technology to Africa and advise African countries on developing biofuels industries. Many developing countries (Science) can learn from the Brazilian model, writes Jose Goldemberg of the University of Sao Paolo. Biopact, a group that promotes bioenergy partnerships between Europe and Africa, blogs that “Brazil is effectively giving birth to a new development paradigm, based on South-South exchanges, in which access to energy, energy security and social development are key.”

  • At the recent annual national meeting of the Green Party of the United States, Marco Antonio Mroz, the International Secretary of the Green Party of Brazil (Partido Verde do Brasil http://www.pv.org.br), spoke about the role of bio-fuels in Brazil.

    Below are three videos of his presentation, in Portugese with translation (meaning someone stood next to him and translated into English, what he was saying in Portugese)

    Part of Marco’s point in these presentations, is that the growing scale of bio-fuels in Brazil, especially as they talk about doing so for export, is not sustainable for the land or the people.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UI_uJApoUhE (11:08)
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dw74NR6he3E (13:21)
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b-8mtiHPEN0 (07:31)

  • […] eingesetzt werden kann, ist auf brasilianischen Blogs zum großen Thema geworden, berichtet Jose Murilo Junior und gibt einen hervorragenden Überblick zu den Hintergründen der Debatte. Der […]

  • […] Brazil: Blogs follow the ethanol debate as it goes global (2007) […]

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