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Issues | Transport | Bio fuel


Bio fuel in Brazil


In Brazil they have been using sugar cane to make ethanol - a fuel which can power cars, lorries and buses instead of petrol. Other countries are making fuel from soyabean, sugar beat, corn and palm oil. These new fuels are called biofuels.

Making fuel from sugar cane

Brazil is now using fuel called ethanol made from sugar cane for 40 per cent fuel needs for cars, lorries and buses. Brazil is the world’s largest sugar cane produce and is quickly becoming the world’s largest producer of biofuels. In 2004, half of its sugarcane crop was used for sugar and half for ethanol. Brazil is considering exporting some of its fuel made from sugar cane to Japan and China. Brazil has worked out a way of producing ethanol from sugar cane which is really energy efficient. Once the sugary syrup is removed from the cane, the fibrous remainder (bagasse) is burned to provide the heat needed for distillation, eliminating the need for an additional external energy source. This helps explain why Brazil can produce cane-based ethanol for just 60¢ per gallon.

Potential risks

If Brazil wants to produce more fuel made from sugar cane it will need to increase the amount of land which is used to grow sugar cane. The risk is that parts of the Amazon basin will be used to grow sugar cane and this will pose a major new threat to plant and animal diversity.

Biofuels in other countries

The United States produces ethanol made from corn. In Europe the main countries producing bio fuels are France, the United Kingdom, and Spain. Europe's biofuels are mostly made from sugar beets, wheat, and barley.

Which plants make the most ethanol?

  • Sugar beet in France yields 714 gallons per acre
  • Sugar cane in Brazil yields 662 gallons per acre
  • Corn in the U.S.A yields 354 gallons per acre, or roughly half the beet and cane yields.

Bio fuel can also be mean from plant oils. Fuel made from plant oil is called bio diesel. This is not the same as the ethanol made from plants such as sugar cane.

Which plants make the most oil?

  • oil palm plantations yield of 508 gallons per acre.
  • coconut oil yields 230 gallons per acre
  • rapeseed yields 102 gallons per acre
  • soya beans are grown primarily for their protein content and yield only 56 gallons per acre.

Why are biofuels a good idea?

Governments around the world support biofuels production because of concerns about climate change and a possible reduction in availability of imported traditional oil. Since substituting biofuels for gasoline reduces carbon emissions, governments see this as a way to meet their carbon reduction goals. Biofuels also have a domestic economic appeal partly because locally produced fuel creates jobs and keeps money within the country.




Project originally funded by EU and DfID with support from Tower Hamlets LEA