Biofuels can help fight poverty and climate, declares Brazilian President

Ethanol generates more than one million jobs in Brazil - both directly and indirectly - 'with higher than average salaries', said Brazilian President Lula da Silva in an interview with the European Parliament before last week's EU-Brazil Summit.

In response to what he thought about the connection between biofuels and the impact on environment, President da Silva said: “Biofuels are a great hope in terms of fighting climate change.”

He also said that the ‘fight’ competes with food production – especially in Brazil where under-nutrition is still a problem – but that “the Brazilian experience shows that biofuels can actually contribute to fighting poverty.”

President da Silva said that a recently-launched bio-diesel programme now provides work opportunities for tens of thousands of small land owners, especially in economically depressed regions in the northeast. Ethanol substitutes about 40% of all the gasoline consumed in Brazil, and bio-diesel is also expected to play an increasingly important role.

Brazil is the world’s largest exporter of ethanol and is viewed as a biofuel pioneer, where fuel drawn from sugar cane was used to launch a programme in the country thirty years ago. The United States is the largest global producer of ethanol, which it develops from maize.

With international oil prices soaring and focus on environmental impact, Brazil is now seen at the global forefront for use of biofuels.

In the interview with European Parliament, President da Silva said:

“The vast majority of developing countries are net importers of petroleum, and these countries stand to gain from the development of local sources of energy that could reduce oil imports.”

However, there has been criticism from environmentalists saying that ethanol production in Brazil may be causing damage to the Amazon Rain Forest – a claim that is strongly denied.

At the EU Summit, President da Silva said that the production of Brazil’s biofuels was being undermined because of environmental concern.

The use of biofuels is seen as vital by European Parliament, with the EU aiming to use 10% of biofuel in the petrol and diesel sector by 2020.

Dana Gornitzki

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