SAO PAULO, Brazil – During the second Ethanol Summit, the Brazilian government defended the ecological relevance of ethanol, claiming its production was a viable alternative to environmentally harmful fossil fuels. Officials also denied that demand for biofuels would raise commodity prices, as some detractors have argued, or that producing fuel with sugar cane and maize would lead to higher food prices.
The summit in Sao Paulo included representatives from the Brazilian government, business figures and international researchers. Prominent guests included former U.S. President Bill Clinton who, according to Estadao, urged Brazil to prove it could produce sustainable ethanol and reduce gas emissions without sacrificing Amazon rainforests to grow sugar cane.
In February the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) published a report stating “latest forecasts point to further increases in the use of cereals for production of biofuels,” quoted AFP. However, the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) suggested that this criticism could be disregarded and ruled out that Brazil was dedicating less arable land to food production.
According to EFE, Lula's presidential Chief of Staff Dilma Rousseff said, “Ethanol cannot be the scapegoat for the failure of international organisations, because the production and use of ethanol are not and will not be responsible for the prices of agricultural primary materials”. The IDB’s Vice President for Countries Roberto Vellutini added, “Ethanol production is one of the most efficient industrial processes”.
According to figures published by AFP from Brazil's Sugar Cane Industry Union (Unica), of the 354.8 million hectares of arable land in Brazil, just 1 percent is given over to growing sugar cane, compared to 5.8 percent to soy beans and 3.9 percent to maize.
Brazil is the world's second-largest biofuels producer from sugar cane, which in 2008 contributed to reducing “greenhouse gas emissions by 90 percent,” announced Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva in a message to the summit. Meanwhile, Dilma Rousseff told EFE, “In these 30 years, with the use of ethanol, we have avoided the emission of 850 million tonnes of carbon gases”.