Sugar cane

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Bioenergy > Feedstocks > Ethanol feedstocks > Sugar cane

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Sugarcane is a tall perennial grass with a thick stalk that stores energy in the form of sucrose. Although native to Asia, commercial cultivars of sugarcane are grown throughout the tropics for sugar, ethanol, molasses, rum, and other products. After the stalks are crushed and the sugary sap is removed, the remaining fibrous plant cellulose (called bagasse) can be burned to produce electricity, or may be used for paper, cardboard and other products.

Note: Another key sucrose-producing plant used as a feedstock for ethanol is sugar beet.

Sugarcane can be used for ethanol production.



  • The United States and Brazil are the two largest ethanol producers in the world, accounting for nearly 90 percent of global production. Brazil is the leading exporter of ethanol, using sugarcane for feedstock. In 2007, 8.4 million acres of farmland in Brazil were devoted exclusively to sugarcane production for ethanol. [1]
  • In 2007-2008 Brazil produced 5,916 million gallons of ethanol and in 2008-2009 production is estimated to reach 7,054 million gallons. By 2012 annual ethanol production in Brazil is expected to reach 10 million gallons. [2]
  • Sugarcane-based bioethanol has a better energy input to output ratio than other current biofuels (1:8). [3]
  • Bioethanol from sugar cane is estimated to have a greenhouse gas emission reduction potential of 75% to 90%, compared with fossil fuels. [4]
  • Sugarcane-based ethanol is almost entirely renewable, since sugarcane fibers or "bagasse" can provide 100% of the energy required in the industrial phase of ethanol production. [5]


Relative GHG emissions reduction potentials for ethanol by feedstock type. These estimates refer to direct emissions only, and do not include emissions from land use change. Source: Worldwatch Issue Brief: U.S. Biofuels: Climate Change and Policies (PDF file)
  • The Better Sugarcane Initiative (BSI) - BSI "is a collaboration of progressive sugarcane retailers, investors, traders, producers and NGOs who are committed to developing internationally-applicable measures and baselines that define sustainable sugar cane. BSI is an international initiative with the Steering Committee based around the world."[1]
  • Concerns have been raised about negative environmental and social impacts of sugar cane based biofuels in a coastal wetland in Kenya. [6]
  • Small farmers to join Brazil sustainable cane move, 1 September 2008, by Reuters: "Dozens of small and medium-scale farmers in Brazil's Sao Paulo state will grow sugar cane certified as meeting strict social and environmental standards, the region's cane producers association said late on Thursday."
    • Sugarcane suppliers joining the program "must refuse the use of child or slave labor, limit their use of agrochemicals, and gather their cane with mechanical harvesters as opposed to cutting it manually. Manual cutting involves burning the plant's foliage, which pollutes the air."[7]

Environmental sustainability

  • Swedish bioenergy company SEKAB received the 2009 Sustainable Bioethanol Award at the World Biofuels Markets Conference and Exhibition in Brussels for its development of Verified Sustainable Ethanol with Brazilian ethanol producers.


  • Sugarcane farming in Brazil is not found to contribute directly to deforestation in the Amazon rain forest. There is concern, however, that as demand for bioethanol increases, expanding cane plantations may displace other food crops such as soybeans, rice, and corn as well as pasture land, shifting these activities north to the forest edge and threatening future habitat loss. [8]


  • In Brazil, although federal laws have been passed to ban the practice, it is commonplace for sugarcane fields to be burned prior to harvest to "facilitate harvesting, fertilize fields with ash and remove venomous animals and reptiles".[9] This burning of cane and field residues results in air pollution in certain sugarcane producing regions of Brazil that is reported to cause respiratory problems in local populations. [10]


See books, reports, scientific papers, position papers and websites for additional useful resources.

  • Ethanol Expansion And Indirect Land Use Change In Brazil, June 2011 by Joaquim Bento de Souza Ferreira Filho and Mark Horridge from the Centre of Policy Studies. From the Abstract: "Indirect land use change from ethanol in Brazil is modelled by Ferreira Filho and Horridge using dynamic general equilibrium modelling (the ‘Brazilian Input-Output model’). For 2020, they find that each hectare of additional sugarcane for ethanol requires 0.14 hectare of new land conversion. This is nearly double the value reported by Nassar et al. (2010)."[11]



  • EPA switches course on new feedstocks in fuel standard, 6 March 2012 by Amanda Peterka for Governors' Biofuels Coalition: "On the heels of opposition from the environmental community, U.S. EPA today withdrew a rule that would have added four new feedstocks to the Renewable Fuel Standard."
    • "The direct final rule, proposed in early January, would have allowed advanced biofuels made from camelina oil, energy cane, giant reed and napiergrass to qualify under the yearly obligations set by the standard. It also would have opened the standard to biomass-based jet fuel and certain renewable gasolines made from crop residues and yard, food and municipal solid wastes."
    • "But in a notice posted today in the Federal Register, the agency said it is withdrawing the rule after receiving 'adverse comment.' EPA had proposed the initial rule without taking public comment, describing it as a 'noncontroversial' action." [12]


  • Brazil, short of biofuel, can't open spigot to US, 30 December 2011 by Reuters: "For three decades, the U.S. government sought to protect American corn farmers and ethanol makers from a feared flood of Brazilian imports by imposing a tariff that had the South American country crying foul."
    • "With Brazil's ethanol industry struggling to meet booming local demand, it's U.S. producers instead who are shipping millions of gallons to the south."
    • "Three factors have converged to push Brazil's ethanol distilleries to the limit. Sugarcane production fell this year for the first time in a decade, reducing supplies; global demand for sugar has remained strong; and domestic motor-fuel demand has surged, straining local gasoline and ethanol supply."
    • "That should come as a relief to U.S. farmers who have fought to protect their subsidized corn ethanol market from producers in Brazil, whose tropical sun and cheap land allow abundant production of sugarcane, a much more efficient biofuel feedstock than corn."
    • "Cellulosic ethanol and biomass biodiesel made in the United States are also considered advanced biofuels, but supplies of these fuels have been too low to fill demand. The resulting price increase allowed certified Brazilian ethanol to compete despite the tariff."[13]
  • Sugarcane ethanol in Brazil a substantial pollution source, 27 December 2011 by Western Farm Press: "University of Iowa researchers and their colleagues have shown that ethanol fuel producers in Brazil — the world's top producer of ethanol from sugarcane as an alternative to petroleum-based fuel — generate up to seven times more air pollutants than previously thought."
    • "The study, titled 'Increased estimates of air-pollution emissions from Brazilian sugarcane ethanol,' is featured in the Nature Highlights section and published in the Dec. 11 advance online publication of the journal Nature Climate Change."
    • "The research team used agricultural survey data from Brazil to calculate emissions of air pollutants and greenhouse gases from the entire production, distribution, and lifecycle of sugarcane ethanol from 2000 to 2008."
    • "The estimated pollutants were 1.5 to 7.3 times higher than those from satellite-based methods, according to lead author Elliott Campbell of the University of California, Merced."[14]
  • Biofuel Expansion Picks Up Pace, 8 November 2011 by "The first transatlantic flight powered by biofuel, a Gulfstream G450 corporate jet that travelled from New Jersey to Paris in June of this year, used a 50-50 blend of biofuel and petroleum-based jet fuel."
    • "The flight was estimated to have saved approximately 5.5 tons of net carbon dioxide emissions compared to the same flight powered by fossil fuel, and was hailed as a promising step toward helping the aviation industry reduce its carbon footprint."
    • "Global biofuel production is also taking flight, climbing by 17 percent in 2010 to reach an all-time high of 105 billion liters, according to researchers at the Worldwatch Institute’s Climate and Energy Program."
    • "Breaking down Worldwatch Institute figures reveals that the world produced some 86 billion litres of ethanol in 2010, 18 percent more than in 2009 while global biodiesel production rose to 19 billion litres in 2010, a 12 percent increase from 2009."
    • "Sugarcane-derived ethanol supplies 41.5 percent of the energy (48 percent of the volume) for light-duty transportation fuels in Brazil."
    • "The report further stated that the EU remained the centre of biodiesel production, accounting for 53% of global output in 2010. Growth slowed there dramatically, however, falling from 19 percent in 2009 to just two percent in 2010."[15]
  • Brazil Lacks Cane to Boost Fuel Exports, Senator Says, 7 November 2011 by BusinessWeek: "Brazilian sugar cane companies, which are preparing to boost ethanol exports to the U.S., don’t produce enough of the renewable fuel to do so, a lawmaker said."
    • "U.S. oil companies, which must comply with government mandates to blend environmentally friendly biofuels, are expected to expand their use of sugar-cane ethanol next year, and more than 100 Brazilian mills are preparing to deliver it."
    • "Under the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Renewable Fuel Standard, U.S. oil companies must blend into standard fuel 2 billion gallons (7.58 billion liters) of 'advanced biofuels' next year, Alejandro Zamorano Cadavid, an analyst at Bloomberg New Energy Finance in New York, said in a telephone interview."
    • "Advanced biofuels must emit at least 50 percent less carbon dioxide than the petroleum-based products they replace, through their entire life cycle, including growing the crops, processing it into fuel and transporting it to the gas pump. Brazilian sugar-cane ethanol meets that standard, while U.S. corn-based ethanol does not, he said."
    • "About 107 Brazilian ethanol mills had registered with the EPA at the beginning of October to export fuel to the U.S., up from 55 in February, the Sao Paulo-based cane industry association Uniao da Industria de Cana-de-Acucar said Oct. 19."[16]
  • Monsanto Sorghum Seeds to Yield Brazil Ethanol During Cane Break, 14 October 2011 by Bloomberg Businessweek: "Monsanto Co., the world’s largest seed company, will sell enough sweet sorghum for 20,000 hectares (49,400 acres) of plantations in Brazil this year as sugar cane mills struggle to meet demand for ethanol and are seeking an alternative source of the renewable fuel."
    • "Sweet sorghum, an 8-foot (2.4-meter) plant that resembles sugar cane and may yield 80 percent as much fuel, may become an alternative feedstock for Brazilian mills after a poor cane harvest forced some plants to close this month, more than a month early, for the annual inter-harvest break during the rainy season."
    • "Brazil, the world’s largest producer and exporter of sugar, will grow 588.9 million tons of sugar cane this year, down from last year’s 623.9 million tons, the country’s crop-forecasting agency Conab said Sept. 5."[17]
  • Biodiesel industry rejects EU land use impact study, 7 October 2011 by Reuters: "Europe's biodiesel industry rejected the findings of a draft EU study showing that the cultivation of rapeseed to make road transport fuels is worse for the climate than using conventional diesel."
    • "The European Biodiesel Board (EBB) said on Friday the study's central finding -- that the effects of indirect land use to produce most types of biodiesel cancel out any theoretical emissions savings -- was 'highly debatable and unscientific.'"
    • "A series of leaked EU studies showed that biodiesel from European rapeseed, South American soy beans and Asian palm oil all have a greater overall climate impact that normal diesel."
    • "If the Commission follows the advice contained in the studies and penalizes individual biofuel crops on the basis of their estimated ILUC emissions, it could wipe out the bloc's 13 billion euro ($17.5 billion) biodiesel industry overnight."
    • "It would also give a boost to ethanol producers such as Spain's Abengoa and increase the market for fuels derived from Brazilian sugar cane as the EU seeks to fill the 80 percent gap in its biofuel market currently occupied by biodiesel."[18]
  • Our sugarcane is greener than your corn: Brazil takes on US biofuel industry, 4 October 2011 by Ecologist: "Despite a poor harvest last year, Brazil’s ethanol industry is gearing up for expansion with a series of consolidations involving big companies such as Royal Dutch Shell and Petrobras showing it means business."
    • "An Institute for European Enviroment Policy study last year claimed that biofuels could create an extra 56 million tonnes of CO2 per year due mostly to deforestation worldwide."
    • "Now the industry is keen to show the rest of the world it is cleaning up its act. Producers and the Brazilian government point to more stringent regulation and claim greater mechanisation will in fact eradicate the need for harmful burning."
    • "They are also keen to emphasise that the sugarcane ethanol produced in Brazil is a much greener alternative to corn-derived ethanol from the United States or further deforestation of Europe where land is relatively scarce."
    • "A sustainability certification, Bon Sucro Standard, has been set up, with a Raizen mill in Maracai the first to be granted sustainability."
    • "The problem is chiefly one of regulating Brazil’s vast terrain, especially when it comes to the complex issue of deforestation caused by sugarcane planting."[19]
  • Sugar Cane-to-Jet Fuel Pathway Analyzed for Sustainability, 8 August 2011 by Environment News Service: "Two publicly traded aircraft manufacturers and the Inter-American Development Bank will jointly fund a sustainability analysis of renewable jet fuel sourced from Brazilian sugar cane."
    • "Shouldering the funding with the bank are The Boeing Company and Embraer S.A., the world's largest manufacturer of commercial jets up to 120 seats."
    • "For the first time, the study will evaluate environmental and market conditions associated with the use of renewable jet fuel produced by Amyris Brasil S.A., a majority-owned Brazilian company, a subsidiary of California-based Amyris."
    • "The global conservation organization World Wildlife Fund will serve as an independent reviewer and advisor for the analysis."
    • "Scheduled for completion in early 2012, the study will include a complete life cycle analysis of the emissions associated with Amyris's renewable jet fuel, including indirect land use change and effects."[20]
  • First EU sustainability schemes for biofuels get the go-ahead, 19 July 2011 press release by the European Commission: "In order to receive government support or count towards mandatory national renewable energy targets, biofuels used in the EU, whether locally produced or imported, have to comply with sustainability criteria. These criteria aim at preventing the conversion of areas of high biodiversity and high carbon stock for the production of raw materials for biofuels. In practice this means that biofuels made of crops that have been grown on land that used to be rainforest or natural grassland with a unique ecosystem cannot be considered as sustainable. In addition, the greenhouse gas emissions over the whole production chain need to be at least 35% lower compared to fossil fuels. That threshold will increase over time."
    • "Companies can choose whether to demonstrate compliance with these sustainability requirements through national systems or by joining a voluntary scheme which is recognised by the Commission."
    • "After a detailed assessment made by the Commission and various improvements the following schemes were recognised:
      • ISCC (German (government financed) scheme covering all types of biofuels)
      • Bonsucro EU (Roundtable initiative for sugarcane based biofuels, focus on Brazil)
      • RTRS EU RED (Roundtable initiative for soy based biofuels, focus on Argentina and Brazil)
      • RSB EU RED (Roundtable initiative covering all types of biofuels)
      • 2BSvs (French industry scheme covering all types of biofuels)
      • RSBA (Industry scheme for Abengoa covering their supply chain)
      • Greenergy (Industry scheme for Greenergy covering sugar cane ethanol from Brazil)
    • "The Commission is currently discussing with other voluntary schemes how these can also improve their standard in order to meet the sustainability requirements for biofuels."[21]
  • Climate impact threatens biodiesel future in EU, 8 July 2011 by Reuters: "Europe's world-leading $13 billion biodiesel industry, which has boomed in the wake of a decision by Brussels policymakers in 2003 to promote it, is now on the verge of being legislated out of existence after the studies revealed biodiesel's indirect impact cancels out most of its benefits."
    • "Biofuels were once seen as a silver bullet for curbing transport emissions, based on a theory that they only emit as much carbon as they absorbed during growth."
    • "But that has been undermined by a new concept known as 'indirect land-use change' (ILUC), which scientists are still struggling to accurately quantify."
    • "'The experts unanimously agreed that, even when uncertainties are high, there is strong evidence that the ILUC effect is significant,' said the report from the Commission's November workshop."
    • "Biodiesel from Asian palm oil, South American soy beans, and EU rapeseed all had a bigger overall climate impact than conventional diesel, said a fourth leaked document."
    • "'Ethanol feedstocks have a lower land use change effect than the biodiesel feedstocks. For ethanol, sugar beet has the lowest land use emission coefficients,' said [an] IFPRI report."
    • "The Commission's impact analysis predicts EU demand for biodiesel will collapse if their indirect impacts are taken into account in EU legislation. But at the same time it sees a sharp rise in demand for bioethanol from cereal crops and sugarcane, as well as advanced biodiesel produced from algae."[22]
  • Biofuel deal sparks land debate in Sierra Leone, 2 July 2011 by AFP: "Hailed as the biggest ever investment in Sierra Leone's agriculture, a plan to grow thousands of hectares of sugarcane to produce ethanol has raised fears over food security and land rights."
    • "Swiss group Addax & Oryx announced on June 17 that it had signed a 258 million euro ($368 million) deal with seven European and African development banks to finance the bioenergy project near Makeni in the north of the country."
    • "Sierra Leone's agriculture ministry says the company has leased 57,000 hectares (141,000 acres) of land for a period of 50 years, an area roughly the size of the US city of Chicago."
    • "Most of the ethanol -- which can be blended with gasoline and diesel to reduce dependence on harmful fossil fuels -- will be exported to European markets."
    • "Addax, which plans to develop a plantation of 10,000 hectares of sugarcane, says large areas of land are available for communities to use as the project uses up less than a third of the total land leased."[23]
  • Biofuels land grab in Kenya's Tana Delta fuels talk of war, 2 July 2011 by The Guardian: "[E]viction of the [Gamba Manyatta] villagers to make way for a sugar cane plantation is part of a wider land grab going on in Kenya's Tana Delta that is not only pushing people off plots they have farmed for generations, stealing their water resources and raising tribal tensions that many fear will escalate into war, but also destroying a unique wetland habitat that is home to hundreds of rare and spectacular birds."
    • "The irony is that most of the land is being taken for allegedly environmental reasons – to allow private companies to grow water-thirsty sugar cane and jatropha for the biofuels so much in demand in the west, where green legislation, designed to ease carbon dioxide emissions, is requiring they are mixed with petrol and diesel."
    • "The delta, one of Kenya's last wildernesses and one of the most important bird habitats in Africa, is the flood plain of the Tana river, which flows 1,014km from Mount Kenya to the Indian Ocean."
    • "The delta's people are trying to fight their own government over the huge blocks of land being turned over to companies including the Canadian company, Bedford Biofuels, which was this year granted a licence by the Kenyan environmental regulator for a 10,000-hectare jatropha 'pilot' project. A UK-based firm, G4 Industries Ltd, has been awarded a licence for 28,000 hectares."[24]
  • World's First Certified Sugarcane Hits the Market, 21 June 2011 by "Bonsucro™ today announced that the world's first impact based Standard has been used to certify the sustainable production of sugarcane."
    • "The sugarcane was produced at a Raízen mill in Sao Paulo, Brazil, and the first certified sugar has been purchased by The Coca Cola Company's bottling system."
    • "Over 130,000 tons of sugar and 63,000 cubic metres of ethanol were certified against the Bonsucro Production Standard by independent certification body SGS."
    • "Bonsucro's Production Standard assesses the biodiversity, ecosystem and human rights impacts of sugarcane production and demands legal compliance and continuous improvement throughout the production process. This is assessed against key indicators, such as energy consumption, greenhouse gas emissions and water consumption."
    • "The members of Bonsucro™ believe that an independent mainstream certification programme is an important tool which can be used to measure and help to transform the social, environmental and economical challenges of the sugarcane industry."[25]
  • Brazil to tighten control over supply and demand for ethanol, 13 June 2011 by Platts: "Brazil's national petroleum agency ANP unveiled late Friday detailed plans to tighten government regulation over the ethanol market, giving the sector a first glimpse of how the rules might affect supply and demand for the biofuel."
    • "If the measures are taken forward, ANP will require distributors of road transport fuel to regularly notify the agency of contracted volumes for the purchase of anhydrous ethanol as well as details of spot deals."
    • "ANP's measures aim to tackle a shortage of the biofuel during the December-April sugarcane inter-harvest period, when production of ethanol almost comes to a halt and prices surge."
    • "By keeping watch on supply flows and inventory levels, ANP intends to level out the amount of ethanol producers and distributors offer the market throughout the year, forcing companies to keep minimum stocks of the product to meet demand during the sugarcane inter-season."
    • "A government decree published on April 29 transferred the whole ethanol production and distribution chain -- including imports and exports of the product -- to the ANP, giving the sugarcane-based biofuel the status of a strategic fuel."[26]
  • Khosla chides Big Oil for lack of biofuels appetite, 6 June 2011 by Reuters: "Billionaire Vinod Khosla took Big Oil to task on Monday for taking more risk on a long-odds deepwater oil well than on the future of biomass energy that he says will change the world within decades."
    • "Speaking the 2011 Brazilian Ethanol Summit in Sao Paulo, the co-founder of Sun Microsystems said that the world is on the verge of a technological breakthrough in cost-effectively converting crops like sugarcane into most of the fuels and consumer products that petroleum now provides."
    • "The winners in his vision of the future world will be those who took the risks to invest in winning technologies, and those in possession of ample reserves of arable land to grow biomass crops, such as Brazil and the United States."
    • "Venture capital fund Khosla Ventures is the lead investor in the U.S.-based biotechnology firm Amyris that has teamed up with Brazilian sugarcane mills to produce advanced biofuels and biochemicals -- including bio-jet fuel, biodiesel, plastics and cosmetics from cane by employing bioengineered yeasts."[27]
  • Biofuels Future That U.S. Covets Takes Shape -- in Brazil, 1 June 2011 by The New York Times: "Several years ago, Amyris helped create a landmark achievement in medicine, engineering microbes to produce an expensive antimalarial drug. Related tricks, it later found, can create a liquid fuel similar to diesel."
    • "Using crop-derived sugars as its power source, rather than petroleum, vats of Amyris' bugs could provide carbon-neutral fuel for fleets of heavy trucks and planes within a decade."
    • "But if Amyris does all this, it won't be in the United States. It will be in Brazil."
    • "Blessed with tropical weather and abundant pastures that can be migrated to sugar cane cultivation, experts see a stark potential for Brazil's cane fields to grow almost without limit over the next decade."
    • "Over the past decade, many companies have begun promising to use advanced biology to create what are called "drop-in fuels" -- biofuels that, unlike the corn-derived ethanol added to U.S. gasoline, would be indistinguishable from petroleum."
    • "Brazil's ethanol complex is fueled by sugar cane, which requires far less energy to grow than corn -- it needs little fertilizer, and its syrup-sapped husks, when burned, provide all the refinery's electricity."[28]
  • Colombia Pursues Sweet Dream of Becoming a Sugar-Cane Ethanol Powerhouse, 9 May 2011 by The New York Times: "Though 85 percent of Colombia's cane crop is harvested in a old-fashioned way, industry leaders say they have no intention of mechanizing the harvest, for fear of mass unemployment in a rural area where people suffered during Colombia's five-decade-long civil war."
    • "Instead, sugar cane growers say they are modernizing in a different way, becoming generators of renewable energy."
    • "Envious of Brazil's accomplishments with sugar-cane ethanol, Colombia's then-president, Alvaro Uribe, championed a 2007 law that ordered all gasoline retailers in his nation to sell a mixture of 90 percent hydrocarbon fuels and 10 percent ethanol."
    • "Colombian government officials and industry leaders are eager to rapidly expand their biofuels effort, seeing it as an effective means of improving security and growing prosperity in struggling rural areas."
    • "Colombian officials see the potential for a lucrative export market in the United States. Unlike Brazil, whose ethanol faces a heavy U.S. tariff, Colombia has a pending free trade agreement with the United States that exempts Colombian ethanol from tariffs."
    • "Expanding from an 8 percent blend today to the industry goal of 30 percent will require almost tripling the area under cultivation. But Colombian biofuels enthusiasts insist this immense feat can be achieved without destroying sensitive natural resources or competing with food crops."[29]
  • Sugarcane Cools Climate, Study Finds, 17 April 2011 by Science Daily: "Brazilians are world leaders in using biofuels for gasoline. About a quarter of their automobile fuel consumption comes from sugarcane, which significantly reduces carbon dioxide emissions that otherwise would be emitted from using gasoline. Now scientists from the Carnegie Institution's Department of Global Ecology have found that sugarcane has a double benefit. Expansion of the crop in areas previously occupied by other Brazilian crops cools the local climate. It does so by reflecting sunlight back into space and by lowering the temperature of the surrounding air as the plants 'exhale' cooler water."
    • "The scientists found that converting from natural vegetation to crop/pasture on average warmed the cerrado by 2.79 °F (1.55 °C), but that subsequent conversion to sugarcane, on average, cooled the surrounding air by 1.67 °F (0.93°C)."
    • "The researchers emphasize that the beneficial effects are contingent on the fact sugarcane is grown on areas previously occupied by crops or pastureland, and not in areas converted from natural vegetation. It is also important that other crops and pastureland do not move to natural vegetation areas, which would contribute to deforestation."[30]
    • See the full study in the journal Nature Climate Change, "Direct impacts on local climate of sugar-cane expansion in Brazil"
  • Shell Shifts Biofuel Technology Focus to Brazil Sugar-Cane Waste, 8 April 2011 by "Shell, Iogen Corp. and Codexis Inc. (CDXS) have been researching enzymes to produce cellulosic ethanol from wheat stalks and sugar-cane bagasse, a sugar industry waste product."
    • "The Anglo- Dutch company has set up a $12 billion venture with Cosan SA Industria & Comercio to produce and market traditional sugar- cane ethanol in Brazil, where it’s used to fuel cars."
    • "The Hague-based Shell, Europe’s largest oil company by market value, expects the share of renewable energy in transport fuels worldwide to double over the next 10 years."
    • "Shell and Cosan, which controls the world’s largest sugar- cane processor, last year agreed to combine ethanol-making and fuel distribution assets in Brazil. Shell agreed to contribute about $1.6 billion of cash and assets including 2,740 service stations, while Cosan put up 23 cane-crushing mills, 1,730 gas stations and other assets."
    • "The cellulosic ethanol technology will let Shell and Cosan further grow fuel output in Brazil. The partners need to scale the process to a pilot project from a demonstration plant to see if it works and that may take as long as five years. If successful, industrial-scale production may start by the end of the decade, according to Shell."[31]
  • Brazil wants greater regulation of sugar, ethanol, 6 April 2011 by Reuters: "Brazil wants to increase regulation of the domestic ethanol market to ensure output, a senior government official said on Wednesday, signaling a move that could have major implications for global sugar supplies."
    • "President Dilma Rousseff has instructed Brazil's National Oil Agency, or ANP, to draft regulations that will treat ethanol as a 'strategic fuel' and no longer as an agricultural commodity, Haroldo Lima, the agency's director, told Reuters."
    • "Brazil controls more than half of the world's sugar trade and is a pioneer in biofuels such as ethanol, which it makes from sugarcane. Ethanol shares about an equal amount of the local fuels market with gasoline."
    • "World sugar prices are 25 percent off 30-year highs set in February and Brazilian cane mills have been pushing production of the sweetener close to capacity and at the expense of ethanol production."
    • "For years, Brazilian officials have threatened to tax sugar exports as a way of ensuring greater output of ethanol in between cane harvests."
    • "Brazil has imported more than 150 million liters of U.S. ethanol this year as producers struggle to supply the local market during cane interharvest, the director of a large ethanol group estimated last month."[32]
  • Brazilian demand for U.S. ethanol expected to increase, 6 April 2011 by Ethanol Producer Magazine: "U.S. ethanol exports to Brazil are expected to increase during the month of April in order to fill supply gaps brought on by economic difficulties experienced within the country."
    • "Raphael Hudson, Hart Energy’s director of research and consulting for Latin America, said high sugar prices have had some impact on Brazil’s ethanol industry, but have not played a significant role because the ability for mills to switch from sugar to ethanol production or vice versa is somewhat limited. He attributes the country’s ethanol supply shortage mostly to economic factors."
    • "UNICA, Brazil’s sugarcane industry association, stated that ethanol exports from Brazil are anticipated to drop by nearly 20 percent this season compared to the previous period. Fewer exports will improve the tight supply situation, but not by much."
    • "Last year, the country also experienced tightening supply between February and April, but chose to temporarily reduce its blend mandate from E25 to E20 in order to alleviate supply/demand issues. That wasn’t done this year, presumably as an attempt to encourage free trade with the U.S. with the hope of receiving some reciprocity in the future."[33]


  • Researchers Debate Whether Biofuels Are Truly Greener Than Fossil Fuels, 21 November 2010 by Loren Grush: "The ETC Group, an international organization supporting sustainability and conservation, has just published its newest report, an 84-page document that presents a lengthy criticism of "the new bioeconomy." In it, principal author Jim Thomas argues that using biofuels for energy and resources isn't green -- in fact, he says, in certain ways they can be more harmful to the environment than coal."
    • "But other scientists say the biofuel economy is complex, and they note that it's hard to lump absolutely everything labeled biomass together."
    • "'One needs to recognize that all biofuels are not the same. The current generation is based on corn in the U.S., based on wheat and rapeseed in Europe,' Dr. Madhu Khanna, a professor of agriculture at the University of Illinois, told"
    • "But even among the first generation, there is also sugarcane, which is a much cleaner fuel, and Brazil has a lot of available land for sugarcane production. You're able to expand without coming into conflict with food production. So you don't hear the same criticism necessarily about sugarcane."
    • "Thomas is adamant that land use will become a massive issue for the biomass industry. "This isn't a switch, it's a massive grab on land," he said. "This movement to a plant-based, or so-called green economy, will throw a lot of people off their land in the developing world."[34]
  • Fungus Genes Help Turn Grass into Ethanol, 10 September 2010 by Technology Review: "Genes copied from a common fungus could simplify the production of ethanol from abundant materials such as grass and wood chips, a development that could one day help ethanol compete with gasoline."
    • "Scientists have taken genes from a fungus that grows on grass and dead plants, and transplanted them into yeast that is already used to turn sugar into ethanol. The genes let the yeast ferment parts of plants that it normally can't digest, potentially streamlining the production of ethanol."
    • "Most ethanol is produced using simple sugars, like the glucose derived from corn kernels or sugar cane. Ethanol producers would like to use glucose from more abundant sources, such as corn husks and stalks, switchgrass, wood waste, and other tough plant materials. But those plant parts are made of cellulose, a carbohydrate built from long chains of sugars. For yeast to produce ethanol from these materials, the complex carbohydrate has to first be broken down into very simple sugars, a process that takes time and normally requires the addition of expensive enzymes."
    • "With the new technique, ethanol makers would no longer have to break cellulose down into simple sugars. Instead, they would only need to break down cellulose into an intermediate material called cellodextrin."[36]
  • Biofuels Don't Threaten Food Security - Study, 30 August 2010 by Catherine Riungu: "'Crops can be produced for bioenergy on a significant scale in West, East and Southern Africa without affecting food production or natural habitats,' said the joint report by the Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa, Imperial College London, and Camco International."
    • "'If approached with the proper policies and processes and with the inclusion of all the various stakeholders, bioenergy is not only compatible with food production; it can greatly benefit agriculture in Africa,' said Rocio Diaz-Chavez, the report's lead author and research fellow at Imperial College, London."
    • 'Bioenergy production can bring investments in land, infrastructure and human resources that could help unlock Africa's idle potential and positively increase food production,' she added."
    • "Among the report's findings is that there is enough land to significantly increase the cultivation of crops such as sugarcane, sorghum, and jatropha for biofuels without diminishing food production."[37]
  • Brazilian Senator Marina Silva comments on sugarcane ethanol in Washington, DC press conference, 26 April 2010 by BioenergyWiki staff (Rachel Kramer & Melina Unger): "We are not going to meet the world’s energy demands with sugarcane ethanol, but Brazil can make a great contribution," said Senator Silva.
    • When questioned about potential sustainability and deforestation concerns related to land use change for increased ethanol production from sugarcane, Senator Silva commented on the need for a national certification system to guarantee demand for ethanol would not compromise food production (expansion of sugarcane farming is currently prohibited in the Pantanal and Amazon regions).
  • Rival Ethanol Trade Groups Campaigning to Woo Senators, Clobber Each Other, 13 April 2010 by Greenwire/New York Times: "Two rival trade groups seeking congressional help for the ethanol industry launched advertising yesterday to promote themselves and bash one another."
    • "Growth Energy Inc., which represents U.S.-based corn ethanol producers, seeks to maintain supremacy at home, while the Brazilian Sugarcane Industry Association, or UNICA, wants to tear down corn ethanol's benefits in order to grab a larger share of the U.S. market."
    • "UNICA seeks elimination of the import tariff and of domestic subsidies for biofuels."
    • UNICA hopes "'the Sweeter Alternative campaign will help Americans understand how sugar-cane ethanol is a clean and affordable renewable fuel that could help them save money at the pump, cut U.S. dependence on Middle East oil and improve the environment,' said Joel Velasco, UNICA's chief representative in North America, in a statement."[43]
  • Brazil "temporarily" lifts ethanol tariff, baits trade hooks, 8 April 2010 by Nik Bristow at Autoblog Green: "In a gesture to improve biofuel trade relations with the U.S. and other countries, Brazil's Council of Ministers of the Board of Foreign Trade (MDIC) has temporarily lifted the country's tariff on imported ethanol, changing the tax rate from 20 percent to zero percent. The tariff will be lifted through the end of 2011."
    • "UNICA [The Brazilian Sugarcane Industry Association] has made it clear to the Brazilian government it hopes the tariff reduction is permanent, particularly should "other countries" reduce their tariffs on ethanol imports. The Brazillians are quite aware that the hefty U.S. tariff on imported ethanol expires at the end of this year."
    • "The United States imposes two duties on ethanol imports: a 2.5 percent ad valorem tariff plus an additional "other duty or charge" of $.54 per gallon. According to data from the US International Trade Commission (ITC), the combined duties have amounted to about a 30 percent tariff on ethanol imports."[44]


  • Korean firms set to invest $475M on biofuel plants, 29 May 2009 by BusinessWorld: Manila, Philippines--local firms sign "an agreement with South Korean companies to put up two biofuel plants costing a combined $475 million."
    • Two agreements signed for bioethanol and biodiesel production.
    • "...bioethanol producer Enviro Plasma, Ltd. and Central Luzon Bioenergy Corp. will put up a 500,000-liter per day bioethanol plant worth $300 million in Clark, Pampanga with sugarcane feedstock from 46,000 hectares of plantation..."
    • "South Korean biodiesel producer Eco Solutions Co., Ltd. and partner Eco Global Bio-Oils, Inc. will invest $175 million to put up a biodiesel plant capable of producing 100,000 liters of biodiesel per day...Eco Solutions had committed to invest at least 100,000 hectares to plant jatropha".
  • Brazil Can Protect Amazon as Crop Output Expands, Unger Says, 15 April 2009 by Bloomberg News: "Brazil can protect its Amazon rainforest and boost agricultural output by planting crops in areas now used for low-intensity ranching, Minister of Strategic Affairs Roberto Mangabeira Unger said."
    • "Brazil, the world’s second-biggest soybean grower, yesterday renewed a ban on sales of the oilseed planted illegally in the Amazon rainforest."
    • "Brazil is also the world’s biggest beef exporter and the biggest coffee and sugar-cane grower."[47]
  • Brazil wants help lifting US ethanol tariffs, 17 March 2009 by the International Herald Tribune: "Brazil's President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva on Monday implored American businessmen to help convince the United States to lift the 53-cent-per-gallon import tariff it places on his country's ethanol fuel."
    • Silva, "who met with President Barack Obama on Saturday, has made little progress persuading the U.S. to reduce the tariffs, which are in place to protect American farmers who make ethanol from corn. Brazil makes ethanol from sugar, in a process that is much more efficient and costs less."
    • "Silva also defended biofuels as a way to fight poverty, pointing out that while drilling for oil requires expensive investment, planting sugar cane is cheap and easy for small producers in tropical countries from Brazil to Africa."[48]


  • Small farmers to join Brazil sustainable cane move, 1 September 2008, by Reuters: "Dozens of small and medium-scale farmers in Brazil's Sao Paulo state will grow sugar cane certified as meeting strict social and environmental standards, the region's cane producers association said late on Thursday."
    • Sugarcane suppliers joining the program "must refuse the use of child or slave labor, limit their use of agrochemicals, and gather their cane with mechanical harvesters as opposed to cutting it manually. Manual cutting involves burning the plant's foliage, which pollutes the air."[49]
  • The race for nonfood biofuel, 4 June 2008 by the Christian Science Monitor: With "gas now at $4 a gallon and critics hammering corn ethanol for helping to pump up global food prices, it is clear that the holy grail of biofuels – cellulosic ethanol – needs to make its entrance soon."
    • "A big step forward came last week with the opening of the nation’s first ­demonstration-scale cellulosic ethanol plant in Jennings, La. The facility, built by Cambridge, Mass.-based Verenium Corp., will use high-tech enzymes to make 1.4 million gallons per year of ethanol from the cellulose in sugar cane bagasse, a waste product."










Tropical feedstocks for bioenergy edit
Bamboo (Charcoal) | Cassava (Biodiesel and Bioethanol) | Coconut palm (Biodiesel) | Jatropha (Biodiesel) | Nypa palm (Bioethanol) | Oil palm (Biodiesel) | Sugar cane (Bioethanol)
Bioenergy feedstocks edit

Biodiesel feedstocks:
Currently in use: Animal fat | Castor beans | Coconut oil | Jatropha | Jojoba | Karanj | Palm oil | Rapeseed | Soybeans | Sunflower seed | Waste Vegetable Oil (WVO)
Currently in research and development: Algae | Halophytes (Salt-tolerant plants)

Ethanol feedstocks:
First-generation: Cassava | Corn | Milo | Nypa palm | Sorghum | Sugar beets | Sugar cane | Sugar palm |Sweet potato | Waste citrus peels | Wheat | Whey
Second-generation: For cellulosic technology - Grasses: Miscanthus, Prairie grasses, Switchgrass | Trees: Hybrid poplar, Mesquite, Willow

Charcoal feedstocks: Bamboo | Wood
Waste-to-energy (MSW)


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