A Sweeter Way to Go Green
Newsweek, August 19, 2007
How Brazil is transforming sugar cane into ethanol that it claims is a cleaner, cheaper and more sustainable source of fuel.
According to its advocates, sugar cane ethanol is the next best thing to hotwiring the sun. Relatively speaking, they say, it's also easy on the atmosphere, releasing a fraction of the carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping gases that add to the world's steamy greenhouse. Also, because plant waste can be used as fertilizer or as fuel to fire the distillery furnaces, making sugar ethanol requires only a fifth of the gasoline and diesel it typically takes to make fuel from crops like corn. And Brazil's sweet brand of ethanol is efficient, brewed without the official price props or government handouts that are common in Europe and the United States.http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/20341334/site/newsweek/But environmental groups aren't so juiced. Trailing Lula was a chorus of jeers from world environmentalists and civic groups, such as Conservation International, the Brazilian labor organization CUT, and even the United Nations Environment Program. They have portrayed sugar cane as the steamroller of agriculture, flattening forests and untold species of wildlife in its path, and decried ethanol as a serious polluter crossdressing as green fuel. Though fuel alcohol burns cleaner than fossil fuels, the doubters predict the biofuel boom will push sugar cane deep into the backlands, all the way to the Amazon basin, so destroying precious biodiversity. Naysayers also claim that turning over farmland to energy crops will crowd out conventional crops, sending the price of food and animal feed soaring.