BBEST presents advances in bioenergy | AGÊNCIA FAPESP

José Goldemberg opens International Bioenergy Conference, which gathers more than 200 researchers from Brazil and abroad in Campos do Jordão to debate sector perspectives (photo:Guilherme Bessa/BBEST)

BBEST presents advances in bioenergy

August 31, 2011

By Janaína Simões, from Campos do Jordão

Agência FAPESP
– This August, the Brazilian Bioenergy Science and Technology Conference – BBEST, brought together researchers from Brazil and abroad to discuss scientific and technological advances, business and policies for broadening production of biofuels.

Roughly 700 people participated in BBEST activities. Physicist José Goldemberg, winner of the 2008 Blue Planet Prize awarded by the Asahi Glass Foundation, opened the conference, presenting the evolution of bioenergy production in Brazil.

Others participating in the opening panel were FAPESP’s scientific director, Carlos Henrique de Brito Cruz, the conference president, Hernan Chaimovich, BBEST secretaries Glaucia Souza and Luís Augusto Barbosa Cortez, and president of the planning committee, Marie-Anne Van Sluys. According to Souza – who, like Van Sluys is a member of the coordination team for the FAPESP Program for Research on Bioenergy (BIOEN) – 233 researchers and 218 students from 21 countries and 163 organizations from every continent presented studies during the two days of meetings.

“Goldemberg is one of the pioneers in biofuel research in the world. In the mid-1970s,  he was already discussing sustainable production of ethanol in Brazil, preoccupied with topics like the biofuel energy balance – how much is spent in fossil fuels to produce renewable fuels,” affirms Brito Cruz.

Goldemberg is a physicist and professor at Universidade de São Paulo (USP). He was minister of Education, Science and Technology, in addition to serving as Environment Secretary for São Paulo State.
Goldemberg affirmed that major problem with biofuels is its usage in transportation. “It is a special challenge because we have people who are addicted to cars,” he joked.

According to him, in the United States, there are almost 800 vehicles per 1,000 inhabitants. In Brazil, the ratio is nearly 100 cars. São Paulo City has ratio of nearly 500 vehicles per 1,000 people and São Paulo State, some 400 cars per 1,000 inhabitants.

“Ethanol production from corn in the United States uses a lot of fossil fuel, which makes Brazilian production based on sugarcane much more advantageous from an economic and sustainability standpoint, since plants produce energy using sugarcane bagasse and are practically self-sufficient,” he said.

Goldemberg also highlighted that there is much room to increase production and productivity in the agricultural sector, and a little less so in the industrial sector. “The cost of producing ethanol has dropped dramatically. Today it is cheaper than producing gas,” he stressed. The cost of 100 liters of sugarcane ethanol is € 14.40 and for corn ethanol it reaches € 39.47.

The professor also countered arguments that ethanol produced in Brazil is less sustainable. Classifying these arguments as almost ideological, he said that the international assertion that expansion of sugarcane production in Brazil has caused a spike in food prices is unfounded and untrue.

“Scientific models have shown that sugarcane will not cause the advance of agricultural areas and pastures into the Amazon, the so-called indirect impact on land use. We have models that strongly contradict this idea,” he noted, recalling that the same models indicate that usage of pasture will intensify and can could to contribute to increased foodstuff production.

He cited as an example the public policy actions that seek to guarantee the sustainability of ethanol which stream from initiatives undertaken by producers in São Paulo State, the largest grower in Brazil, to mechanize harvesting, eliminating burnings.

Today, 60% of the harvesting in São Paulo is done by machines. Furthermore, the state government has undertaken agronomical and ecological zoning. The document guides sugarcane crop growing in the state, identifying areas deemed appropriate, appropriate but with restrictions and limitations, and inappropriate.

The 1st BBEST was held at the Campos do Jordão Convention Center through August 18. The meeting was sponsored by FAPESP, BIOEN-FAPESP, CNPq, Capes, CTBE, Unica, Braskem, Embraer, BP Biofuels Brazil, Monsanto and Oxiteno.

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