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BRAZIL
Ethanol´s toll
2/10/2010
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Biofuel expansion plan poses indirect threat to Amazon Rain Forest.

Brazil´s plan to expand plantations for ethanol production over the next decade pose an indirect threat to the Amazon rain forest, causing massive deforestation by 2020 and a carbon debt that would take 250 years to be paid back once indirect land use impacts are factored, a new study said.

Brazil, the world´s largest exporter of ethanol, said late last year it will prohibit sugar cane crops on important ecological areas including the Amazon basin, Pantanal wetlands and the Alto Paraguay basin.

But the advance could have indirect impacts, and offset biofuels´ savings of greenhouse gas emissions, according to a study published in early February by US journal Proceedings by the National Academy of Sciences.

Sugarcane ethanol and soybean biodiesel each contribute to nearly half of the projected indirect deforestation of 121,970 square kilometers by 2020, creating a carbon debt that would take about 250 years to be repaid using these biofuels instead of fossil fuels, found that “the planned expansion of biofuel plantations in Brazil could potentially cause both direct and indirect land-use changes.”

“Indirect land-use changes, especially those pushing the rangeland frontier into the Amazonian forests, could offset the carbon savings from biofuels,” said the study.

On Feb. 1, Brazil´s government announced a US$21-billion joint venture between oil giant Royal Dutch Shell and Cosan, the country´s largest ethanol producer, to help increase the South American country´s production and distribution of the fuel.

Roughly 88% of [biofuel] expansion (145,700 square kilometers) would take place in areas previously used as rangeland. Food cropland area replaced by biofuels would reach 14,300 square kilometers,” said the study, led by David M. Lapola, of Germany´s University of Kassel, meaning the rangeland border could be pushed back into the forest.

“Biofuel organizations and the government should support initiatives toward modernization of the cattle ranching sector to guarantee that the production of biofuels is not causing [indirect land use changes], which would compromise the ef?cacy, in terms of carbon savings, of their own product,” concluded the study.
–Latinamerica Press.


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