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The sustainability of ethanol production from sugarcane


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  • Goldemberg, José
  • Coelho, Suani Teixeira
  • Guardabassi, Patricia
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    The rapid expansion of ethanol production from sugarcane in Brazil has raised a number of questions regarding its negative consequences and sustainability. Positive impacts are the elimination of lead compounds from gasoline and the reduction of noxious emissions. There is also the reduction of CO2 emissions, since sugarcane ethanol requires only a small amount of fossil fuels for its production, being thus a renewable fuel. These positive impacts are particularly noticeable in the air quality improvement of metropolitan areas but also in rural areas where mechanized harvesting of green cane is being introduced, eliminating the burning of sugarcane. Negative impacts such as future large-scale ethanol production from sugarcane might lead to the destruction or damage of high-biodiversity areas, deforestation, degradation or damaging of soils through the use of chemicals and soil decarbonization, water resources contamination or depletion, competition between food and fuel production decreasing food security and a worsening of labor conditions on the fields. These questions are discussed here, with the purpose of clarifying the sustainability aspects of ethanol production from sugarcane mainly in São Paulo State, where more than 60% of Brazil's sugarcane plantations are located and are responsible for 62% of ethanol production.

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    Bibliographic Info

    Article provided by Elsevier in its journal Energy Policy.

    Volume (Year): 36 (2008)
    Issue (Month): 6 (June)
    Pages: 2086-2097

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    Handle: RePEc:eee:enepol:v:36:y:2008:i:6:p:2086-2097

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    1. Moreira, Jose R. & Goldemberg, Jose, 1999. "The alcohol program," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 27(4), pages 229-245, April.
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    Cited by:
    1. Marcos Adami & Bernardo Friedrich Theodor Rudorff & Ramon Morais Freitas & Daniel Alves Aguiar & Luciana Miura Sugawara & Marcio Pupin Mello, 2012. "Remote Sensing Time Series to Evaluate Direct Land Use Change of Recent Expanded Sugarcane Crop in Brazil," Sustainability, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 4(4), pages 574-585, April.
    2. Crago, Christine L. & Khanna, Madhu & Barton, Jason & Giuliani, Eduardo & Amaral, Weber, 2010. "Competitiveness of Brazilian sugarcane ethanol compared to US corn ethanol," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 38(11), pages 7404-7415, November.
    3. Janssen, Rainer & Rutz, Dominik Damian, 2011. "Sustainability of biofuels in Latin America: Risks and opportunities," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 39(10), pages 5717-5725, October.
    4. Foteinis, Spyros & Kouloumpis, Victor & Tsoutsos, Theocharis, 2011. "Life cycle analysis for bioethanol production from sugar beet crops in Greece," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 39(9), pages 4834-4841, September.
    5. de Lucena, André Frossard Pereira & Szklo, Alexandre Salem & Schaeffer, Roberto & de Souza, Raquel Rodrigues & Borba, Bruno Soares Moreira Cesar & da Costa, Isabella Vaz Leal & Júnior, Amaro Olimpio, 2009. "The vulnerability of renewable energy to climate change in Brazil," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 37(3), pages 879-889, March.
    6. Schmitt, William F. & Szklo, Alexandre & Schaeffer, Roberto, 2011. "Policies for improving the efficiency of the Brazilian light-duty vehicle fleet and their implications for fuel use, greenhouse gas emissions and land use," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 39(6), pages 3163-3176, June.
    7. Walter, Arnaldo & Dolzan, Paulo & Quilodrán, Oscar & de Oliveira, Janaína G. & da Silva, Cinthia & Piacente, Fabrício & Segerstedt, Anna, 2011. "Sustainability assessment of bio-ethanol production in Brazil considering land use change, GHG emissions and socio-economic aspects," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 39(10), pages 5703-5716, October.
    8. de Souza, Raquel R. & Schaeffer, Roberto & Meira, Irineu, 2011. "Can new legislation in importing countries represent new barriers to the development of an international ethanol market?," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 39(6), pages 3154-3162, June.
    9. Mairon G. Bastos Lima, 2013. "Adjusting Biofuel Policies to Meet Social and Rural Development Needs: Analysing the Experiences of Brazil, India and Indonesia," Policy Research Brief 40, International Policy Centre for Inclusive Growth.
    10. Horta Nogueira, Luiz Augusto & Moreira, Jose Roberto & Schuchardt, Ulf & Goldemberg, Jose, 2013. "The rationality of biofuels," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 61(C), pages 595-598.
    11. Salgado Junior, Alexandre Pereira & Carlucci, Fabio Vogelaar & Grespan Bonacim, Carlos Alberto & Novi, Juliana Chiaretti & Pacagnella Junior, Antonio Carlos, 2014. "Investment Potential for New Sugarcane Plants in Brazil Based on Assessment of Operational Efficiency," International Food and Agribusiness Management Review, International Food and Agribusiness Management Association (IAMA), vol. 17(2).
    12. Santos, Omar Inacio Benedetti & Rathmann, Regis, 2009. "Identification and analysis of local and regional impacts from the introduction of biodiesel production in the state of Piauí," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 37(10), pages 4011-4020, October.
    13. Compeán, Roberto Guerrero & Polenske, Karen R., 2011. "Antagonistic bioenergies: Technological divergence of the ethanol industry in Brazil," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 39(11), pages 6951-6961.
    14. Geraldes Castanheira, Érica & Grisoli, Renata & Freire, Fausto & Pecora, Vanessa & Coelho, Suani Teixeira, 2014. "Environmental sustainability of biodiesel in Brazil," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 65(C), pages 680-691.
    15. Yan, Xiaoyu & Crookes, Roy J., 2009. "Life cycle analysis of energy use and greenhouse gas emissions for road transportation fuels in China," Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews, Elsevier, vol. 13(9), pages 2505-2514, December.
    16. Govinda Timilsina & Simon Mevel, 2013. "Biofuels and Climate Change Mitigation: A CGE Analysis Incorporating Land-Use Change," Environmental & Resource Economics, European Association of Environmental and Resource Economists, vol. 55(1), pages 1-19, May.
    17. Ankita Juneja & Ruben Michael Ceballos & Ganti S. Murthy, 2013. "Effects of Environmental Factors and Nutrient Availability on the Biochemical Composition of Algae for Biofuels Production: A Review," Energies, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 6(9), pages 4607-4638, September.
    18. Stattman, Sarah L. & Hospes, Otto & Mol, Arthur P.J., 2013. "Governing biofuels in Brazil: A comparison of ethanol and biodiesel policies," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 61(C), pages 22-30.
    19. Mathews, John A. & Tan, Hao & Moore, Michael J.B. & Bell, Geoff, 2011. "A conceptual lignocellulosic 'feed+fuel' biorefinery and its application to the linked biofuel and cattle raising industries in Brazil," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 39(9), pages 4932-4938, September.


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