Brazil president: Ethanol production boom won’t harm Amazon
(AP) Rio de Janeiro – Brazil’s president said his nation’s booming ethanol business won’t hurt the Amazon rain forest, dismissing criticism that the alternative fuel could cause deforestation. Silva, referring to concerns raised during his European visit last week, said Monday that it is unjustified to think that increased production of sugar cane for ethanol could prompt more jungle clearing. He said that Amazon weather conditions aren’t favorable for the sugar cane used to produce ethanol.
While there are few sugarcane-ethanol plantations in the Amazon, environmentalists have voiced concerns that a global ethanol boom could accelerate rain forest destruction if trees are cleared to make room for crops. Some soy plantations in central Brazil are being transformed to sugarcane ethanol operations and environmentalists say that could lead soy farmers to move into the Amazon for their crop, which is also in high demand worldwide, particularly from China.
Cuba’s Fidel Castro and Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez have irked Brazilians by arguing that ethanol production would cause hunger by shifting food crops to energy use – an allegation Silva denies. But they have not focused on environmental complaints. Brazilian ethanol makers produced 17 billion liters (4.5 billion gallons) last year, and exported 3.4 billion liters (900 million gallons). Billions of dollars are pouring into the nation to increase production. Brazil is the world’s No. 1 sugar producer and exporter, and the leading exporter of ethanol made from sugarcane. It also is the world’s second-largest ethanol producer, trailing the United States, and is ramping up production of soybean-based biodiesel.