Launched in 1975, Brazil’s ethanol programme, Próalcool, has propelled
the country towards being the world’s number one producer, user and
exporter of sugarcane ethanol. Próalcool not only reduced national
dependence on imported energy, it also bolstered the economy, created
jobs and diversified the country’s renewable energy portfolio. Many
countries in Africa and Asia are dependent on imported energy and could
consider cultivating fuel crops by learning from the Brazilian
experience. The development of ethanol in Brazil was not flawless,
however, and as such, other nations wishing to develop a biofuels market
can avoid making the same mistakes by understanding the specific
challenges and impacts of ethanol production in Brazil. This Guide
begins by describing the main phases of ethanol production in Brazil,
including an analysis of key government initiatives and some of the most
important benefits to date. The following section then presents the
social, economic and environmental impacts of biofuel production in
Brazil, before discussing the prospects of second generation ethanol, a
more environmentally-friendly biofuel. Finally, the Guide describes the
main enabling factors behind ethanol production in Brazil and summarises
key policy and practice lessons. Links to further reading and key
organisations are also provided to guide readers to additional
The biggest biofuels programme in the world, Brazil’s Próalcool, has had
important successes including reducing dependence on oil imports,
decreasing GHG emissions and creating jobs.
Government policies and incentives have been fundamental to stimulating
and maintaining competitive ethanol production.
Negative environmental and social impacts of ethanol production must be
tackled with innovative planning tools and strong enforcement measures.
Second generation ethanol offers the potential for significantly
increasing productivity without the need for expanding cultivation, and
may therefore be considered a more sustainable fuel option.
Ninô de Carvalho, P. ELLA Guide: The Story of Brazil&#8217;s Ethanol Programme. ELLA, Practical Action Consulting, Lima, Peru (2013) 11 pp.