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April 30, 2006 10:42PM
http://www.sanluisobispo.com/mld/sanluisobispo/news/world/14467992.htm

Brazil's ethanol program struggles to make a dent

RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil - Brazil's booming ethanol industry has won international acclaim, but recent supply and pricing problems suggest that it's not the grand solution to tight oil supplies and ever-rising prices that had been hoped.

Brazilian ethanol producers are struggling to keep up with domestic demand for ethanol, which is projected to grow by 50 percent over the next five years. Yet a 15 percent jump in prices earlier this year sparked a sharp drop in consumption. Even so, suppliers are struggling to plant enough fields of new sugar cane, from which ethanol is produced here, to keep up with the anticipated growth in demand.

Some energy experts say this has revealed the limits of Brazil's ethanol program and that it is an unreliable energy source, one that can't be depended on to make much of a dent in worldwide use of fossil fuels.

"Here is the classic dilemma of biofuels," said Tad Patzek, geoengineering professor and biofuels expert at the University of California at Berkeley. "They fight for space in the environment, they fight food production and they fight consumption trends. They are not the answer to the energy crisis."

Such hard lessons come as unwelcome news for U.S. consumers, who are encountering record high prices at the gas pump and threats to oil supplies in politically troubled countries.

In his State of the Union address in January, President Bush asked Americans to look toward alternative fuels such as ethanol as a way out of their energy crunch.

Yet if Brazil is hitting bumps on the ethanol road, Americans, who consume more than 10 times as much oil as Brazilians, face a minefield.

Replacing a year's worth of U.S. gasoline consumption with sugar cane-based ethanol would require a swath of farmland a little smaller than California. Replacing that gasoline with less efficient corn-based ethanol, which the United States produces lots of, would require farmland the size of Texas.

"Biofuels will not make any kind of impact on Americans, the way they're consuming now," Patzek said.

This is a prime example, of how one of the main alternative energy schemes, touted as a fix for US energy woes, is in realistic terms, a pipe dream, when it comes to the real comprehensive replacements, that will absolutely be necesary, as hydrocarbons go into depletion. You have Bush, the " leader " of the one remaining super power nation, who is sending the message to the population that a " solution " like ethanol fuel, will solve the coming energy crisis. So the public takes in this message, and gets in the mindset, that everythings going be ok, the govenment has a handle on things with these alternative energy solutions. The implication is that we can continue on with the mass consumption party, business as usual, because things like ethenol, will save the day, lifestyles can stay the same. So everyone keeps running, full speed, towards the cliff they don't see, because they are being lied to, or they are to pre-occupied with the pleasures of affluence to notice, or care about the dire warning signs. People had ample warning about the coming catastrophe for New Orleans. The information was there, but not enough people listened, not enough people cared to prepare for the coming, inevitable storm. The realities we are facing with the abundant hydrocarbon energy sources that has built our societies, and its inevitable coming depletion, represents an issue, that dwarfs by incalculable proportions what Huricane Katriana did. All societies ignore this huge issue at thier own great peril, because they will feel, all to soon, the effects of what reality is, as compared to the illusions, and lies, that for various reasons, have been put to them as truth. Wrap you mind around just how much the peoples of this world, consume everyday, in energy, and every thing else, and remember Easter Island. We are following thier path, and will meet their same fate, if we don't wake up, don't stop sleepwalking towards the cliff before us, and find within ourselves, the capacity, and the will, to comprehensively, as nations and peoples, make meaningful changes, alterations in our manner, develop sustainable living arrangements, realize that we have populated this beautiful blue planet, far beyond its carrying capacity. These are the types of things we must become aware of, respond to, but will we in the end? Time will reveal the story, of what we chose, or didn't choose to do, and the prices we may have to pay, for the choices we made.
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