Archive for May, 2010

South Africa vs. Brazil

So what are the factors that have contributed to Brazil being the second largest producer of Bio-ethanol (they currently produce 30-35% of the world’s ethanol) after the USA. I mean they have a similar climate to us here in South Africa, they are also a third world country and have an economy that is similar to ours. And yet South Africa is far behind Brazil in terms of Bio-ethanol production.

The main reason for their success come during the oil crisis in 1973 when the Brazilian government implemented what was known as the “Proalcohol” or “National alcohol program”, which was hoped to move Brazil towards energy independance. This program was extremely effective in that today bio-ethanol accounts for around 50% of their gasoline/petrol consumption.

So what made this program so successful:
1. Tax incentives and government subsidies for bioethanol producers.
2. Mandatory mixing of ethanol with petrol, which today is set at 1:3 (E25)
3. Development of flexi-fuel vehicles which can run on any proportion of ethanol:petrol

Interestly enough I was reading the other day on the Department of Minerals and Energy’s website and was suprised to find that bio-ethanol producers in South Africa qualify for a 100% tax return on there bio-ethanol sales which works out to around R1.20 per litre of bio-ethanol sold. I was also interested to find out that in their white paper on renewable energy for 2013, they aim at making it mandatory for petrol to contain 8 – 10% bio-ethanol.

So where does that leave South Africa’s Bio-ethanol economy? Personally taking Brazil as an example, I think in a extremely promising situation and I am looking forward to seeing what happens. A move towards independance from fossil fuels and the price of oil is in my opinion a good one.

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What are Biofuels

Today a friend of mine asked me what biofuel’s are. So for those of you who haven’t a clue I’m hoping this helps.

So what are biofuels? Biofuels are fuels that are produced from biomass or in simpler terms “plant” matter. In short, they are fuels that can be used as substitutes for petrol, diesel and the like. Currently the drive for biofuel’s is being pushed by an unstable oil price and global warming which has resulted in many countries desiring to move away from their dependance on fossil fuel’s.

Brazil is one of the most notable, having started somewhere in the early 1970’s with the production of bio-ethanol, a biofuel produced from sugar cane. As an aside, ethanol and bio-ethanol is basically the same thing. Bio-ethanol is just the name they use when its meant as fuel. Anyway today in Brazil it is mandatory for cars to have a petrol blend consisting of at least 25% ethanol. Interestingly enough I was asking a new colleague of mine who has recently arrived from Brazil to join our research team and he was surprised to learn that it is not standard for Bio-ethanol to be sold at a petrol station.

Petrol and ethanol gas station in Brazil

Bio-ethanol filling station in brazil

Bio-ethanol filling station in brazil

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