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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Brazilian sugarcane ethanol production : integration of economic, ecological, and social aspects, and the future of the market Barton, Jason Joseph


Should the U.S. and others open their economies to importation of Brazilian ethanol? How would this impact the Brazilian economy, ecosystems, and people? Policy makers in the U.S., Europe, and other places have considered reducing barriers to trade as they are working to reduce their dependence on fossil fuels. Brazilian sugarcane ethanol is more efficient in terms of energy, land use, and production costs than other renewable fuels, making it a logical choice for these countries. This dissertation addresses these questions with three studies. The first (Chapter 2) is a cost-benefit analysis of the Brazilian Forest Code, legislation that has been largely unenforced, mandating that agricultural producers set aside 25-30% of their land as forests and fallow areas to protect ecological health. The second (Chapter 3) asks stakeholders their priorities in the impending increases in sugarcane and ethanol production drawing on interviews and surveys in São Paulo, the state accounting for 60% of Brazil’s sugarcane and ethanol production, with special attention paid to land use and protection of natural resources, and the impacts of increased production on labor markets. The third study (Chapter 4) examines possible future scenarios for the market, which will depend mainly on petroleum prices, the technology for renewable biomass to replace products currently coming from petroleum refineries and the ability of firms to adopt and adapt to these changes, and whether or not other countries will open their economies to importation of ethanol and any future products the Brazilian cane-energy sector may produce. The findings are that this increased production could be extremely positive for Brazilian development if private industry, government, and citizens can remain diligent in enforcing existing legislation for environmental protection and food security, and education can improve, from primary school through professional and technical training, to provide healthy and lucrative jobs as well as the workers who can drive Brazil’s innovation to become one of the most advanced economies in the world.

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