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  Ethanol Fuel  

Benefits

Ethanol produced from sugarcane provides energy that is renewable and less carbon intensive than oil. Bio ethanol reduces air pollution thanks to its cleaner emissions, and also contributes to mitigate global warming by reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Energy Balance

One of the main concerns about bio ethanol production is the energy balance, the total amount of energy input into the process compared to the energy released by burning the resulting ethanol fuel. This balance considers the full cycle of producing the fuel, as cultivation, transportation and production require energy, including the use of oil and fertilizers. A comprehensive life cycle assessment commissioned by the State of São Paulo found that Brazilian sugarcane based ethanol has a favorable energy balance, varying from 8.3 for average conditions to 10.2 for best practice production. This means that for average conditions one unit of fossil-fuel energy is required to create 8.3 energy units from the resulting ethanol. These findings have been confirmed by other studies.

UK estimates for the carbon intensity of bio ethanol and fossil fuels. As shown, Brazilian ethanol from sugarcane is the most efficient bio fuel currently under commercial production in terms of GHG emission reduction.

 
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Greenhouse gas emissions

Another benefit of bio ethanol is the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions as compared to gasoline, because as much carbon dioxide is taken up by the growing plants as is produced when the bio ethanol is burnt, with a zero theoretical net contribution. Several studies have shown that sugarcane based ethanol reduces greenhouse gases by 86 to 90% if there is no significant land use change, and ethanol from sugarcane is regarded the most efficient bio fuel currently under commercial production in terms of GHG emission reduction.


However, two studies published in 2008 are critical of previous assessments of greenhouse gas emissions reduction, as the authors considered that previous studies did not take into account the effect of land use changes. Recent assessments carried out in 2009 by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the California Air Resources Board (CARB) included the impact of indirect land use changes (ILUC) as part of the lifecycle analysis of crop-based bio fuels. Brazilian sugarcane ethanol meets both the ruled California Low-Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS) and the proposed federal Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS2), despite the additional carbon emissions associated with ILUC. On February 3, 2010, EPA issued its final ruling regarding the RFS2 for 2010 and beyond, and determined that Brazilian ethanol produced from sugarcane complies with the applicable 50% GHG reduction threshold for the advanced fuel category. EPA’s modeling shows that sugarcane ethanol from Brazil reduces greenhouse gas emissions as compared to gasoline by 61%, using a 30-year payback for indirect land use change (ILUC) emissions. By September 2010 five Brazilian sugarcane ethanol mills have been approved by the EPA to export their ethanol in the U.S. under the advanced bio fuel categor.

 
       
 
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History

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Production

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Production process

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Agricultural Technology

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  Milling & Refining
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Overall Energy Use

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  Prices and effect on oil consumption
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Comparison with the United States

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Environmental & Social Impacts

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  Concerns