Bioethanol aficionados may be pleasantly surprised to see this recent post on Biopact.com which states:
According to Prensa Latina state-run company Petroleos de Venezuela is creating a joint venture (not clear with who, but likely a Brazilian partner) for the production of sugar cane based ethanol. The project includes the construction of not less than17 ethanol plants for the production of an amount of biofuel that has to have a considerable impact on the country’s reliance on refined petroleum products (which stands at 20,000 bpd).
Quite why they would want to, apart from to drive up the price of sugar cane is beyond me. Venezuela sits on a goodly chunk of the world’s oil reserves (albeit thick, tarry and hard to process). The country does import ethanol from Brazil at the moment and blends it at up to 8% with gasoline. Venezuela is a tiny sugar producer. According to US world sugar production figures (http://www.fas.usda.gov/htp/sugar/2006/May%202005%20PSD.pdf) last year Brazil produced around 29.5m tons sugar and the whole of South Africa produced 35.4 m tons (Columbia and Argentina each produced about as twice as much as the other producers, excluding Brazil). Alternatively, Venezuela is going to have to import the cane from Brazil — which ain’t going to be, easy, there is one road between the two countries and no rail lines. So, it won’t be cheap or good for the environment — alternatively it will have to grow considerably more. This plan looks set to fly like an ostrich. If you’ve got any inside knowledge about why this might make sense at all, please let me know.