Brazil wants biofuels tariff reduction fast tracked at WTO

Brazil wants the WTO to fast track tariff reductions for biofuels on the basis that they are an environmental good, according to Bridges Weekly Trade Digest.

Brazil was making representations at Doha Round negotiations on liberalising trade in environmental goods, and called for specific products to be slated for expedited tariff cuts based on a request-offer process – with biofuels included.

The talks must “encourage a larger participation of developing countries in this [environmental goods] commerce and must promote their capacity to develop environmental goods industries, argues the proposal (JOB (07/146)). To this end, it advocates “improved market access for their exports of agricultural environmental goods” as a result of the negotiations. Brazil, which is one of the world’s biggest producers of ethanol, said that “biofuels are essentially an environmental good,” suggesting that trade barriers on them should be reduced


Ronald Steenblik, head of research for the Global Subsidies Initiative, which has heavily criticised subsidies for biofuel production, allowed that the Brazil’s blanket qualification of biofuels as environmental goods was “not very nuanced.” Nevertheless, he said that “cane-based ethanol from existing cane plantations has good energy balance and greenhouse-gas mitigation properties.” Given that “many countries have mandated the use of biofuels for environmental reasons, it is right and proper for Brazil to take them at their word, and ask them to level the playing field” between domestic and imported ethanol, he said. Steenblik did caution that the emissions-saving benefits of replacing fossil fuels with biofuels could potentially be compromised if large areas of savanna or forest land were to be brought under cultivation, either to directly produce biofuel feedstocks or to make up for displaced food, fibre or feed production.

Ron has a couple of good points here. If biofuels are to be used then surely it makes more environmental sense to grow them in areas where there are advantages rather in the north, where food crops have to be diverted into their use. Politically, the boot is on the other foot in the EU and US.

I don’t want to run farmers down, I but maybe they should think about growing crops that make economic sense without subsidies.

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4 Responses to Brazil wants biofuels tariff reduction fast tracked at WTO

  1. David B. Benson 17 October, 2007 at 12:03 am #

    I am all for eliminating the unreasonable tariffs and subsidys for ethanol, sugar and cotton in the U.S.

    Cotton? Yes. The U.S. cotton growers could then use the land for a sensible biofuels crop.

  2. Mark C R UK 17 October, 2007 at 11:02 am #

    Seeing as Simon’s going on about water so much – we should note cotton production is an absolute sponge for our water reserves….

    Infact I am thinking of one inland sea that is very much depleted due to cotton production… “the aral sea” in asia.

    Thats why so much R&D has gone into alternative synthetic/natural polymers preferably as biproducts of biofuel/biomass-derived chemical production.

    It’s coming…. we’re thinking along the lines of closed-loops for fuel/chemicals/monomers now and looking for many new “value added” platform molecules available from biomass.

  3. biofuelsimon 17 October, 2007 at 2:45 pm #

    Using petrochemcials to make polyester for example, is a much better use of oil than simply buring it as gasoline. And it can be recycled..

  4. Mark C R UK 24 October, 2007 at 4:40 pm #

    But this is classic petroleum chemistry Simon – it’s all about the fractions! You can’t use naptha to make polyester without reforming it and introducing functional groups (the esters!).

    I think we get both ends of the argument – but that it’s not a one size fits all solution at either end (petro- and bio- ends).

    There’s pros and cons for both, depending on the situation!

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