Sugar cane ethanol and Brazil

There’s a piece entitled Why the Promise of Biofuels is a lie by Robert Bryce. It is pretty anti biofuels, mainly ethanol, it doesn’t talk about biodiesel. It is worth looking at for the way it pulls together a couple of sources on the plight of Brazilian sugar cane harvesters. Their lot is pretty hard.

 But there is no need for it to be a model across the sugar cane-to-biofuel project.

In my opining Bryce’s piece could do with looking at fuel economy too… but I am a bit obsessed with that.

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3 Responses to Sugar cane ethanol and Brazil

  1. Pradeep 26 February, 2009 at 4:47 pm #

    Ethanol might not be the answer to our energy independence, but neither is maintaining the status quo. Tom Friedman’s argument about how the US/rest of the world is funding terrorism by importing oil from bad actors is plain commonsense. Dollars do not grow in the sands or forests of the OPEC countries.

    About the worker conditions:
    I find them deplorable, but doesn’t better news coverage of these events will eventually lead to an improvement of the same? I don’t mean to be overly critical here, but if the world’s countries were so enamored about human rights, why are we still importing oil from OPEC countries, which do not have a particularly rosy human rights record?

  2. Simon Robinson 27 February, 2009 at 10:23 am #

    Pradeep, I think you’re at least partly right. We go to war in countries with bad human rights records to protect oil supplies, yet we stand by and watch others go to the dogs because they’ve got nothing we want. You can fill in the gaps. I’m not sure that it is entirely cynicism, partly it’s a lack of resources.
    The situation in Brazil sounds very much like the situation in the UK in the early part of the Industrial Revolution. Infamously workers were often paid in tokens, which they could only use at their employer’s shops. This lead to the formation of trades unions, which campaigned for workers rights and also the Cooperative movement which sourced good quality food at fair prices. The first one to survive were the Rochdale Pioneers. Perhaps we’ll see something similar happening in Brazil.

  3. Ben Richardson 15 July, 2009 at 4:31 pm #

    Regarding the worker conditions in Brazil, one trend that is often overlooked is that the workforce is becoming increasingly slimmed down and technocratic. This means that while indentured labour certainly still exists, and should be challenged by commentators and activists, what is as important as the quality of the jobs provided in the ethanol industry is the quantity. Despite the huge expansion of the sugarcane industry, especially in the Centre-South region, over 100,000 field labourers are expected to be made redundant in the near future, offset by a much smaller number of scientists, managers and machine operatives employed to replace them. I hope that the unions are able to better support those workers that remain in the industry; my fear is that they are likely to become irrelevant to the rural population as a whole as the industry stimulates an exclusive type of economic growth.

    If it’s not too much of a self-promotion, please check out a paper written by myself and two other academics on the subject…,1433.html

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