Expansion of sugarcane ethanol production in Brazil: environmental and social challenges
Several geopolitical factors, aggravated by worries of global warming, have been fueling the search for and production of renewable energy worldwide for the past few years. Such demand for renewable energy is likely to benefit the sugarcane ethanol industry in Brazil, not only because sugarcane ethanol has a positive energetic balance and relatively low production costs, but also because Brazilian ethanol has been successfully produced and used as biofuel in the country since the 1970s. However, environmental and social impacts associated with ethanol production in Brazil can become important obstacles to sustainable biofuel production worldwide. Atmospheric pollution from burning of sugarcane for harvesting, degradation of soils and aquatic systems, and the exploitation of cane cutters are among the issues that deserve immediate attention from the Brazilian government and international societies. The expansion of sugarcane crops to the areas presently cultivated for soybeans also represent an environmental threat, because it may increase deforestation pressure from soybean crops in the Amazon region. In this paper, we discuss environmental and social issues linked to the expansion of sugarcane in Brazil for ethanol production,...Continue Reading
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