Sustainable Ethanol Production in Brazil

A joint project of GLS, FGV-São Paulo, and University College London

Many countries, including the US and the EU, are looking to ethanol as a way to reduce dependence on petroleum and lower carbon emissions from transportation. Brazil, which already runs 50% of its automotive and truck fleet on ethanol, has been a pioneer in this area.  Because Brazilian sugar cane ethanol brings about substantial carbon emission savings over petroleum and because Brazil has a lot of land that can be used to expand ethanol production, the Brazilian government has identified ethanol as a product in which it has a comparative advantage and made expansion of ethanol exports a development priority. However, this initiative has run into a number of problems including tariffs and other possible trade barriers in the major advanced country markets. One issue facing Brazil today is the European Union’s sustainability criteria for the use of ethanol under the Union’s Renewable Energy Directive (RED). The RED establishes a number of requirements that ethanol must meet in order to count towards the EU’s renewable energy goals. These include substantial emission savings and limits on land use change. A complex public-private, transnational, multi-level machinery is being established to determine compliance with the sustainability criteria. Government and industry in Brazil are working together to frame programs and policies that will meet reasonable environmental requirements while exploring possible challenges to some aspects of the RED that might violate WTO norms.

GLS, along with FGV-São Paulo and the Center for European Law and Governance at University College London (UCL) are cooperating on a study of the issues involved in making this system work for Brazil and the EU. David Trubek represents GLS in this project and is assisted by Paulina Calfucoy. Professor Joanne Scott from UCL and David Trubek presented a summary of the issues raised by the RED at a meeting of Brazilian scholars and representatives of government and industry was held at Direito GV in May 2011  GLS, UCL, and Direito GV are assembling a team of experts to study these issues. 

Further details

For information concerning the UW’s role in the Ethanol project, contact Professor David Trubek or Sumudu Atapattu, Associate Director, GLS.

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