United States, Brazil Expand Energy Cooperation

By David McKeeby
USINFO Staff Writer

Washington - The United States and Brazil have announced a new partnership to boost research on and production of ethanol and other alternative fuels.

The accord, signed in Brazil March 9, calls for increased research and common standards for biofuels to be commercialized in international markets. Together, the United States and Brazil account for 70 percent of global ethanol production.

“There’s a lot we can do together. I appreciate so very much the idea of Brazil and America sharing research and development opportunities,” President Bush said March 9 in a joint appearance with Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, following a tour of an ethanol research facility outside São Paulo, Brazil.

Brazil is Bush’s first stop in a seven-day tour of Latin America that also will take him to Uruguay, Colombia, Guatemala and Mexico.

In Brazil, the leaders said the pact between the world’s leading ethanol producers would bolster global energy security while providing new environmentally friendly economic opportunities for farmers across the Americas.

“You've got great scientists, we’ve got great scientists,” Bush told Lula.  “It makes sense for us to collaborate for the good of mankind.”

Under a memorandum signed earlier in the day by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Brazil Foreign Minister Celso Amorim, the two nations pledged closer cooperation on researching alternative energy production, promoting alternative fuels in the region and developing industrywide standards and codes that could lay the groundwork for a global biofuels market.

“It makes a lot of sense for countries like China and India to understand the potentials of alterative sources of energy,” Bush said.  “I believe that Brazil and the United States have the capacity to help lead the way toward that better day.”

In his January 23 State of the Union address to Congress, Bush said that reducing dependence on oil and addressing global climate change by reducing the use of fossil fuels are top priorities for his administration. (See related article.)

The president called on Congress to support his initiative to reduce gasoline consumption by 20 percent over the next decade from consumption levels projected by the Department of Energy if no action is taken. This reduction would be achieved in part by creating mandatory fuel standards aimed at using 132.5 billion liters of alternative and renewable fuels by 2017 -– nearly five times the 2012 target now set by law. (See related article.)

U.S.-Brazilian energy cooperation arose from the president’s previous visit to Brazil in 2005, when Lula briefed Bush on his country’s progress in ethanol production and “flex-fuel” vehicles.

“The political implications of [alternative fuels], at least for the United States, are profound, in that we become less dependent on oil, which is good for our national security, as well as it helps us be good stewards of the environment,” Bush told a round table of Latin American journalists March 7. (See related article.)

Eight in 10 new cars in Brazil run on ethanol produced from sugar cane, which experts say is 33 percent cheaper to produce in Brazil than in the United States. The United States depends on maize for its ethanol production.

Production of biodiesel, which can be manufactured from plant oils derived from African palm, sunflowers, cotton seeds, castor beans and other sources, would help Brazilian farmers too, particularly in the country’s northern region, Lula said, where many of these plants are native and abundant.  (See related article.)

Bush praised Brazil as a pioneer and world leader in ethanol production, highlighting Lula’s leadership in establishing the International Biofuels Forum, which convened its first meeting at the United Nations in New York on March 2.

China, India, South Africa, the United States and the European Commission have joined Brazil in the forum, which will convene over the next year to discuss ways to promote the sustained use and production of biofuels around the globe.

The leaders also lauded work by the Inter-American Development Bank to provide research capital to Central American countries seeking to join the United States and Brazil in pursuing alternative energy.

Later in March, Lula will travel to the United States to continue talks on energy and on ways to help restart the Doha round of global trade and tariff negotiations.

A transcript of remarks by Bush and Lula is available on the White House Web site. 

A fact sheet on the agreement is available form the State Department Web site.

For more information, see The Americas.