'Giving the world something to look at' — Ethanol use is second nature in Brazil
SAO PAULO, Brazil: The gap between rich and poor is wide in Brazil, but its drivers are largely equal at the pump. Day laborers jammed in minivans and professionals motoring solo in air-conditioned comfort can buy gasoline — or pay about 40 percent less per tank for ethanol.
It is such a no-brain decision that almost everyone fills up with the alcohol-based fuel, produced from endless fields of sugarcane that carpet Latin America's largest nation. And as long as international oil prices stay above US$50 (€37) per barrel, ethanol will likely stay on top in Brazil's revolutionary fuel choice experiment.
Three years after American, German and Italian automakers unveiled "flex-fuel" cars in Brazil that run on gas, pure ethanol or any combination of the two, foreign investors are pouring in billions of dollars (euros) to start up ethanol operations in a nation some call "the Saudi Arabia of renewable fuel."
Countries like China, Italy and Japan plan to start mixing ethanol with gas and are securing supplies and know-how from the planet's most efficient producer and top exporter.
Brazil has boosted its ethanol production 40 percent over the last five years, from 3 billion gallons (11.4 billion liters) in 2002 to 4.2 billion gallons (15.9 billion liters) last year.