World Bank to help Brazil export ethanol technology

Thu 29 Mar 2007, 5:45 GM

BRASILIA (Reuters) – The World Bank can help Brazil export its technology for making sugar-cane ethanol to developing countries in Africa and elsewhere, the Bank’s vice-president for Latin America said on Wednesday.

“Brazil sees (sharing technology) as a way of helping to build an ethanol market in the world,” Pamela Cox told Reuters in an interview. “As projects come up, we have a private sector arm that can help.”

The International Finance Corporation, or IFC, is an arm of the World Bank that makes loans to private companies.

Brazil’s ethanol technology has been generating worldwide excitement since gasoline prices spiked and evidence of global warming became more convincing a few years ago.

Local farmers have been making ethanol from sugar cane since the 1970s and production costs today are 30 percent lower than those of corn ethanol made in the United States, according to the Council on Hemispheric Affairs, a U.S. research group.

Cox said sugar and ethanol could become important exports for African countries such as Ghana, where Brazil’s agriculture research agency Embrapa opened an Africa office last year. The World Bank gives extensive assistance to Ghana, she said.

Brazil has already agreed to develop ethanol projects with several countries including China and Japan, and this week state oil company Petrobras signed a joint venture with Italy’s Eni to develop biofuel initiatives in Africa, possibly biodiesel projects in Angola and Mozambique.

Cox said Brazil’s decades of expertise could potentially benefit needy countries all over the world, and the bank could help make it happen.

“We can facilitate the transfer of information because development is about knowledge,” she said.

Ethanol producers are counting on governments around the world to mandate more renewable energy use to create growing demand for the fuel. Cars can be made to run on ethanol mixed with gasoline or on pure ethanol, which is considered renewable because the crops used to make it can be planted again and again.

Brazilian cane ethanol is competitive with gasoline as long as crude prices are trading above $35-$40 per barrel — versus roughly $65 today — and while it does emit heat-trapping carbon gases into the atmosphere when burned, sugar cane plants bind carbon back to earth as they grow.

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