Many countries have turned their attention to the production and consumption of biofuels over the last years. This interest is due to factors like the need for mitigation of greenhouse gas emissions (GHG), oscillations in the price of petroleum, search for a more diverse energy matrix and the development of the agricultural sector.
However, there are those who question the real benefit of “green” fuels. Some criticize their efficiency in the mitigation of GHG emissions. Others raise doubts about their pressure upon the offer of food or the reduction in the quality of life of the population directly affected by biofuels’ production.
These questions indicate that the effective sustainability of the sugarcane ethanol productive chain is an essential aspect for the consolidation of this product in the international and local markets. In fact, the production of biofuels is only justified if economic and environmental impacts are favorable, compared to similar energy sources and if there are real benefits for all the directly involved social segments.
Faced with the above outlined scenario, CTBE’s Sustainability research program will focus on the comparison between alternative processes for the production of ethanol from sugarcane and the conventional one. The main purposes of the comparative analysis are to identify advantages and/or disadvantages of alternative processes and to evaluate the necessary actions in order to maximize benefits and reduce drawbacks.
Understanding that the concept of Sustainability is wide and normative, CTBE proposal is to work centered in three issues regarding the ethanol supply chain, which are considered as fundamental topics in both national and international agenda:
(i) energy balance and balance on greenhouse gas emissions;
(ii) socio-economic issues regarding the conventional and alternative processes;
(iii) impacts on the availability and quality of water resources.
Aware of specific needs, along with the expertise of CTBE staff and specialists from associated research groups, other environmental concerns could be prioritized, such as biodiversity conservation, soil impacts (e.g. soil contamination and erosion), as well as economic aspects of new production processes.
The initial outlines of the Sustainability Research Program at CTBE will include: