The green and yellow gasoline

por The Winners

40 years ago, on September 19th, 1979, I signed, along with the Vice-President of the Brazilian Republic Aureliano Chaves, Minister João Camilo Pena and two ministers of the government of President João Figueiredo, present at the act, the protocol aiming at the production of self-propelled pure ethanol motor vehicles.

This resulted in significant facts for Brazil.

It saved us, with the oil barrel at USD 65, in 40 years, more than USD 15 billion in foreign currency. It has reduced air pollution in Sao Paulo by about 40 percent, according to the Berkeley Lab in California, and has not scratched even a hectare of the legal Amazon lands.

It led to a monumental leap in Brazilian agriculture which, from 6 million tons of soybean harvested that year, reached 127 million this year and led us to be the world’s largest producer without deforesting or burning the Amazon.

Today, it moves a fleet of 30 million dual-fuel vehicles, equivalent to France’s car fleet.

This simple overview is a portrait of a country solicitous in continuing to be the one which takes good care of its megadiversity and protects 74.5% of its land.

From its history since ProÁlcool (National Alcohol Program) to the protocol signed between the private sector and the government, the lesson that remains is the joining of efforts that produced, in the short term, 5 million ethanol vehicles and helped the national integration in the areas of agriculture, trade and industry.

The public power and the business executives were its artisans, all congregated in the CNE (National Energy Commission), from where the protocol originated.

The dual-fuel vehicle, released in March of 2003, has since accumulated sales of over 32.35 million units, constituting the world’s largest fleet of dual-fuel-technology cars in the world.

From 1976 to 2018, the usage and import of more than 3 billion barrels of gasoline were replaced, a significant milestone for a country with proven reserves of 12 billion barrels, including the pre-salt layer.

The economic value of the replaced gasoline, calculated by DATAGRO – private consulting company focused in agribusiness –, is equivalent to over USD 506 billion. Plínio Nastari, its president and CNPE (National Council of Energy Policy, institution linked to the Brazilian Ministry of Mines and Energy) member, also reminds that, in environmental terms, the single fact that sugarcane ethanol is virtually neutral in gas emissions that cause the greenhouse effect, has made it one of the cleanest energy sources to fuel efficient mobility, from energetic and environmental points of view.

And this very week that Brazil celebrates the signing of the alcohol car protocol, the first dual-fuel hybrid vehicle is released in the country. This is already considered the cleanest car on the planet, as it will emit on the streets only 27 grams of carbon dioxide per kilometer driven (1.52 ounce per mile driven). 

In this moment of reflection on our mistakes in guiding the policy for a programmed development for the Amazon, which leads us to debate in international forums even our unquestionable sovereignty over it, I believe that the best weapons we have are those that are already in our hands.

The eloquent demonstration of the carbon substitution we have undertaken with the ethanol car – a worldwide success –, our forest code, reserves of permanent preservation areas, respect for the native peoples, and now, the support and participation of the Brazilian army to restrain and punish those responsible for illegal deforestation and, above all, for the burning, already disciplined in São Paulo and that should have long been restrained or controlled by the federal government.

May this tension for which we underwent be a warning.

The decarbonization targets approved by the Brazilian Congress in 2017, proposed by the already mentioned CNPE through the national biofuels plan, shall lead to an accumulated emission reduction of 686 million tons of carbon dioxide by 2029, which corresponds to more than one year of total emissions of a country with the size and economic expression of France.

Because of the use of biofuels and measures taken such as car rotation, although the city of São Paulo has a fleet of 8.5 million vehicles, it does not have the same air pollution as metropolises such as Beijing, Delhi and Mexico City.

There is a clear path of international cooperation. May the alcohol car could be an example of the decarbonization of the economy and the opening of new frontiers, and, as Europe seeks to impose internal rules on the use of biofuels, unsuccessfully so far, may one of the items of this cooperation be the Brazilian ethanol.

I am very glad to have my name associated with this saga that launches Brazil ahead worldwide, when creating green fuel. There are 40 years of experience, with great environmental, economic and political repercussions.

I only think that we have lost the battle of communication, as no country has done so much in the area of mobility as Brazil, which is now unfairly criticized, even though it has developed the most coherent and efficient carbon reduction project.

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