Sugarcane ethanol harvest

‘Tis the season for family, friends and holiday wishes. December is also a nice time to reflect back and think ahead to the New Year.

In 2013, advanced biofuels continued to flourish, and Brazilian sugarcane producers stayed active in sharing vital facts about clean, advanced renewable fuels like sugarcane ethanol. Here in the United States, the federal Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) remained the primary focus of debate.  We submitted comments in April to the Environmental Protection Agency on their proposed 2013 RFS requirements and delivered a white paper in May to the House Committee on Energy and Commerce to illustrate the ways sugarcane ethanol is helping America meet its RFS goals. More recently, we sounded the alarm on the damage EPA’s 2014 RFS proposal will cause to the emerging advanced biofuels industry.   

Heading into the New Year, it’s clear the decisions confronting lawmakers and EPA regulators on the RFS will have a great impact on our world’s journey towards decreasing greenhouse gases and improving energy security.  So in the spirit of the season, here’s our wish list naming the top three presents we’d either like to see under the tree or delivered in 2014.

  1. EPA reconsiders the agency’s current proposal and sets renewable fuel standards that encourage production and consumption of all available advanced biofuels. Slashing 2014’s target for advanced biofuels is a leap backwards on the path to reach the Obama Administration’s energy and environmental goals. Advanced biofuels, including Brazilian sugarcane ethanol, reduce carbon dioxide emissions by over 50 percent compared to gasoline and are a proven solution for addressing climate change. We hope EPA won’t finalize a proposal that ignores the 650-800 million gallons of sugarcane ethanol that are available to supply the United States with more advanced biofuel in 2014.
  2. No unnecessary, burdensome requirements on foreign biofuel producers. Under a separate EPA proposal, sugarcane producers would be subject to a host of onerous new requirements when exporting to America. Requirements like physically segregating exported ethanol from the production plant all the way to port arrival in the U.S. and spending considerable amounts on third-party auditors would cost roughly $1 million for every 5 million gallons exported by our estimates. EPA’s intentions are laudable, and we support the agency’s goal of ensuring the regulatory system that tracks U.S. biofuel consumption is accurate.  But as currently written we are concerned the regulatory process is being used to impose burdensome, anti-competitive requirements on foreign biofuels.
  3. Global free trade in biofuels continues to flourish. In 2013, the U.S. domestic market for biofuels grew rapidly. EPA originally projected that the U.S. would need to import around 660 million gallons of Brazilian sugarcane ethanol to meet the 2013 advanced biofuel standard. However, total sugarcane ethanol imports will end in 2013 at around 450-500 million gallons. The reduction in imports is because American production of advanced biofuels is expanding quicker than the EPA forecasted – NOT because Brazil has exhausted its capacity for exports. As I’ve said all along, Brazil and the U.S. have a responsibility to work together to build a global biofuels market that provides clean, affordable and sustainable solutions to the planet's growing energy needs.  We’re making progress that should continue in 2014.

Brazilian sugarcane producers look forward to continuing to play an active role in the RFS rulemaking process and tackling the challenges that lay before us in the next year. Happy Holidays and best wishes for a happy, healthy and prosperous New Year!