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Library Biofuels Potential in Latin America and the Caribbean: Quantitative Considerations and Policy Implications for the Agricultural Sector

Biofuels Potential in Latin America and the Caribbean: Quantitative Considerations and Policy Implications for the Agricultural Sector

Biofuels Potential in Latin America and the Caribbean: Quantitative Considerations and Policy Implications for the Agricultural Sector

Resource information

Date of publication
December 2007
Resource Language
ISBN / Resource ID

Rising oil prices has led to increased interest to replace domestic demand for liquid fuels for transport (petrol and diesel) with biofuel production (ethanol and biodiesel). One of the pioneers in biofuel production is Brazil, which since the 1970s has established a government program that promotes the production and consumption of ethanol. Currently, Brazil is the leading producer of ethanol in the world and has started also programs for biodiesel production based on soybeans, oil palm and other crops. Other countries in Latin America and the Caribbean have also expressed interest in biofuel production, and have started programs, and in some cases the legislation that promotes biofuel production. However, most of the analysis of biofuel crops has been focused in the major countries such as Brazil and Argentina. As most countries in the region embark in biofuel projects and establish national policies on biofuels, there is a need for a roadmap that looks into the technical considerations that biofuel production will require. Most government policies are driven by politics, and in some cases such as the discussion of food production versus biofuel production, there should be technical analysis of increased productionof biofuels. For those reasons, this study offers the first complete assessment of the potential of biofuels in Latin America and the Caribbean for 28 countries in the region, based on 12 agricultural and forestry crops. We first identify the biofuel production potential based on currentsurplus production, as a catalyst of biofuel production in the region. We then estimate the land requirements based on a 5% replacement of domestic liquid fuel demand, and the suitable available area in each country for such replacement. We also project biofuel production and available land area needed to meet food and nutrition targets for countries in the region to 2025. The results of this study show that the crops with the largest potential in Latin America and the Caribbean are sugar canes and cassava. Based on current production levels the conversion ofsugar cane into bioethanol could surpass the 5% mix in more than half of the domestic markets of the countries surveyed. For biodiesel, countries with current surplus production that could be transformed to biodiesel and exceed the 5% mix include Argentina, Bolivia, Paraguay, Costa Rica and Honduras. For land, Latin America, particularly South America may have enough suitable land for production of biofuels, specially sugar cane, soybeans and oil palm, the main crops identified in this study. As for food supply and security and the future production of biofuels to 2025, we find that for major food exporters, there is enough land for both food and energy crop production. However, there are some smaller countries, especially in Central America and the Caribbean that may have to decide whether to import food and produce energy from crops. In term of the effect on prices, we find that increased biofuel production may haveimportant price effects the effect may depend we analyze energy crops, traditional crops or byproducts of biofuel production. Finally, in terms of the impact on agricultural structure and land ownership, the most significant structural changes consist in a higher concentration in production and tenure as well as the establishment of new kind of actors and norms. Policies and institutions should be established that enables small producers to take advantage of increased biofuel production, so they can benefit in terms of employment, income, as means for poverty reduction in rural areas of Latin America and the Caribbean.

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Authors and Publishers

Author(s), editor(s), contributor(s)

Ludena, Carlos E.
Razo, Carlos
Saucedo, Alberto

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