March 17, 2014

Biofuels Lessons from Brazil


photo 1Kim Clark, director of biofuels development for the Nebraska Corn Board, sends this post from the current mission to Brazil:

Hola de Ribeirao Preto, Brazil!  It is Sunday morning and we are on a domestic flight up to Brasilia. It has been a very enlightening, busy week.

So far we have been to Delphi Powertain Systems, the Case IH manufacturing plant— which was an interesting experience itself-—with the scores of squeegees that came out after 4 inches of rain fell in a matter of 45 minutes. The rainfall was so heavy the gutter system couldn't keep up and the plant floor was covered in water. Nearly every employee grabbed a squeegee and started pushing the water down drains. For safety reasons we couldn't see or watch any tractors being assembled.

We have also visited with sugarcane farmers, watched sugarcane being planted, toured a peanut processing facility, and visited a livestock farm.

Here are the top three areas that we see the United States improving based on what we have seen and heard so far on this trip:

1. To stay ahead of international competition, we need to expand ethanol exports to other countries especially targeting China to reduce pollution.

2. Expand distillers exports. The ethanol production in the United States isn't expected to decrease—and we don't want it to—so we need to expand distillers exports.

3. There are large areas of Brazil that still are arable but undeveloped. They have the capacity to expand ethanol production with their second-generation technology and their closed loop technology—producing electricity, using the bagasse (one of the byproducts) to operate the plant. We need our ethanol, especially second-generation ethanol, to remain sustainable.

The week in Brazil has been busy and we haven't yet visited with Brazil USDA-FAS, the Brazilian corn growers association, and other government officials. I think the best is yet to come!


A sugarcane planting machine in Brazil. Sugar cane is the primary feedstock for ethanol production in Brazil.

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