Michael Walch

Hydroelectric Power and Ethanol Cars

Posted in Rates of Exchange: Amazon Studio by michaelwalch on 25 January, 2010

Brazil has an interesting energy market.


In 2004, Brazil produced 380 TWh of energy, and consumed 391 TWh.
This leaves a net import of 11 TWh for the year.
The sources of the electricity produced were 83% hydroelectric, 4% nuclear, 4% conventional thermal, and 9% other sources.


In 2006, Brazil produced 2.165 million barrels per day, and consumed 2.216 million barrels per day.
This leaves a net import of 0.051 million barrels per day.
Their refinery capacity is 1.908 million barrels per day.
They have 11.2 billion barrels of proven reserves (as of 2006).

Natural Gas

In 2006, they produced 9.88 billion cubic km, and consumed 19.34 billion cubic kilometers.
This leaves a net import of 9.45 billion cubic km for the year.
They have proven reserves of 326 billion cubic km.

More information at the US Energy Information Administration.

Flexible-Fuel Vehicles

Brazil has been quite successful with ethanol as an alternative to gasoline for automobile fuel.  There are no longer any light vehicles in Brazil running on pure gasoline.  (!!)  The government started requiring petroleum gasoline to be blended with sugar cane-derived ethanol in 1976.  Since July 1, 2007 the mandatory blend is 25% of anhydrous ethanol and 75% gasoline or E25 blend.  Flexible-fuel vehicles, able to run on 100% ethanol, were developed in Brazil and now dominate new vehicle sales.

The mild Brazilian climate and wide availability of sugar cane made Brazil a particularly adept for ethanol fuel.  By using sugar cane, the energy balance (ratio of input energy to output energy) ranges from 8.3 to 10.2, a 5-7 fold improvement over when, as in the United States, the ethanol is a bi-product of corn, and the energy balance drops to 1.3 to 1.6.

Ethanol in Brazil is fantastically energy efficient compared to fossil fuels, but it is not without criticism and potential costs.  Growing any crop in monoculture for industrial production can lead to deforestation, social problems associated with the required labor, and has significant implications for food supply and prices.  Brazil is at the forefront of this research, and has promoted the technology to other countries in the form of, “ethanol diplomacy.”  This research is run by EMBRAPA, the Brazilian Agricultural Research Corporation.


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