1 每 Introduction: The Importance of Sustainability and the Role of Ethanol
Sustainability has gotten a huge increase in awareness over the world. The facts for this arousal could be justified by the rise in expectations of consumers (society is more aware of problems), the emergence of new generations worried with planet conditions, the scarcity of natural resources on the planet for its growing population and living standards, global warming risks, bringing floods and hunger due to changes in agricultural areas, and finally, the impact of communications via internet, which allows immediate knowledge of disasters, bad behavior of companies, excess pollution and others, mobilizing groups and reactions as never seen before.
At a company level there is a growing concern that they have to reduce impacts of their activities on the environment, to increase transparency and a better flow of information, promote corporate social responsibility, more inclusion and less social imbalance and finally, to increase the company＊s usage of natural and renewable resources/energy.
Sustainability has three traditional major pillars. The economic dimension (profit), the environment dimension (planet) and the social dimension (people). On the economic (profit) side, the major factors to be considered are how companies, networks and productive chains are dealing with margins, profit, compensation, losses on the chain, communication issues for final consumers, improving credit conditions with benefits to sustainable projects, risk management (knowledge of financial markets and instruments), information technology (information access; reduction of transaction costs) and overall strategies to reduce costs and achieve economic sustainability of the business. Without economic sustainability, any other request is impossible, since companies cannot afford to pay for it, if they don＊t have margins. This is a first and important step. A company must be economically sustainable. Sometimes this is forgotten by some agents, NGO＊s and other organizations.
On the social (people) side, the major factors to be considered are the working conditions for its employees, conditions that also are applied to the company＊s suppliers and distributors, the health and safety, types of labor, working climate, safety equipments, to promote actions for local community, to incentive cooperation, to have small holder friendly initiatives, try to do technology transfer for smallholders to improve local companies capacity and promoting benefits for consumers.
On the environment side (planet), the major factors to be considered are the impact of the company on the environment, impact of the company＊s integrated suppliers, impact of transports (food miles), packaging (trying always to recycle/reuse/rebuilt 每 using new materials and less materials), waste management (generating less waste; separating and recycling; generating energy/fertilizers from waste), use of energy, emissions, water management (company view of usage; protecting water; management; and spreading best practices), more digital and less paper, reuse of materials, green and environmentally oriented buildings and facilities, carbon emissions/neutralization (carbon footprint), among others. Consumers also have an incredible task here, changing habits and having a more responsible consumption behavior.
After this short introduction on sustainability, this article takes one example and addresses the importance of ethanol as an energy alternative to China. It will discuss the three major pillars of sustainability using as an example, a learning case of success to China: ethanol policy in Brazil. First, it will discuss the need of more energy production and the macro-environmental drivers towards renewable sources of fuel and energy, as ethanol. Then, the dimensions of sustainability, using the case of ethanol, will be addressed.
2 每 Macro-Environmental Drivers for the Adoption of Renewable Sources of Energy and Ethanol
The use of biofuels, where ethanol is included is stimulated not only by environmental issues, but economic issues. Only 1,5% of the fuels consumed today come from biofuels, and the other 99% from fossil sources. In this 1,5%, ethanol represents 90%.
Between 1998 and 2007, the price of the oil barrel increased more than 500% (NYMEX, 2007). On February 19th 2008 the barrel reached US$ 100.00 for the first time in history, and then moved to US$ 140. Nowadays the price of oil barrel stands between US$ 70.00 and US$ 80.00. Pressure on prices comes mainly from the perspective of consumption and reserves depletion. Although very controversial, some studies indicate that the reserves should dry out in around 40 years (BP, 2006).
Despite the discovery of new reserves, they may be unable to meet the long-term growth in the energy demand. According to IEA (2006), based on the current trends of global energy, the demand will rise up to 53% by 2030. Over 70% of this increase comes from developing countries, led by China and India. Imports of oil and gas in the OECD and developing Asia grow even faster than demand. World oil demand will reach 116 million of barrels a day (b/d) in 2030, up from 84 mb/d in 2005. China in 2000 had a consumption of 4,5 million barrels a day, and in 2010 this was 8,5 million barrels a day. But when we look to per capita consumption, the USA has a consumption of 22 barrels/person/day, and China still has 2,4 barrels/person/day. What will happen with Chinese growth?
Another risk factor, in addition to the instable prices and to the possibility of scarcity, is the fact that the largest oil reserves are found in unstable regions. The main suppliers of oil remain in the Middle East, with 62% of the world＊s reserves, followed by the countries in Europe and in other regions of the Asian continent (BP, 2006).
In this perspective, will biofuels be viable? According to UNICA (2007) projections, with oil prices above US$ 80.00 per barrel, biodiesel from the sources used today becomes viable. For ethanol, the scenario is even better: oil prices just over US$ 40,00 a barrel make Brazilian ethanol derived from sugar-cane already viable in economic terms.
In a more open and traded economy, the transportation sector is expected to increase its share on oil products from 56% to 62%. Therefore, fossil fuels should keep at the core of energy source for transportation, despite the advances in renewable and less carbon-intense fuels (LPG, ethanol, biodiesel and hydrogen). Changing this scenario will demand investments in R&D (Research and Development) as well as in the image of biofuels as a clean, safe and low cost energy source (WBCSD, 2004).
In North America gasoline represents more than 50% of the total energy demand for transportation while diesel represents something around 20%. West Europe shows a different consumption pattern as both diesel and gasoline respond to some 37.5% of the sector demand each. In Asia, gasoline is more used (45%). Improvements in per capita income usually mean enlargement in the vehicle fleet.
The world＊s largest fleet is in the USA. There are around 250 million vehicles running on American roads. however, it is in developing countries that the situation requires more attention. Goldman Sachs forecast indicates that by 2040 China and India will have, respectively, 29 and 21 cars for every hundred inhabitants, totalling more than 700 million cars. What about these impacts?
The automobile sector is one that has a remarkable investment in R&D to use alternative sources of energy in engines. Two cases serve as reminders: the hybrid car (a car that combines a gasoline engine with an electric battery) and the flex-fuel car (an engine that can be fueled with gasoline, ethanol, or a blend of both). The production of E85 (85% ethanol and 15% gasoline) cars grows faster than those of other vehicles. The USA has almost 10 million E85 flex vehicles in their fleet. The biggest obstacle is the low number of fuel stations that offer the product (less than 2% of the 170 thousand American fuel stations). Flex-fuel cars have been adopted in Brazil since their launch in 2003. In 2003 FFVs sales represented less than 7% of all cars sold in Brazil. In 2010, over 92% of total sales and already represent 40% of Brazil＊s light vehicle fleet. Projections say that by 2015 the Brazilian fleet will have 30 million vehicles, from which 19 million should be FFVs (ANFAVEA, 2010 and UNICA, 2010). In Brazil, all the 35 thousand fuel stations are supplied with ethanol.
Generally, ethanol and biodiesel prices at the pump are influenced by the prices to producers, the volume added to gasoline according to mandatory blending target, the logistic and the distribution costs and taxes. However, the major influence on biofuels consumption is actually the price of other fuels (mainly gasoline and diesel), the vehicle consumption levels and the characteristics of the fleet (release of flex or hybrid vehicles, prohibition of diesel engine light duty vehicles etc). These prices tend to remain high due to expected consumption of oil in the future.
This introduction shows to China that fuel is definitely a concern towards the future, and that some countries have nice examples that could be studied, countries that even want to cooperate more with China. I will address the most successful biofuels policy till 2010 in the globe, the Brazilian Ethanol program, and how this can be useful to China＊s clean energy policy.
3 每 The ※P§ of Profit: Sugarcane as Ethanol Producer and Its Economic Benefits
※Sugarcane is the world＊s leading feedstock for energy production§
(John Melo, CEO of Amyris)1
The Sugarcane Agribusiness System (AGS) is complex: the main products (ethanol, sugar, and energy) are sold to fuel distributors, the food industry, wholesalers, retailers, exporters and electric energy distributors. The byproducts are destined to industries such as those of orange juice and animal feed. Today, the mills use the residues, as vinasse and cake filter, as biofertilizers. The sugarcane business is made up from many links: the production of sugarcane; the processing of sugar, ethanol and derivate products; the services on research, technical assistance and financing; transportation; commercialization; and exportation. All of these links build a network around the mills as shown in the following figure.
Figure. The network of a typical sugarcane mill
Source: Elaborated by the author.
Brazil is the world＊s biggest sugarcane producer, accounting for over 30% of total production (FAO/DATAGRO). The vast majority of the production, around 85%, takes place in the South-Center region of the country, where harvest starts in April and ends in November. The other 15% is produced in the North-Northeastern region, where harvest lasts from September until March. In the 2008/2009 harvest, total production grew 14% compared to previous year, reaching 571.3 million tons of sugarcane. The country＊s sugar production is the largest in the world. Last harvest Brazilian mills produced 32.1million tons of sugar, from which more than 60% were exported. Brazil is responsible of almost 50% of market share in world sugar exports. Ethanol production is only bigger in the US, and unlike sugar only a minority is exported. In 2008 Brazil exported 5.1 billion liters of ethanol. This volume represents only 19% of total production, but was 40% higher than in 2007. The sugarcane chain has a financial movement of US$ 86 billion per year, and represents a GDP of US$ 28 billion in Brazil. It employs, directly and indirectly, 4 million people and is responsible for around US$ 7 billion in taxes to Government.
Table 1 summarizes the importance of the sugarcane milling sector.
Table 13. Brazilian sugarcane sector economy - 2008/2009 crop year
US$ 28 billion.
1.5% of national GDP.
4.76 million direct and indirect.
Independent sugarcane suppliers:
70 thousand producers distributed in 1,694 municipalities.
7.8 million hectares (4.7 million ha for ethanol)
Average yield :
569 million tons.
31 million tons of sugar.
27.51 million liters of ethanol.
19.5 million tons of sugar.
5.1 billion liters of ethanol.
Generation of 2,017 MW.
Capacity of 4,034 MW.
3.58% of Brazil＊s electric power.
US$ 6,855.41 million.
423 operating plants.
248 mixed plants (sugar and ethanol).
159 ethanol plants.
16 sugar plants.
Sources: Elaborated by the authors based on data and interviews from many sources.
The industrial production of fuel ethanol in Brazil started in the 1930＊s stimulated by the first governmental incentives. A federal law from 1931 mandated a 5% ethanol mix all imported gasoline. In the same year, all public service automobiles had to run with a 10% ethanol mix, and in 1938 the 5% mix became mandatory also to gasoline produced in the country. However, it wasn＊t until 1973＊s Oil Shock that the sugarcane became an important of Brazil＊s energy matrix. At that time, 77% of the oil consumed in the country came from abroad. Oil imports boosted from US$ 760 million to US$ 2.9 billion within one year (Carvalho, 2004).
Aiming to reduce the negative impacts of the oil prices in the trade balance, the Brazilian government launched in 1975 the Alcohol National Program (Pro芍lcool), starting a series of large investments in the development of ethanol burning engines and stimulating the production of sugarcane and its products through tax cuts, prices control, strategic stocks, special lines of credits and mandatory blending and distribution.
Between 1975 and 1978, the demand for anhydrous ethanol (used in non-ethanol engines, for blending purpose) jumped from 1.1 % to 9% of total fuel consumption. In 1979 the first ethanol engine car was launched in the market. In 1986, the share of ethanol cars in the sale of new cars reached 95%. However, in the late 1980＊s and early 1990＊s, oil prices reduced; the Brazilian government promoted the deregulation of the sector, ending subsidies and shrinking credit; and mills responded to high sugar prices by shifting industrial production in benefit of sugar. Soon, ethanol prices rose to the same level of gasoline, the strategic stocks were sucked up and the drivers of ethanol cars found themselves literally out of fuel, which was a major hit on the image of the milling sector.
The launch of the flex-fuel cars in may 2003 allowed ethanol to regain the trust of consumers and car makers. With this type of car, drivers could just fill up their tanks with gasoline in case of a shortage in the supply of ethanol. In 2009, records of 2.993 million cars were sold in Brazil, leaving behind Spain and France and becoming the sixth largest producer. In that same year, 92.6% of the new cars sold in country were flex-fuel (ANFAVEA, 2010).
Internal ethanol demand was stagnated between 11.5 and 13.0 billion liters from 1986 until 2007. In 2009, with the growth of the flex-fuel demand reached 22.8 billion liters, being 16.4 billion for flex fuel cars and 6.3 billion to attend to the mandatory blending that vary from 20% to 25%. In February 2008, ethanol consumption overcame gasoline for the first time since the peak of Pro芍lcool in the second half of the 1980＊s. With the gradual substitution of gasoline cars to flex-fuel cars, ethanol consumption tend to keep on increasing as long as prices are favorable. Estimates indicate that in 2015, 80% of the fuel consumed in the country for cars will be ethanol.
In order to meet the growing demand, production has more than doubled sized in just years, going from 11 billion liters in 2001/2002 to 26 billion liters in 2009/2010. Figure 15 shows the evolution of production since the 1970＊s.
Figure 2. Brazilian ethanol production
Source: MAPA and CONAB. Elaboration: GV Agro
There is also the possibility of using hydrolysis process to obtain ethanol. Hydrolysis allows the ethanol to be produced from any possible source of cellulose. In the case of corn and sugarcane, the hydrolysis process will be done by using residues such as leaves, straw, and bagasse (from sugarcane). This technology would increase ethanol production worldwide using the same agricultural lands. In 2005, the production of conventional ethanol in Brazil was 85 liters/ton of sugarcane or 6,000 liters/ha. In 2015, the conventional production will reach 100 liters/ton or 8,200 liters/ha, and the production by hydrolysis 14l liters/ton or 1,100 liters/ha. In 2025 conventional processes are expected to produce 109 liters/tons or 10,400 liters/ha, and hydrolysis some more 3,500 liters/ha (Leal, 2006).
According to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL, 2006), cellulosic ethanol will be the solution to increase yield and enable the production to meet the global demand for fuel. Some countries like Brazil have already begun using residues from the fields as a source of energy (bagasse and leaves) and biofertilizers (vinasse). This results in the increase of yield and in the reduction of production costs even though collecting these residues implies some costs.
In 2010, several new technologies are coming to market. There is one involving engineered yeasts developed by a company named Amyris that will produce diesel directly from sugar cane, and can also produce airplane fuel and other fuels. Commercial production of plastics from ethanol is also on the move and recently Coca-Cola announced its new bottle from cane plastic. This part showed the ※profit§ part of ethanol business, which is a good starting point to attract Chinese interest.
4 每 The ※P§ of People: Social Benefits on Ethanol Business
Some researchers suggest that biofuels could be a big part of the solution for poor countries to diversify business and ensure sustainable growth. According to Zarrilli (2007), several countries that implemented biofuels development programs have shown noticeable growth in job creation, most of them created in the rural areas but also in other links throughout the productive chain. According to Poschen (2007), the senior International Labour Organization＊s specialist on sustainable development, the amount of jobs created in the renewable energy sector will double until 2020, creating approximately 300,000 new jobs. In the early phase of the bio-ethanol program in the US, around 147,000 jobs were created in different sectors of the economy.
The sugar industry in Brazil is very developed in terms of corporate social responsibility. Among the major groups that make part of the UNICA Industry Association, these practices are linked to the sustainable development of people. UNICA and its member companies continually develop programs aimed at improving labor conditions and establishing national benchmarks. According to national Annual Social Information Report (2008, apud Moraes, 2009) this industry is one of Brazil＊s most relevant in terms of job creation 每 around 1.3 million jobs. A research conducted by UNICA showed that the average wage paid by member companies was the double of the current federal minimum wage.
Brazilian laws comply with International Labor Organization standards, covering work conditions and receive frequent government inspections. The cane cutters have collective labor agreements and innovative programs to improve labor conditions are being in place, including the elimination of outsourcing for manual sugarcane cutters, better transportation standards, and increased transparency in performance measurements and employee compensations. UNICA also has a Socio-Environmental Responsibility encouraging best environmental and Responsibility Indicator that tracks corporate responsibility performance in the industry, with the aim of encouraging best environmental and sustainable practices.
Other projects include the Social Balance Program developed with the Brazilian Institute for Social and Economic Analysis (iBase) and data gathering for UNICA＊s Global Reporting Initiatives on Sustainability (GRI) (Source: Unica Report). In 2008, member companies invested over R$ 160 million in 618 projects within social, environmental, cultural, education, sport and health areas, benefiting approximately some 480 thousand people.
Biofuels can be an important component of the ※people§ dimension of sustainability, creating jobs, promoting development, interiorizing the economic activities of a country, since it moves money from cities to farm areas and with this, contribution with the distribution of income.
5 每 The ※P§ of Planet: Environmental Benefits on Ethanol Business
One of the most important reasons for biofuels consumption is its environmental importance, especially considering the urgent necessity of reducing GHG emissions (mitigation) as a way to avoid bigger climate changes and their potentially catastrophic consequences. The transportation sector is one of the greatest responsible for GHG emissions related to the energetic activity. By joining current and projected CO2 emissions from transportation, it is possible to identify that road transportation leads the emission ranking both in the present and in the future (currently 3/4) (IEA, 2005 and WBCSD, 2004). In this case, adding biofuels to fossil fuels has a tremendous important role in diminishing the negative impacts of the transportation sector on the environment.
The environmental benefit of cane ethanol when used as a fuel in car tanks is clear. A research of EMBRAPA (Brazilian Research Agency) compared the emissions of three similar vehicles, produced in Brazil by the same company, and equipped with diesel and flex-fuel engine. While the flex engine running with gasoline emits 3.65 kg CO2 per liter of fuel, the flex engine with ethanol emits 0.68 kg CO2 per liter of fuel and the diesel, 4kg. Note the supremacy of ethanol in terms of emissions.
A study of the World Watch Institute (WWI, 2006) shows that energy balance (renewable energy in the biofuels produced by unit of fossil energy used) it is positive to the biofuels: corn in the US (1:1.4), sugarcane in Brazil (1:8.3), wheat and beet in Europe (1:2). Ethanol will reach 10:1 by 2020 with the hydrolysis process of the bagasse and the leaves and with the trade of electricity. As far as carbon balance goes (avoided emissions and produced emissions), in a scenario for 2020 the use of E100 FFVs would reduce 2.259 t CO2e/m3 and the use of E25 gasoline vehicles would reduce 2.585 t CO2e/m3. Here is the opportunity to China.
A report of the International Energy Agency (IEA, 2004a) shows that biofuels can contribute to reduce significantly the amount of CO2 emissions. Ethanol from sugarcane (Brazil) contributes with about 85% of the reduction, ethanol from grains (US and EU) contributes with 30%, and ethanol from beet (EU) contributes with 45%. At the same time, in terms of cost of CO2 reduction (US$/ton CO2) ethanol from sugarcane (Brazil) is the cheapest option among all the biofuels (less than US$ 40.00). After, there is the American ethanol made out of corn (over US$ 45.00), ethanol from grains in the European Union (more than US$ 600.00) and ethanol from sugar beet in the EU (US$ 300.00).
Hence, among the technological possibilities for China to reduce energy consumption and as a consequence in GHG emissions, it is suggested: reducing the weight of vehicles (lighter materials, improved aerodynamics), improving engine efficiency (direct injection, hybrid vehicles), and a higher use of alternative fuels (biofuels, natural gas, hydrogen/fuel cell and batteries). Adoption of biofuels is the best option to make sure the transportation sector plays its role on reducing GHG emissions.
Lately, the international market for biofuels has been opened especially to anhydrous ethanol due to governmental policies towards adding the biofuels to gasoline. Some countries have already approved mandatory blending targets, while some others have just authorized blending.
Among the big producers and consumers of biofuels, their strategic objectives are very clear. The US recent approval of the New Energy Bill, which demands a consumption of 36 billion gallons (or 136.8 billion liters) by 2022 in order to replace 15% of the domestic gasoline demand, makes their concern about the energy security evident in times of instable oil prices. The EU＊s intention in adding 10% of biofuels to the road transportation sector by 2020 should avoid 35% GHG emissions for each unity of biofuels in comparison to gasoline and diesel, and makes their concern about the climate changes clear. So there is a clear movement in the world, towards sustainable biofuels. Where does China position itself?
Concluding Remarks: How Does Ethanol Fit to Chinese Government 5 Year Plans and How Will it Benefit Chinese People?
This article had an objective to show how Brazil has been successful in adopting an ethanol policy for the last 40 years. In 2009, of the fuel consumed in the country, ethanol already accounted to 52%, against 48% of gasoline. In 2015, it is expected that this ratio will be 80/20.
China has several possibilities with ethanol, and a larger proximity with the example of Brazil is a strategy. China has low carbon commitments, and ethanol is a source. Here are some possible contributions to the debate.
In the 5 Year Plan:
1 - China can start adopting a E10 policy (10% of anhydrous ethanol blended to gasoline), with a perspective of moving to E25 policy, as the one seen in Brazil. This will contribute to reduce transport pollution in major cities.
2 每 In order to have ethanol, China may invest more in the country to produce ethanol from cane and from cellulosic sources building up sustainable facilities, using technology from Brazil that has a 40 year experience in this business. An integrated model with a network of small farmers may be a solution here.
3 - China can also, instead of importing oil, substitute part of its imports and consumption towards ethanol from Brazil and from African countries, bringing a clean fuel to the country to be blended with gasoline. This strategy will reduce dependency from oil producing countries, and enhance the relationship with Brazil, other South American nations and African nations.
4 - China can develop also second generation ethanol to be used and generate jobs.
5 - Together with Brazilian technology and investments, China can invest in producing ethanol in some African countries and supply to Chinese and other markets, and even invest in ethanol production in Brazil and import to China.
Some possible benefits for Chinese people in adoption of ethanol:
1 每 Reduce dependencies on oil and on some unstable environments;
2 每 Generate jobs and employment, in production, research and trade;
3 每 Increase relationship with important partners as Brazil and African nations, which will be future suppliers of food also to China;
4 每 Reduce pollution in large Chinese cities, improving the quality of the air and benefiting younger generations;
5 每 Generates possibilities of international investments for Chinese people and companies, making profits outside China and repatriating this resources.
6 每 Contribute to mitigate climate change over the world.
There are several strategies than can make part of China＊s positioning on ethanol. This fuel has proven to be the most efficient in competing with gasoline in the last 40 years, and China must have a strategic plan on ethanol. China has a large avenue of opportunities to follow. Larger collaboration with Brazil in this field is a future development agenda for Government, Institutions and private sector. The University of Sao Paulo is open for this collaboration and to help China in this strategic plan.
References and Further Readings
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Camargo J M (2007). Rela??es de trabalho na agricultura paulista no per赤odo recente. Tese (Doutorado em Ci那ncias Econ?micas) 每 Instituto de Economia da Universidade Estadual de Campinas. Campinas: Universidade Estadual de Campinas.
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FAO, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations and OCDE, Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (2007). OECD-FAO Agricultural Outlook: 2007-2016. ISBN-92-64-025111. (http://www.agri-outlook.org/dataoecd/55/42/39098268.pdf)
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