Brazilian ethanol can replace 13.7 percent of world’s crude oil consumption
Expansion of sugarcane cultivation in Brazil for ethanol production in areas not under environmental protection or reserved for food production could potentially replace up to 13.7% of world crude oil consumption and reduce global emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) by as much as 5.6% by 2045.
These estimates come from an international study with Brazilian participation, whose results were published on October 2017 in the journal Nature Climate Change.
The study set out to investigate how the expansion of sugarcane ethanol could help limit the rise in average global temperatures to less than 2 °C by reducing CO2 emissions from the combustion of fossil fuels, as agreed by the 196 countries that signed the Paris Climate Agreement in December 2015.
The study was conducted as part of a project supported by the São Paulo Research Foundation – FAPESP and by the National Institute of Science and Technology for Bioethanol – INCT Bioethanol. The participating researchers are affiliated with the University of Campinas’s Agricultural Engineering School (FEAGRI-UNICAMP) and the University of São Paulo’s Bioscience Institute (IB-USP) and Luiz de Queiroz College of Agriculture (ESALQ-USP). They collaborated with colleagues at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign (UIUC), Iowa State University and the National Center for Supercomputing Applications in the United States, the University of Copenhagen and Danish Energy Association in Denmark, and Lancaster University in the United Kingdom.
The researchers used software developed at UIUC to simulate the growth of plants such as sugarcane hour by hour based on soil composition, temperature, rainfall, and drought, among other parameters.
They used three different environmental policy scenarios to simulate sugarcane expansion in the context of climate change projected for 2040 and 2050 by the five main general circulation models.
Under Scenario 1, sugarcane expansion was limited to existing pasturelands that could be replaced with the crop according to the Sugarcane Agroecological Zoning Plan (ZAE Cana) established in 2009 by EMBRAPA, the Brazilian Agricultural Research Corporation.