Brazilian ethanol and Belgian news

July 16, 2007 · 1 comment

Dutch journalists…  It is truly amazing how propaganda items like these reach the Belgian news unchecked.

The supposedly objective information :

1. “Brazil is the 4th biggest CO2 polluter worldwide and the main reason for this is not the industry or cars, but the burning of cane fields”.
My answer: this is absurd.  Below is a graph of the CO2 emissions of Africa, Brazil, China and India.  Brazil (with 180 million inhabitants) remains a dwarf in CO2 emissions and more importantly: the slowest growing one.  I don’t even bother putting Europe and the US on the graph.
My second answer: Cane burning has been going on for ages.  The leaves of the cane are burned (cane trash) to boost the quality of the sugar and remove the cutting leaves of the cane.  It kills snakes and fertilizes the soil naturally.  The burning gives a short but fierce fire.
As to the CO2 emission of the burning: many studies will prove that the smoke produced each season produces the same amount of carbon pollution as the sugarcane would have produced if it were left in the field to rot, which is relatively little.  Which is why this feature on the news is such nonsense.
2. “Workers get paid 10 EU a day”.
My answer: true.  And a policeman in Brazil gets 400 EU a month.   And I paid my maid 600 EU a month for living in with us 5 days a week. 
True, since sugarcane only requires hand labor at harvest time, this shift also created a large population of migrant workers who can only find temporary employment for one or two months every year.  The alternative for those people in the North is basically to have no work.  And let’s look at a greater scale what amounts of money the Brazilian populistic Lula has already put in social programs ‘Bolsa Familia’ for the poorest.
So what?  We eat imported chicken, all our cows eat Brazilian soy.  The question really is: how many amongst us drink Oxfam coffee, or use Natura bodycare products?  Exactly.
3. We are getting used to ‘objective’ documentaries which are a setup.  But this one is a bad one, all interviews are faked, even the one of the ‘sugar cane baron’.  Besides, what’s an interview worth without mentioning names?

Now the facts:
1. Burning any vegetable matter releases carbon dioxide into the air. However, over its two-year  growth cycle, an acre of sugarcane removes far more carbon dioxide from the air than is produced  during pre-harvest burning. As it grows, a field of cane also pumps about 60 times more oxygen into  the air than is used up in burning.  The equitation for Brazil is a net gain of x50 time more oxygen in the air than burning.  Which makes this emission of our Dutch journalist laughable.
2. Brazil is experimenting with their milling processes, to see if they can  compensate for the loss in sugar (both quality and quantity) caused by processing green cane.
3. In Brazil, a recent law has been created in order to ban the burning of sugarcane fields, and machines will replace human labor as the means of harvesting cane. This not only solves the problem of pollution from burning fields, but new machines also have a higher productivity than people.
4. Pesticides.  No insecticides are used on cane fields. Herbicides are used for weed control but these are only applied in the early months of growth, until the cane is tall and thick enough to choke out weeds naturally. A ripening agent is usually applied to the cane six to eight weeks before harvest, but it breaks down rapidly after application.
Before you travel to Brazil, look at the absurd situation of the European Commission granting duty reductions on rapeseed biodiesel produced in the Czech Republic.  A duty reduction of 95 EU per 1.000 litres of blended diesel/bio-diesel.   In addition, the Czech Republic intends to grant a direct non-reimbursable subsidy of € 257 per 1000 litres of RME.

 

CO2 emission China versus Brazil