Sugarcane Ethanol and Land Use in Brazil | Wilson Center

Sugarcane Ethanol and Land Use in Brazil

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Webcast Recap

A recent study sponsored by the German Marshall Fund and published in Science magazine has cast doubt on the environmental benefits of biofuels, calling attention to its potential negative impact when land-use is factored in the carbon emission equation. The study highlighted only one possible exception: ethanol from Brazilian sugarcane. According to the study, "the extraordinary productivity of Brazilian sugarcane merits special future analysis."

On April 25, as a part of a continuing Brazil Institute series of forums dedicated to biofuels production, economist André Nassar of the Brazilian Institute for International Trade Negotiations (ICONE) presented initial findings of a study on sugarcane expansion and land use in Brazil. Unlike other forms of biofuels, Brazilian ethanol derived from sugarcane does not pose a threat to either global food supplies or the environment, noted Nassar. During the past three decades, Brazil has become the world's fourth largest agricultural exporter while also leading the world in biofuels production. Nassar explained this phenomenon is a result of numerous factors, including the efficiency of sugarcane production and the abundance of available arable and non-forested land. Barbara Bramble of the National Wildlife Federation and Todd Johnson of the World Bank also participated in the discussion.


  • Andre Nassar

    President, Brazilian Institute for International Trade Negotiations (ICONE)
  • Todd Johnson

    Energy Specialist, The World Bank
  • Barbara Bramble

    Senior Program Advisor for International Affairs, National Wildlife Federation