The massive development of sugarcane plantations in Brazil to produce ethanol in places not earmarked for the production of food or safeguarded by environmental rules, can hypothetically supplant the equivalent of 13.7% of global petroleum intake and, by 2045, could decrease the emanation of carbon dioxide (CO2) by around 5.6%.
These approximations come from a transnational study that involved Brazil, and was supported by the National Institute of Science and Technology for Bioethanol (INCT) and Bioethanol Sao Paulo Research Foundation (FAPESP). The outcome was printed in the Nature Climate Change journal in October.
The aim of the paper was to explore how, by developing the creation of ethanol from sugarcane, the ever-increasing universal temperatures could be limited to below 2 C by decreasing CO2 discharge caused by burning fossil fuels — a goal committed to by the nations involved in the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement.
The researchers, who came from many institutions worldwide, tapped software from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign (UIUC) to mimic the development of plants, such as sugarcane, measuring factors including growth per hour, soil composition, rainfall, temperature, drought, and others. They also explored alternative ecological policy scenarios under Brazil’s Sugarcane ZAE Cana plan to simulate sugarcane’s growth given climate change projections for 2040 and 2050. The ZAE plan limits the expansion of sugarcane or industrial activities where lands, for example, can be used to grow crops or are needed to grow crops to feed animals.
The research revealed that given the climate change projection, the production of sugarcane for ethanol could inflate from 37.5 million to 116 million hectares and sugarcane ethanol could be a source of around 3.63 million to 12.77 million oil barrels a day in 2045. This would guarantee forest conservation and protect areas kept for the production of food. It would also mean a reduction in the consumption of oil by around 3.8 percent to 13.7 percent and net worldwide CO2 emissions by around 1.5 percent to 5.6 percent by 2045 when compared with 2014 statistics.
Raising the consumption of renewable energy by discovering sugarcane ethanol as a biofuel and applying it as nationwide solution is key to the Paris accord and a brave move by Brazil. Moreover, according to the study authors, ethanol produced from sugarcane is a near-term solution that is not that difficult to achieve to lower CO2 transportation emissions produced by today’s fuel. Fast scalability is key to helping the planet.