According to Evandro Gussi, president of Unica, Brazil has more advantages with biofuel than with electric vehicles
The president of Only (Union of the Sugarcane and Bioenergy Industry), Evandro Gussisays that ethanol is the fuel with the most competitive advantages to become the option for decarbonizing transport in the country.
In an interview with Power360Evandro highlighted 3 aspects that make biofuel more advantageous. The first is the fact that the entire infrastructure for the sector to already be built. A large part of the country’s fleet is flex fuel and almost all stations offer ethanol. The second is the fact that, in his view, ethanol improves power of gasoline (when mixed) by increasing octane.
Finally, it says that ethanol pollutes less than the electric car. This last conclusion, however, depends on the adoption of a previous concept, called “from the well to the wheel“. This parameter involves measuring the carbon emission of a fuel from the moment it begins production. In the case of an electric car, the production of electricity is included in the accounting.
In this sense, Evandro says that ethanol is the least polluting. “A vehicle fueled 100% with ethanol generates something like 38 grams of CO2 per kilometer. An electric vehicle in Brazil, where the matrix is 80% renewable, practically breaks even. When compared to most European countries, the ethanol vehicle is cleaner because the matrix is dirty“, he said in an interview with Power360. Watch (29m27s):
Evandro Gussi is 43 years old, a lawyer and president of Unica. From 2015 to 2018, he was federal deputy for PV. At the time, he chaired the Biodiesel Parliamentary Front. At the head of Unica, he was one of the organizers of the recently announced Global Alliance for Biofuels.
For Gussi, the Fuel of the Future project, launched by the government in mid-September, places Brazil at the forefront of sustainability in transport.
“Brazil enters the forefront of sustainability with the project as we make clear the concept of analyzing the life cycle from well to wheel. It will be the first country to put the concept into legislation“, he said.
At the launch of the project, Evandro wrote an article for the Power360 About the subject. Read here.
Read excerpts from the interview below:
Guilherme Waltenberg: The government launched the Fuel of the Future program on the 14th, with a series of incentives for the sector. How will the ethanol industry be impacted by the project?
Evandro Gussi: The project places Brazil at the forefront of sustainable mobility. Addresses the decarbonization process of the transport matrix, which has a relevant share in CO2 emissions. First, the project brings the measurement called ‘well to wheel’, which looks at CO2 emissions throughout the mobility life cycle. It includes everything from the construction of vehicles to their use and disposal. When they talk about electrification, which is fashionable in Europe, they don’t tell you where the electrical energy comes from. They often say that a car is zero emissions. But it is only counting the use of the vehicle. This is what Brazil used, the so-called ‘tank on the wheel’.
But what are the emissions prior to vehicle use?
If the country produces electricity by burning mineral coal, which emits more than gasoline and diesel, in the end, the vehicle will emit more than a gasoline vehicle. Brazil enters the forefront of sustainability with the project as we make clear the concept of analyzing the life cycle from well to wheel. It will be the first country to put the concept into legislation.
One of the controversies surrounding electric cars is the disposal of batteries and their construction process, which are considered pollutants. What is the construction process of these vehicles like?
One of the biggest challenges is when measuring [as emissões] from cradle to grave, which is the complete life analysis. In mining used for batteries, the carbon footprint is really high. And its recyclability is also quite complex.
Is it possible to compare the carbon emissions of ethanol cars with electric ones?
Today there is a lot of science in this area. A vehicle fueled 100% with ethanol produces, from well to wheel, something like 38 grams of CO2 per kilometer. An electric vehicle in Brazil, where the matrix is 80% renewable, practically ties with ethanol. Produces 35 to 38 grams. When compared to most European countries, the ethanol vehicle is cleaner because the matrix is dirty. But the solution is not to choose this or that. We will have to use all technological sources and routes, as long as they are environmentally correct and good for the economy.
Brazil has already had infrastructure for ethanol since the 1980s. Is it a competitive advantage?
Yes. In the Brazilian case, ethanol is the easiest way to decarbonize. Firstly because we already have 40 million flex-fuel vehicles running on the streets. You don’t need to invest in new cars or infrastructure. Brazil is the only place where you can save by decarbonizing and decarbonize by saving. On the other hand, you don’t need new infrastructure. EPE (Energy Research Company) calculates the cost of creating the infrastructure for electrification in Brazil at between US$ 220 billion and US$ 300 billion. The big question we ask is why make this investment in Brazil, which has hunger to end, sanitation to improve, when there is already a ready way to decarbonize. The question is which route is good, not which one should I impose. We understand that the biofuels route is excellent. And it has very strong replicability potential in the Global South.
Thinking about jobs and investment, how much should be created with the approval of the new rules?
We are doing the calculations. But I can tell you what usually happens. There would be creation of employment and income in more than 1,200 cities in Brazil. In addition to the 1.2 million direct and indirect ethanol jobs, the city where a plant is built has an average increase in GDP per capita of more than US$1,000. In the 15 cities surrounding the plants, the increase is US$465. It is a very strong driver of income and investment in Brazil.
India led the process of forming a global pro-ethanol alliance. Brazil joined. What to expect from the future of ethanol?
The global biofuels alliance was born from an alliance between Brazil and India. India was a strong sugar producing country, but did not have a consistent ethanol policy. It had a mixture of less than 2%. They looked at the Brazilian example from an initiative called Ethanol Talks, in 2019. We started to question why they weren’t making ethanol. We share 40 years of experience in Brazil. Today, they mix 10% ethanol, and Brazil should go to 30. Production and import of flex-fuel vehicles have started. And they want, in the coming years, ethanol pumps. Last year it gained maturity and the idea of a global alliance emerged so that the experience can be replicated in other parts of the world.
What are the largest ethanol producers in the world?
They are the United States and Brazil, in that order. Around 80% of production is in the 2. One of the major intended deliverables of the alliance is to have geographic diversity in ethanol production.
Is building infrastructure in these countries part of the alliance’s plans?
The group has a diplomatic part to be organized. The great advantage of ethanol is that it practically does not require infrastructure. Take advantage of what is ready. You start mixing ethanol with gasoline and it starts to decarbonize. And it improves the quality of gasoline, increases octane, which improves performance.
With 30% ethanol in fuel, does Brazil surpass the United States in production?
Not yet. There are more cars in greater Los Angeles than in the whole of Brazil. It’s all exponential there. But there are 2 important points. Their ethanol decarbonizes less than Brazilian ethanol. The industry needs electricity and heat for the process. We do everything with sugarcane bagasse and biomass. There, they use natural gas. There are cases of using mineral coal. The Brazilian has an award in terms of energy-environmental efficiency.
Legislative and Executive duel over the paternity of the green agenda. Deputies suggested combining the fuel of the future with another from deputy Alceu Moreira (MDB-RS). Could it impact the project?
Biofuels today unite Brazil. Congress is the home of bioenergy. I don’t think Congress or the government should defend a sector, but their benefits. I think it will be a harmonious theme. Alceu is someone who knows the agenda like few others and has great political skill. The project is not about mixtures. It aims to address and place Brazil at the forefront of sustainable mobility. We have a great opportunity.
What is the difference between the current government and the previous one regarding ethanol and bioenergy?
Each government has its role and it is up to us to have maximum institutional relations with everyone. What we see in the current government is a strong commitment, not just rhetorical, but that has programs that seek to achieve this. Lula launching the global fuel alliance was extremely relevant. I see adequate appropriation of the opportunities the energy transition can offer Brazil.
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