Between January and February this year, sales of hydrated ethanol rose 26.20%. The data are from the Brazilian Sugarcane Industry Association (Unica). In the assessment of Unica’s technical director, Antonio de Padua Rodrigues, this “is an indication of the recovery in biofuel consumption”.
With the recent increase in the price of gasoline of 18.57%, ethanol can be an alternative for supply. The exchange, however, may not be advantageous. This is what the professor of Transport Engineering at the Alberto Luiz Coimbra Institute for Graduate Studies and Research in Engineering at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro (Coppe/UFRJ) says, Márcio D’Agosto.
D’Agosto explains that the amount of energy in a liter of ethanol is different from the amount in a liter of gasoline. “Then, there is the famous 70% ratio. It means that a liter of ethanol is equivalent to about 70% of a liter of gasoline in terms of energy content”. Therefore, the price of ethanol must be less than or equal to 70% of the price of gasoline. Otherwise, the cost-benefit between fuels will not be attractive to consumers, he explained.
To calculate, just divide the price of alcohol by the value of gasoline. If the result is less than 0.7, ethanol will be an economically viable alternative. For example, if gasoline is valued at R$7.40 and ethanol at R$5.20, the result is 0.702. In this scenario (5.2 divided by 7.4), ethanol is advantageous.
The price survey carried out by the National Agency for Petroleum, Natural Gas and Biofuels (ANP) found, in the week between the 13th and 19th of this month, maximum prices of R$8,399 for a liter of regular gasoline and of R$7,989 for the liter of hydrated ethanol at the gas stations. “It’s not worth it,” said the Coppe professor. “It’s not 70%”.
Márcio D’Agosto stated that there is no advantage for drivers to buy ethanol. “Because he’ll run fewer kilometers with a liter of ethanol, he’ll have to fill up more often and end up spending more. His tank will run out faster.” That ethanol price is totally uncompetitive with gasoline, he said.
In the week analyzed by the ANP, maximum prices were found for the liter of gasoline by states. In Rio de Janeiro, the amount reached up to R$8,399; in Maranhão, R$8,390; in São Paulo, R$8,299; in Piauí, of R$ 8,297.
The minimum price, which reached R$ 5,899, was registered in São Paulo.
In relation to the liter of hydrated ethanol, the maximum prices of R$ 7.989 and R$ 7.899 were found in Rio de Janeiro and Rio Grande do Sul, respectively. The minimum price per liter of the product occurred in Mato Grosso and São Paulo, at R$ 3.979 in both units of the Federation.
Journalist Romildo Guerrante uses gasoline in his car. But, given the high price of fuel, the way out he found to ease expenses in the current scenario was to travel less. “I used to go out and take a walk to Petrópolis or Nova Friburgo. I am not going. I’m not going anymore”. Guerrante said he doesn’t use ethanol because it’s not worth it. “There is no advantage,” he argued.
Micro-entrepreneur Rômulo Cipriani Costa also prefers gasoline to ethanol in his cars. To reduce expenses, he stopped doing some everyday actions, such as taking his children to school by car. “We are going by bicycle”. He also cut virtually all rides. “Only [ficaram] those who can go by bike”, he reported.
José Paulo Zymmerman is a bank manager and owns a gasoline-powered car, but he only uses it on weekends. On weekdays, he rides the subway. To reduce fuel costs, he seeks “to drive more calmly, without accelerating deep, because when we accelerate a lot, the expense is greater. But if the route I have to take has a subway nearby, I always prefer the subway”.
Retired Gilson Munhoz Ribeiro also only uses gasoline. “Ethanol here in Rio de Janeiro does not pay off, even in normal times”. He confessed that he is not doing anything different to compensate for the increase in gas, other than avoiding unnecessary rides. “But the rest hasn’t changed,” he said.
The UFRJ professor argued that vehicular natural gas (CNG) is quite equivalent to gasoline. If the price of a cubic meter of CNG is cheaper than the price of gasoline, it is better to use CNG, he suggested. But to use CNG, the driver has to adapt the car, because you don’t buy a vehicle adapted for gas from the factory. “He has an investment to make to install the CNG kit. Then, the question is how long will he pay for the investment he made depending on the price of the CNG, because there are several CNG kits with different prices, in addition to different types and sizes of cylinder, which is the most expensive input of the kit, for evaluate how much return time he will have to use CNG”.
For D’Agosto, one thing is certain. It is only worth installing a CNG kit who runs high daily mileage. “I’m talking about people who drive 250 kilometers at 300 kilometers a day, as taxi drivers do more or less today”. When making the adaptation, he has to choose between CNG and gasoline or CNG and ethanol. The professor indicated that it is advantageous for those who drive a lot a day to have a CNG kit because CNG has maintained a lower price per cubic meter than gasoline and ethanol and it is able to pay for the return on investment made in a short time.
He also warned that this depends on maintaining the price of CNG. If there are readjustments, depending on the global situation, the war between Russia and Ukraine, there may be a significant increase only in NGV. “This increase will impact not only the price of automotive CNG, but also residential natural gas. Then, the advantage ended because, if that price goes up, I can’t afford the kit I installed”.
Sought by Agência Brasil, the National Petroleum Agency (ANP) reported that fuel prices are free in Brazil, by law, since 2002. They are set by the market. There are no maximum or minimum prices, no pricing, nor the need for authorization from the ANP, nor from any public body for prices to be readjusted to the consumer.
The ANP price survey can be accessed at https://preco.anp.gov.br/. The survey is weekly and the data is updated on Fridays.
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