Over the past three decades Brazil has worked to create a viable alternative to gasoline. With its sugarcane-based fuel, the nation may become energy independent this year. Brazil’s ethanol program, which originated in the 1970s in response to the uncertainties of the oil market, has enjoyed intermittent success. Still, many Brazilians are driving “flexible fuel” cars that run on either ethanol or gasoline and allow the consumer to fill up with whichever option is cheaper – often ethanol. Countries with large fuel bills such as India and China are following Brazil’s progress closely.
The US is taking small steps towards the use of ethanol, but its process, relying on corn, is lengthier and more expensive. In addition, countries such as Japan and Sweden are importing ethanol from Brazil to help fulfill their environmental obligations under the Kyoto Protocol. Running cars on carbohydrates instead of fossil fuels may not be a new idea, and ethanol has drawbacks such as high water content can damage engine parts over the long term, and ethanol burns at a higher temp to conventional oil based petrolium therefore creating starting problems in the morning if the temp is cool. The thing is that ethanol offers an attractive alternative as oil prices climb, and it is possible to make the stuff from pretty much anything that you can brew alcohol out of.
New Zealand / USA does not grow sugarcane to my knowledge, therefore the corn option seems to be the best bet although sugarcane based Ethanol is more potent than corn based ethanol. Brazil has got to the point now that they can get about 6000 liters of ethanol from 2.5 acres of land. When they started in 1975 with their project that was at 2500 liters. Brazil is the world leader in this technology. I think that they are going to reap their rewards from now on as the really have everything covered from spending money in their own country to power their vehicles, to excess power generation created by the ethanol plants which in turn sell the power to the local grid..... All very self sufficient.
I think that NZ should take advantage of Brazils knowledge and start producing Ethanol in NZ to subsidise our dependence on international oil. The other option is to do as Sweden and Japan is doing and importing Brazilian Ethanol for the time being until an infastructure can be created. It is not going to be difficult to get flex fuel vehicles produced for the NZ market, and hey.... It is green and good for the environment.
Time that someone within the governement looks into this.
UPDATE: Upon searching NZ and Ethanol, I found out that in NZ bioethanol (petrol ethanol mix) is made as a by-product of the dairy industry. Lactose is fermented in whey with special yeast that converts this sugar into alcohol. The alcohol is then distilled into bioethanol.
In the future bioethanol could be made in New Zealand from waste paper, straw or forestry residues, sugar beets are an option too.