Photo by Marxchivist. Licensed under Creative Commons license 2.0.

It's been so long (like six months) since there was a nice dispute about the impacts of Brazil's ethanol industry. In the past we've seen questions raised about the workers' conditions and the environmental standards of the sugarcane operation. To tell its side of the story, Brazil began a concerted pro-ethanol diplomatic offensive earlier this year. The Brazilian Sugarcane Industry Association (UNICA) is on the defensive this week because of a report issued by the Friends of the Earth called "Fuelling Destruction in Latin America," which says that the mono-sugarcane-culture used by the Brazilian ethanol industry is detrimental to the workers and the environment. You can download the report here.

Faced with these accusations, UNICA sent out a release (pasted after the jump) that basically calls the Friends of the Earth a bunch of liars, and released a PDF of the "partial list of specific errors, unsubstantiated claims and conclusions in the Friends of the Earth report." Ahh, it's good to be back.

[Source: Brazilian Sugarcane Industry Association - UNICA]


PRESS RELEASE:

Friends of the Earth Report on Biofuel Production Offers Incomplete, Outdated and Inaccurate Picture, According to Brazilian Sugarcane Industry Association

SAO PAULO, Brazil, Sept. 11 /PRNewswire/ -- References to the Brazilian ethanol industry in the report "Fuelling Destruction in Latin America," distributed by the Amsterdam-based non-government organization Friends of the Earth, are based on out-of-context, inaccurate and generally outdated information that in no way reflects current biofuel production and use in Brazil. The assessment comes from Marcos Sawaya Jank, president of Brazil's top organization representing sugar and ethanol producers, the Brazilian Sugarcane Industry Association (UNICA). Timed to coincide with today's announcement on the European Directive on Renewable Energy Sources by the European Parliament's ITRE (Industry, Technology, Research and Energy) Committee, the report is an example of "how unprepared, or unwilling to properly process information that confronts their beliefs, some organizations are about topics they propose to analyse, in this case ethanol production and use in Brazil," said Jank.

Throughout the Friends of the Earth document, there are numerous factual errors and conclusions that bear little or no resemblance to the facts on the ground, according to UNICA. Sweeping statements, such as "Little progress has been made to make the Brazilian biofuels industry sustainable," are indicative of a pre-determined negative slant that defies long-standing facts and figures corroborated by respected global institutions and easily available to anyone conducting serious research.

"How is it possible to conclude that a sector has made little progress towards sustainability when that sector's activities are extremely positive on all fronts that define sustainability? From the most significant CO2 reduction of any biofuel produced in the world today, to a highly positive energy balance, to hundreds of thousands of jobs created, new technologies developed, and strong, visible and positive economic impacts throughout the economy, the production and use of Brazilian sugarcane ethanol is a highly successful and sustainable activity," counters Jank.

Even simple aspects are bungled in the Friends of the Earth report, says UNICA. It states that exports of Brazilian sugarcane ethanol to Europe are increasing, "especially to the Netherlands". The authors are apparently unaware of the fact that most ethanol exports to Europe enter the continent through Rotterdam, but are not necessarily destined for the Netherlands. Europe's top importer of Brazilian ethanol is Sweden.

Marcos Jank points out that when organizations insist on disseminating incomplete and out-of-context information, it is their own credibility that is at stake. "The Brazilian ethanol experience is the longest and most successful effort at large-scale, sustainable production and use of a biofuel in the world to date. That explains the hundreds of visits to Brazil in recent months by groups of government and elected officials, researchers, students, journalists and investors from all over the world. They come to take a closer look at what is being done here, and they go away with a far different view from what they read in some of these reports, so insisting on such tactics is a risky proposition for NGOs that wish to remain credible," concludes Jank.

A partial list of specific errors, unsubstantiated claims and conclusions in the Friends of the Earth report is available from the UNICA website at the following link:

http://www.unica.com.br/downloads/documents/factualerrors.pdf

Additional information is also available on the "Myths vs. Facts" leaflet produced by UNICA, available at this link:

http://www.unica.com.br/download.asp?mmdCode=407ED204-2194-4AF3-8652- 538632DF16B8 (Due to the length of the URL, it may be necessary to copy and paste it into your web browser).

About UNICA:

The Brazilian Sugarcane Industry Association (UNICA) represents the top producers of sugar and ethanol in the country's South-Central region, especially the state of Sao Paulo, which accounts for about 50% of the country's sugarcane harvest and 60% of total ethanol production. UNICA develops position papers, statistics and specific research in support of Brazil's sugar, ethanol and bioelectricity sectors. In 2007, Brazil produced an estimated 490 million metric tons of sugarcane, which yielded 30.5 million tons of sugar and 22.3 billion liters of ethanol.