Brazil Ethanol's Darkside

Arguing over the pros and cons of using ethanol as a transportation fuel isn't just an American thing. The Brazilians are going at it, too. We will translate.

A recent report from Nature Geoscience suggested that using more ethanol in light-duty vehicle transportation increases local smog levels. Now, SugarCane.org, citing the Air Pollution Laboratory at São Paulo University's Faculty of Medicine, is calling that report a bunch of methane-producing cow manure.

The findings from the prior report stemmed from a misinterpretation of ozone information and the disregarding of actual air-quality data in Sao Paulo, SugarCane.org says, not-so-sweetly calling the Nature Geoscience study "misleading at best."

The newer analysis says that replacing gasoline and diesel with sugarcane-based ethanol prevents more than 850 deaths and 12,000 hospital admissions in Brazil annually. In fact, the country may save as much as $190 million a year in medical costs because of sugarcane-based biofuel use. Additionally, greenhouse gas emissions would be about 30 percent worse than they are now if not for the use of ethanol and the 2003 introduction of flex-fuel vehicles to the Brazilian public. And that difference grows as the country's vehicle use increases.