At the United Nations on Friday, Brazil, China, India, South Africa, the United States and the European Commission launched a new project to promote the sustained use and production of Biofuels. According to news reports, the International Biofuels Forum will meet regularly to help set industry standards and, eventually, work toward the commoditization of biofuels so one day they may be traded, like oil, on the open market.
This seems to be a step in the right direction. So far, biofuels account for only 2% of the world’s energy stock. Coordinating the development of these new fuel sources is a worthy endeavor for the world’s largest energy consumers. For his part, President Bush traveled to Brazil to promote cooperation on the production of ethanol, one of the more promising sources of Biofuel. The two countries are the top global producers of ethanol, but because of investments decades ago, Brazil’s ethanol usage is by far the highest in the world. When oil prices rose sharply in the 1970s, Brazil invested heavily on the production of sugar cane for ethanol. Today, sales of “flex” cars that can run on ethanol blends or gasoline have surpassed sales of gasoline-only automobiles. Part of this success can be attributed to the fact that ethanol is much cheaper than gas and is carried ubiquitously by gas stations in Brazil’s cities.
Brazil is clearly proof that large energy consuming countries can transition toward a biofuels future. If the world’s key players bring that kind of determination to the global stage, the International Biofuels Forum holds great promise.