From Sugarcane To Ethanol: The Historical Process That Transformed Brazil Into A Biofuel Superpower

Jose Augusto Martini Costa


Brazil is a biofuel superpower and a pioneer in the large-scale production and use of sugarcane ethanol. The country has plans to replace 10 percent of the world's fossil fuels by 2025 with biofuels (Novo et al., 2010). Brazil is also part of a multilateral agreement signed at the Paris Climate Conference (COP-21) in 2015 and has committed to reducing its greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 43% until 2030 compared to 2005 levels (Brazilian Government, 2015). The proposal for GHG reductions is mostly based on the increase of biofuels in the Brazilian energy mix. With historical institutionalism as its theoretical framework, this paper looks at how Brazil grew from a sugar exporter into a global ethanol powerhouse. This research’s main question looks at the key historical processes and national actors behind ethanol development in Brazil. Analyzing the historical process behind how sugarcane-based fuels evolved is central to understand how past energy transformations have occurred and will offer insights into future energy transformations concerning Brazil’s increasing reliance on ethanol.


Biofuel; Brazil; Historical Institutionalism; Sugarcane

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