Jason Barton

Professional Information and Energy News

Bloomberg to air documentary about Brazilian ethanol worker labor conditions

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As I’ve investigated more and more of the Brazilian cane and ethanol industries, I’ve become increasingly dubious about the validity of these negative claims. Certainly there are cases of worker abuses, and even in the best circumstances, manual harvesting of sugarcane is extremely difficult work, with very low pay.

This makes the growth of mechanized harvesting a very interesting issue: it is cutting the number of jobs by more than half, but the jobs lost are the worst kind, while the newer jobs are much safer and healthier, higher paying, and require more training and education. This leads many to point out that these are the kinds of jobs upon which healthier development can be built. Others may agree, but are still understandable concerned about what thousands of cane cutters will do when they lose their jobs, and are unable to compete for these new jobs that require skills that they do not have.

Clearly there’s much more to this issue than can be discussed in this one entry, so if you have questions or comments please feel free to contact me and we can discuss it further.

According to the video above, the Bloomberg TV network will air Deadly Brew – The Human Toll of Ethanol, a documentary about the horrible labor conditions of Brazilian ethanol workers on January 24th (next Thursday). The video above includes lines like “the cars run on human blood” and the video ends with a shocking story of a man that died after cutting “45 tonnes” of sugar cane in one day (see related post here).

Many environmentalists and now even the EU have really backed off in their support for ethanol and are taking a very hard look at how it’s made. While it can be sustainable, energy positive and include good labor practices, there are horrible cases like the ones Bloomberg will report on that have many questioning if ethanol is worth it. I will post a review of the documentary after it airs.

Read the entire article here.