Jason Barton

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Archive for the ‘Amazon’ tag

Ethanol Mills in the Amazon?

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It’s true that ethanol mills have the potential to protect forests, particularly in the Amazon region where cane producers are required by law to leave 75-80% of each plot of land forested. The question is whether or not these laws will be observed and enforced.

The Brazilian Forest Code mandates that agricultural producers do not plant crops on 75% of their land, and also leave riparian corridors and other sensitive areas fallow. These laws have traditionally not been enforced, however, as they risk causing production costs to rise, making Brazilian agricultural products uncompetitive.

Yes, ethanol production in the Amazon can create jobs, protect forests, and reduce petroleum consumption, all while localizing energy production for people who would use the fuel there in the Amazon where the cane is grown and the ethanol is milled. It will take vigilance by Brazilian citizens and media to ensure these laws are followed if this expansion of cane and ethanol production is to occur.


Brazil Bill Seeks to Open Amazon to New Ethanol Mills

Tue, Jun 04 13:01 PM EDT

* Investors say ethanol production in Amazon economically viable

* Environmentalists fear pressure on land use

By Reese Ewing

SAO PAULO, June 4 (Reuters) – Brazil plans to vote on a bill in the coming weeks to reopen large areas of the Amazon to sugar cane mills, rekindling fears that ethanol production could accelerate deforestation and create a major marketing challenge for the country’s biofuels industry.

Environmentalists are concerned Congress’ vote could overturn a ban on cane expansion in the region that went into place in 2009 and increase pressure on land use in areas that amount to nearly a third of the broader Amazon region in Brazil.

Meanwhile, the expansion into the environmentally sensitive areas could hurt ethanol producers’ plans to open new export markets, economists say.

Read the entire article here.

Brazil aims to prevent land grabs in Amazon

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The legislation mentioned here to protect Brazilian forests has been in place since 1965, but has rarely been enforced anywhere. The law, The Brazilian Forest Code, mandates that agricultural producers set aside 20% of their land as a Legal Reserve, which is a forest where some agricultural activity, such as fruit or timber collection, is permitted so long as the forest remains permanently in place. Another 5-10% of rural properties must be left as a forest along sensitive areas such as waterways. No agricultural activity is allowed in these parcels, called Areas of Permanent Preservation.  Enforcement of these laws is so lax that even places as developed as Sao Paulo, traditionally the financial capital of South America as well as a major agricultural producer, including the country’s leading producer of sugarcane and ethanol, only 6% of properties have registered Legal Reserves[1].

My doctoral dissertation, due to be finished this coming July, is a cost benefit analysis of this very legislation, establishing the increased production costs for sugarcane and ethanol if farmers comply with the law. It’s no surprise that preliminary results suggest that setting aside 25-30% of a farmer’s land for forest increases production costs by about 22% per gallon of ethanol. It’s also no surprise that without enforcement there’s little reason for a farmer to establish the forests and forego potential revenues. There are a number of market mechanisms, however, such as payments for environmental services, that can provide the incentive much more efficiently than simply punishing producers who don’t comply.

Farmers don’t reap the benefits from positive externalities such as protection of water quality and biodiversity, carbon sequestration, or even, taken on a realistic time horizon, protection against soil erosion. If we as a society want to ensure these benefits are reaped, now and for future generations, we need to pony up and pay producers to provide these services. Brazil can certainly bear some of the burden, but as developed nations who have benefited from cheap labor and materials from Brazil and other countries for decades, surely the bulk of responsibility lay with us in the developed North. In the case of ethanol, most of the newly established sugarcane production, where there is the greatest potential to ensure these forests are established, are created to meet the demand for export. It seems logical that consumers in importing countries, and the U.S. is the largest importer of Brazilian ethanol, should provide the incentives to ensure that future generations live in a planet at least as healthy as we do.

December 27, 2009
Brazil Aims to Prevent Land Grabs in Amazon

VILA DOS CRENTES, Brazil — Raimundo Teixeira de Souza came to this sweltering Amazon outpost 15
years ago, looking for land. He bought 20 acres, he said, but more powerful farmers, who roam this Wild
West territory with rifles strapped to their backs, forced him to sell much of it for a pittance.
Then someone shot and killed Mr. de Souza’s 23-year-old stepson in the middle of a village road two years
ago, residents said. No one has been arrested. In fact, the new police chief has no record that the crime was
even investigated by his predecessor. It is hardly surprising, the chief said, considering that he has only four
investigators to cover an area of rampant land-grabbing and deforestation the size of Austria.
“We are being massacred,” said Mr. de Souza, 44, who leads the local residents’ association. “We just want
to work and raise our children.”

Read the entire article here.

[1] Bacha, 2006. “Eficácia Da Política De Reserva Legal No Brasil” (Effectiveness of Legal Reserve Policies in Brazil). Teoria e Evidência Econômica (Economic Theory and Evidence).

Written by Jason

December 27th, 2009 at 6:00 am

Trucks, Trains, and Trees: Saving the Amazon

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Published: November 11, 2009

Tapajós National Forest, Brazil

No matter how many times you hear them, there are some statistics that just bowl you over. The one that always stuns me is this: Imagine if you took all the cars, trucks, planes, trains and ships in the world and added up their exhaust every year. The amount of carbon dioxide, or CO2, all those cars, trucks, planes, trains and ships collectively emit into the atmosphere is actually less than the carbon emissions every year that result from the chopping down and clearing of tropical forests in places like Brazil, Indonesia and the Congo. We are now losing a tropical forest the size of New York State every year, and the carbon that releases into the atmosphere now accounts for roughly 17 percent of all global emissions contributing to climate change.

It is going to be a long time before we transform the world’s transportation fleet so it is emission-free. But right now — like tomorrow — we could eliminate 17 percent of all global emissions if we could halt the cutting and burning of tropical forests. But to do that requires putting in place a whole new system of economic development — one that makes it more profitable for the poorer, forest-rich nations to preserve and manage their trees rather than to chop them down to make furniture or plant soybeans.

Without a new system for economic development in the timber-rich tropics, you can kiss the rainforests goodbye. The old model of economic growth will devour them. The only Amazon your grandchildren will ever relate to is the one that ends in dot-com and sells books.

Read the entire article here.

Written by Jason

November 11th, 2009 at 7:23 pm