[Marxism] re. a Cubalist posting on Ethanol in Brazil

Rod Holt rholt at planeteria.net
Wed Mar 15 16:43:45 MST 2006

Below is the Cubalist posting and my addition. I realise that the 
Cubalist overlaps with this list, but I want to put this out if only to 
lower my blood pressure. Walter's note simply points in the wrong direction.
What is the point of putting this without comment on the Cuba list or 
any other list? Ethanol production in Brazil is just as destructive as 
ethanol production in the US, or as it would be in Cuba.

First: In Brazil the ethanol producers steal the land from the 
indigenous peoples that have worked it. There is no "undeveloped land" 
in Brazil; it has long since been developed by nature and by the people 
who have lived there. Do you see "undeveloped land" in the North 
American arctic, along the Appalachian Trail, the Grand Canyon, the 
Rocky Mountains?

Second: the sugar barons not only rob the peasantry, they rob the 
greater populace (the working class) through the state subsidies which 
support them for the sole purpose of gaining foreign exchange and huge 
profits. There is no significant capital investment in the 
sugarcane/ethanol business.

Third: The manufacture of ethanol is inherently wasteful of energy, and 
in the sugarcane example, the cellulose and starches are burned 
(releasing CO2) in the distilling stage. In the sugar fermentation 
stage, as much carbon is released into the air by the fermentation yeast 
as is incorporated in the resulting ethanol. For heaven's sake, read 
"The Thermodynamics of the Corn Ethanol Biofuel Cycle" by Tad W. Patzek 
which is available on line. His analysis is not limited to corn (a more 
favorable cycle than the sugar route since there exist enzymes which 
rapidly and efficiently convert starches to sugars), but can be extended 
to other cycles (including those which use semi-permiable membranes 
instead of distillation).

Fourth: Sugarcane Plantations -- like any monoculture -- exhausts the 
soil, and unless agricultural byproducts are recycled into the soil and 
minerals replaced, the intensive cultivation of sugar cane will haunt 
those who later try to grow food for people. The sugar-ethanol barons of 
Brazil do not recycle anything. They burn the land to clear it, and they 
burn everything else to distill the ethanol.

Walter Lippmann wrote:

>(Contrary to the author, U.S. investment bankers
>and entrepreneurs are now welcome in Cuba, but
>Washington won't let them participate as all the
>other capitalists from the rest of the world do.
>Was the Mexico City Sheraton caper THAT long ago?)
>Brazil and ethanol
>March 15, 2006
>In reference to Sunday's article "Brazil Is a Leader in Effort to Boost
>Ethanol Use at Pump":
>It's true that Brazil has had great success in using sugar-cane ethanol for
>motor fuel. But what Associated Press reporter Alan Clendenning didn't say
>in his article is that there are few parallels between Brazil and the United
>States when it comes to making ethanol. In fact, Brazil has several
>advantages that don't exist here:
>It is much more efficient to make alcohol from the sugar in cane than from
>the starch in corn.
>Brazil has a climate conducive to growing sugar cane.
>Brazil has vast tracts of inexpensive, undeveloped land at the tropical
>latitudes conducive to growing cane.
>Brazil has a supply of dirt-cheap manual labor that doesn't exist in the
>United States -- and which I don't think we want to exist here.
>Cuba also has those same advantages. In fact, I predict that when Fidel
>Castro is out of the picture, Cuba will become the primary source of cane
>ethanol for use in U.S. motor fuels -- especially for Florida and the cities
>along the Atlantic seaboard. All Cuba lacks is the needed infrastructure to
>make and transport ethanol, and that will come rapidly when investment
>bankers and entrepreneurs are once more welcome in Cuba.
>Gary Dikkers
>Energy consultant, DiWiDi Technologies
>Madison, Wisc.

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