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Ground Rules

by Joel Velasco on Apr 11, 2010

Welcome to the Sweeter Alternative Blog. In my first post, I’d like to set some guiding principles for this blog that I hope will make it – as the title suggests – a sweeter alternative to the current energy debate in Washington.

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Welcome to the Sweeter Alternative Blog. In my first post, I’d like to set some guiding principles for this blog that I hope will make it – as the title suggests – a sweeter alternative to the current energy debate in Washington. So, here’s what I pledge:

  1. Honesty. Americans’ trust in government is nearing an all-time low. I think this is mostly because our policy discussions are no longer honest debates, but a litany of hyperbolic talking points that all too often veer from the truth. So, in this blog, we’re sticking to the truth – and we’ll admit when we come up short. Honesty is the best prescription to regain the public trust.
  2. Consistency. Cherry-picking may be a good strategy at an orchard, but not for public policy. Being consistent means practicing what we preach, demanding accountability and, yes, being fair and balanced. And that’s why UNICA, my organization, has advocated for reducing trade barriers not only in United States but also in Brazil.
  3. Sweet Humor. There’s nothing wrong with mixing a little fun with work, and we’ll try to do that on this blog, too. Like this: In Brazil, a common sugar industry saying is “drink the best, drive the rest.” That’s because the national drink in Brazil is made with sugarcane alcohol, which, when it fills the tank of our cars, is called ethanol. We’re eagerly awaiting the “booze vs. fuel” debate to heat up. Any takers?

So. Sugarcane ethanol. Why am I so passionate about it? I hear the internet is a visual medium… Rather than bore you with a thousand words, I’ll start with a picture.

Photo of Joel Velasco's Chevette

When I was about 8 years old, my parents bought a little white GM Chevette that ran on pure sugarcane ethanol. Following the oil crisis of the 1970s, the Brazilian government – just like the U.S. government – launched a series of efforts to reduce the country’s dependence on imported oil (for a brief description of Brazil’s transition from oil to ethanol, click here).

Part of that effort was to encourage consumers to buy cars that ran on something other than gasoline. Flex-fuel cars were not yet available, nor were hybrids. But automakers (including GM, Fiat, VW, and Ford) embraced the challenge and adapted their gasoline cars to run on pure ethanol. My parents bought one, and I have colorful memories of the experience.

At first, there were few fueling stations that sold pure ethanol, and that meant stocking up with an extra 10 gallons of ethanol in the back seat of the car. This was a Chevette, remember, and my two brothers and me were already in that cramped back seat.  So, when we ran out of fuel, it was time to siphon the ethanol from the backseat into the gas tank.

So, I like sugarcane ethanol, but not because it tastes good. For drinking, I prefer a caipirinha or two.

copyright 2010 Brazilian Sugarcane Industry Association