Skip to content. | Skip to navigation

helps us
protect the environmentsave money at the pumpdiversify our energy
Sections
Personal tools

Real Talk on ABC News "This Week"

by Joel Velasco on May 04, 2010

If you watched ABC News “This Week” on Sunday, you may have seen the exchange between comedian Bill Maher and George Will regarding Brazil’s oil consumption and use of ethanol. The web has been chattering in response, with some judging Maher’s statement that “Brazil got off oil in the last 30 years” to be false. I respectfully suggest he deserves at least a half true rating given the significant strides Brazil has made reducing its gasoline consumption.

| More

If you watched ABC News “This Week” on Sunday, you may have seen the following exchange between comedian Bill Maher and George Will regarding Brazil’s oil consumption and use of ethanol (begins at the 3 minute mark).

The web has been chattering in response, with some judging Maher’s statement that “Brazil got off oil in the last 30 years” to be false. I respectfully suggest he deserves at least a half true rating given the significant strides Brazil has made reducing its gasoline consumption.

Brazil has replaced more than half of its gasoline needs with sugarcane ethanol. Since 2008, total ethanol sales have surpassed that of gasoline, effectively making gasoline an alternative fuel in that country’s transportation sector and providing Brazilians with a much more diverse (and therefore secure) energy mix. It is likely this unique success that Bill Maher sought to convey.

Many observers point to Brazil’s experience as a case study for other nations seeking to expand the use of renewable fuels. Sugarcane ethanol is the number one renewable energy source in Brazil, supplying one-sixth of the country’s total energy needs.

The contrast between the United States and Brazil is worth discussing since both countries have invested significantly in ethanol for more than three decades. During that time, Brazil has significantly reduced gasoline’s role in powering its vehicles and cut government subsidies for ethanol. In contrast, American taxpayers are still subsidizing ethanol production even though the U.S. is the world’s largest ethanol producer.

Furthermore the import tax on sugarcane ethanol hampers market competition and inflates the price Americans pay for fuel at the pump. Ironically, George Will said it best back in 2007:

“Washington has rigged the system to inundate corn-growing Iowa with subsidies for corn-based ethanol [that] come from exemptions from excise taxes and tariffs (54 cents per imported gallon) that stifle competition from cheap ethanol imports.”

Now that’s some real talk.

copyright 2010 Brazilian Sugarcane Industry Association