September 23, 2007


A Resilient Leader Trumpets Brazil’s Potential in Agriculture and Biofuels (ALEXEI BARRIONUEVO, 9/23/07, NY Times)

Fresh from a trip to Europe, where he stirred interest in Brazil’s sugar-based ethanol fuel and won billions of dollars in investment pledges, Mr. da Silva was instead focused on the economy.

Exports of Brazil’s raw commodities like soybeans and iron ore are booming as a result of high global prices and insatiable demand from Asia. In one sign of Brazil’s economic health, as the subprime credit crisis was roiling the United States a few weeks ago, Brazil’s bonds were raised to just below investment grade.

He said that Latin America as a whole was at a critical moment, when it needed to seize the opportunity to shore up its economies, notorious for mismanagement and corruption.

At the same time, he shrugged off suggestions that he should seek to be a hemispheric force and a stronger counterweight to President Hugo Chávez of Venezuela, who has aggressively seized the spotlight in the region with his energy deal-making and political maneuvering in favor of left-wing candidates.

“We in Latin America are not trying to look for a leader,” Mr. da Silva said. “We don’t need a leader. What we need to do is build political harmony because South America and Latin America need to learn the lesson of the 20th century. We had the opportunity to grow, we had the opportunity to develop ourselves, and we lost that opportunity. So we still continue to be poor countries.

“What I want is to govern my country well.”

As Mr. da Silva heads to New York on Sunday for a United Nations meeting, he is relentlessly pitching Brazil’s agricultural potential and energy experience, especially in ethanol, which Brazil makes from sugar cane, a source more efficient than corn.

With ample arable land that is the envy of the world, and a 20-year head start on developing a biofuels industry, Brazil is the only country exporting ethanol in any significant quantities.

Mr. da Silva predicted that within 15 years a global biofuels industry would be developed, with the commodity being shipped around the world on tankers for a global price.

“I believe that the world will yield to biofuels,” he said.

He found a receptive audience recently in Sweden, where he rode in an all-ethanol-powered bus in Stockholm, one of 600 buses, he said, that the Swedish government had retrofitted for use with biofuels. Sweden wants every new car on the road to run on renewable fuels by 2020. The European Union has recommended its countries add 5.7 percent ethanol to the gasoline supply by 2010.

“We will democratize energy access,” he said. “Instead of 10 countries producing oil, we could have 120 countries producing biofuels.”

In other words, provide a counterweight to VZ, no?

Posted by Orrin Judd at September 23, 2007 8:44 AM
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