Sugarcane Ethanol Passes Critical Test In California Low Carbon Fuel Standard, Says Brazilian Sugarcane Industry Association

LCFS, the first of its kind, was approved today by the California Air Resources Board to test sugarcane ethanol. Brazilian Sugarcane Industry Association (UNICA) continues to claim sugarcane ethanol has even lower carbon intensity than CARB initially estimated, but the decision today means sugarcane ethanol in California will continue to grow in popularity.

Following the Sacramento vote, UNICA President & CEO Marcos Jank stated, “Sugarcane ethanol reaches California’s ambitious regulations with ease, reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 90%.

As part of broader climate change regulations, CARB is calculating the carbon intensity of all fuels offered in the state. The LCFS is designed to reduce the carbon intensity of all transportation fuels by 10% by 2020. According to the study, gasoline has a carbon intensity of 95 grams of carbon dioxide per megajoule (gCO2/MJ), so to meet the LCFS by 2020, gasoline must reduce its carbon intensity to 86 gCO2/MJ.

Many biofuels — including sugarcane ethanol — offer a significantly lower carbon intensity than gasoline, making them ideal for helping gasoline meet its 10% carbon reduction target. It is estimated that sugarcane ethanol has a direct carbon intensity of 27 gCO2/MJ, based on preliminary CARB calculations. However, UNICA pointed out in its comments to the Air Resources Board on April 17 that the Board failed to consider the fundamental aspects of sugarcane production and ethanol processing that directly affect that figure. These include increasing the mechanization of the cane harvest, increasing cogeneration and reducing pre-harvest field burning significantly, on a continuous basis.

“California has shown leadership in encouraging low carbon fuels around the world, and we congratulate it on that. Despite these strict policies and actions, any realistic assessment of sugarcane farming’s carbon emissions needs to take into account the steps already taken to eliminate sugarcane burning, increase mechanical harvesting, and expand cogeneration capacity,” Joel Velasco, UNICA’s Chief Representative in North America, said at the Board meeting today in Sacramento.

As part of UNICA’s second submission on this issue, which was submitted on April 17, the organization also addresses controversial calculations resulting from indirect land use change impacts as a result of sugarcane expansion. Numerous stakeholders’ comments are supported in the letter, which specifically cites 111 Ph.D.’s letter to CARB. They state that the science used to determine such impacts is extremely limited, highly uncertain, and could be misapplied by selective enforcement. As the land use change modeling is underway, UNICA urges CARB to revisit its methodologies.

The CARB will continue to calculate carbon intensity values under the regulation approved today. It was agreed by the Board to conduct a land use and indirect impact investigation by the end of 2009 that would include input from outside expert groups. It is recommended that the experts group evaluate biofuels based on their productivity per acre of land, water use, low carbon agricultural practices, as well as the creation of co-products such as protein and electricity. Additionally, the Board determined that the findings of this investigation and any changes recommended to the LCFS would be presented to the Board before January 1, 2011, the date on which the LCFS becomes binding. Following that, the LCFS will be reviewed every three years by the Board.

It is vital to consider the best available data and research before rushing into conclusions with CARB’s determination to move forward with indirect land use calculations, according to Velasco. Indirect land use changes in Brazilian agriculture must reflect the dynamics of the industry today accurately. According to him, indirect land use changes from sugarcane cultivation in Brazil are marginal at best, based on a data driven analysis.

Click on the following link to download UNICA’s second letter to the California Air Resources Board, which was submitted on April 17:


It represents the top sugar and ethanol producers in the South-Central region of Brazil, particularly Sao Paulo, which produces about 50 percent of the country’s sugarcane harvest and 60 percent of its ethanol. Its mission is to support Brazil’s sugar, ethanol and bioelectricity industries by developing position papers, statistics, and specific research. The Brazilian sugarcane industry produced 565 million tons in 2008, resulting in 31.3 million tons of sugar and 25.7 billion liters (6.8 billion gallons) of ethanol.

About the author

Alex Jones

Alex Jones is a tech-savvy editor at World-Wire, renowned for his expertise in writing detailed technical articles and user-friendly how-to guides. With a background in Information Technology, he excels in demystifying complex tech topics. His work is highly valued for its accuracy and practicality, earning him awards like "Innovator in Tech Journalism" in 2023. Alex's role at World-Wire is pivotal in making technology accessible to a broad audience.

Add Comment

Click here to post a comment