Brazil urges Africa to join "biofuel revolution"
BRAZZAVILLE (Reuters) - Brazil's President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva has called on Africa to join the "biofuel revolution," saying it would help strengthen the world's poorest economies and fight global warming.
Speaking during an African tour, Lula said Brazil's experience with biofuels showed the environmental and economic benefits of mass producing ethanol and bio-diesel.
"Brazil invites Burkina Faso and all of Africa to join the biofuel revolution," Lula said in Burkina Faso's capital Ouagadougou late on Monday, before flying to Congo Republic.
He will also visit South Africa and Angola.
"By planting crops in Africa, Latin America and Asia to produce ethanol and biodiesel on a large scale, we will be able to democratize access to sustainable energy and at the same time fight the impact of global warming which hits the world's poorest countries disproportionately hard," he said.
Three quarters of new cars run on a mix of biofuel and gasoline in Brazil and the country's state oil company, Petrobras, expects ethanol sales in Latin America's largest country to beat gasoline consumption by around 2020.
Brazil also exports ethanol to the United States, the Caribbean and the European Union.
Africa produces a range of crops that could be used to make biofuel, including sugar cane, sugar beet, maize, sorghum and cassava -- all of which can be used to make ethanol -- and peanuts, whose oil can be used to power diesel engines.
The concept of biofuels is relatively new in much of Africa, but Mali is using the wild shrub, jatropha, to make biodiesel to run rural generators and water pumps while Senegal's state sugar company is working on a project to start producing ethanol.
Among a package of development and infrastructure deals expected to be signed in Congo's capital Brazzaville was a pledge to provide technical expertise in using sugar cane as a biofuel, according to officials in the central African country.
Brazil's Petrobas was also interested in oil exploration off Congo Republic's Atlantic coast, as well as on-shore permits around the city of Pointe-Noire, the Congolese presidency said.
Lula is also using his African tour to push for fairer trade for nations in the G20 negotiating bloc of developing countries.
"With the indispensable support of African countries, the G20 has prevented the industrialized powers from continuing to ignore our legitimate aspirations," he said in Ouagadougou.
"We must continue to work together so as to guarantee that our farmers have the chance to prove their competence and their competitiveness in the international market."
Cotton-producing Burkina Faso is one of several West African nations to suffer the impact of U.S. farm subsidies, which make life even harder for Africa's 15 million growers by forcing down global market prices.
A World Trade Organization panel found that the United States has not done enough to reform its cotton subsidies, ruling in favor of Brazil in a landmark international challenge, a U.S. official said on Monday.
The conclusions of the report, which have not yet officially been made public, are another coup for Brazil, whose 2002 challenge against U.S. cotton subsidies at the WTO court was a watershed which emboldened other developing nations.