Florida gov. to lobby for ethanol on U.S. Congress
SAO PAULO (Reuters) - Florida Gov. Charlie Crist said on Monday he will encourage U.S. Congress members to lobby for more ethanol use and a reduction in the 54-cent-a-gallon tariff on Brazilian imports of the biofuel.
The use of more cane-based ethanol is seen as a way to curb greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S. state, which is aiming to reduce them to 1990 levels by 2015.
"My style is to encourage (ethanol imports) and I have great friends in the Florida delegation in Washington, senator Mel Martinez, also senator Bill Nelson...I will encourage them to do exactly that," Crist told Brazilian and U.S. businessmen.
"We are a gateway (for ethanol to the United States) and we're all about reducing taxes," Crist said a meeting at Sao Paulo's Industry Federation (Fiesp).
As the tariff is in force at least until 2009, any possible change would take place beyond that.
Crist came to Brazil along with about 200 delegates on a mission to improve bilateral trade. Brazil is already Florida's leading partner, with two-way trade worth at around $11 billion per year.
Crist also will visit an ethanol mill in Sao Paulo and Brazil's state oil company Petrobras' headquarters.
Florida next year will discuss ways to reduce gas emissions. The adoption of a 10 percent mix of ethanol into gasoline is an option, said Michael Sole, Florida's secretary of Environmental Protection, who also attended the event.
He said a recommendation to the government should be made by October 2008.
"Florida will be a tremendous ethanol market, which is going to grow, and would be an important gateway," said Marcos Jank, president of Brazil's Sugar Cane Industry Union (Unica).
Florida demands 8.6 billion gallons of gasoline per year and currently does not produce any of the biofuel.
Logistics problems to get corn-based ethanol from the U.S. Midwest to Florida are seen as an advantage to Brazilian imports.
Brazil currently exports minimal amounts of ethanol to Florida, all through the Caribbean, where the Brazilian product is reprocessed and re-exported to the U.S. market exempt of the tariff, through the Caribbean Basin Initiative (CBI) trade pact.
Brazil and the United States signed a broad agreement to work together to advance biofuels technology, help spread ethanol production and set common standards for ethanol trade, when U.S. President George W. Bush visited the country in March.
The accord did not include changes in the tariff despite
a direct appeal to Bush by Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva on the matter.
(Reporting by Inae Riveras; Editing by Bill Trott))
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