Free from needing oil

Published 6:21 pm Tuesday, October 21, 2008

I recently traveled south of the border to Brazil, the largest country in South America. I went there, not just for the marvelous travel experience, but more importantly, to learn first-hand about the development and implementation of Brazil’s successful ethanol program.

I was excited and impressed by what I saw. How Brazil has freed itself from foreign oil dependence is a story well worth telling.

All of us can agree that America must develop sources of cost-effective renewable energy, and end our exports of oil from our adversaries, at prices bloated by ever-rising world demand.

A successful program not only requires the processing of ethanol but also the creation of service stations that can dispense it and vehicles that can use it.

In Brazil we had a guided tour of an ethanol plant. Then, at a university near Sao Paulo, Escola Superior de Luis do Queioz, Brazilian experts gave us an in-depth explanation of how this program freed their country from middle-eastern oil.

Brazil started its program in the 1960s, using as a base its vast amount of sugar cane, which is a ready source of ethanol.

For the last five years, 88 percent of all autos and trucks have been converted to a dual capacity to use both gasoline and ethanol for fuel.

Brazilian law now requires all new vehicles to have flex fuel capabilities. Non-flex cars and trucks can be converted to flex fuel with a modifying part that costs around $85.

Brazil used tax incentives to encourage the change so distribution systems and service stations would support flex fuel vehicles.

Brazil is now 100 percent energy sufficient and imports no oil. In fact, a new Brazilian deep-water oil find will be drilled and then used for exports to increase the country’s wealth — not for domestic consumption.

Mike Hill is the Ala. State Rep. for Shelby County. He can be reached at 998-5600.