Sweden's Ambassador to Brazil, Magnus Robach (left), with
the UNICA Executive Director, Eduardo Leão (UNICA Photo /
In Europe, it is not an exaggeration to say that Sweden has the most aggressive policies regarding biofuels, particularly ethanol. And expanding the supply of ethanol is the key if Sweden is to continue making progress in its efforts to replace fossil fuels, something the Swedish government believes is attainable through the development of so-called second-generation ethanol technology according to Sweden's Ambassador to Brazil, Magnus Robach.
"Ethanol is an investment that Sweden wants to make. We’re naturally quite anxious about the arrival of second-generation technology in order to produce it," said Robach during a visit to the headquarters of the Brazilian Sugarcane Industry Association (UNICA) in São Paulo.
Demand for biofuels in Sweden, for private vehicles and public transportation, can be greatly expanded according to the Ambassador, but second generation ethanol is crucial if that is to be accomplished, he says. Second generation technology uses biomass in the production process, such as sugarcane bagasse and straw. Although some companies have claimed breakthroughs, a number of barriers persist, including much higher production costs than traditional sugarcane ethanol production through fermentation of the sugarcane juice.
Robach says the Swedish government had a vision some 15 years ago, of an economy without fossil-based energy. That led to a plan to reduce the country’s dependence on oil and gas: "Ethanol has proven to be a very promising alternative, with use of the biofuel in buses in public transportation and in traffic in general, a policy that remains strong.”
It was in the Swedish capital, Stockholm, that a bold new public transportation project involving the use of ethanol was launched in 1990. Today, some 800 ethanol-powered buses are part of the city’s public transit fleet. The country has also been a major importer of Brazilian sugarcane ethanol.
The Swedish Ambassador was received at UNICA by the organization’s Executive Director, Eduardo Leão de Sousa, who conducted a presentation on the current status of the Brazilian sugarcane industry. "It's very exciting that Sweden remains so interested in what has been developed in Brazil over nearly four decades,” said Sousa.
In June of 2011, during the Ethanol Summit organized by UNICA in São Paulo, the Project Manager of the Stockholm Public Transportation Company, Lennart Hallgren, detailed the Swedish experience: "In Stockholm, our planning took into consideration not only climate change matters, but also political issues. Our politicians are planning ambitious goals for our entire transportation system to operate with clean energy. Currently, all our trains are travelling with electricity obtained from hydro power plants," Hallgren stated at the time.
In February of 2011, the city of São Paulo introduced the Ecofrota program, which includes modern versions of the ethanol-powered buses used in Stockholm. The buses were manufactured in Brazil by Swedish automaker Scania. About half of all city buses in Stockholm now run on ethanol and the goal, according to Hallgren, is to convert the entire fleet by 2025, completely eliminating the use of fossil fuels.