PIRACICABA, Brazil - At the dawn of the automobile age, Henry Ford predicted that ‘ethyl alcohol is the fuel of the future.’ With petroleum about $65 a barrel, President Bush has now embraced that view, too. But Brazil is already there. This country expects to become energy self-sufficient this year, meeting its growing demand for fuel by increasing production from petroleum and ethanol. Already the use of ethanol, derived in Brazil from sugar cane, is so widespread that some gas stations have two sets of pumps, marked A for alcohol and G for gas. In his State of the Union address in January, Mr. Bush backed financing for ‘cutting-edge methods of producing ethanol, not just from corn but wood chips and stalks or switch grass’ with the goal of making ethanol competitive in six years. But Brazil’s path has taken 30 years of effort, required several billion dollars in incentives and involved many missteps. While not always easy, it provides clues to the real challenges facing the United States’ ambitions. Brazilian officials and scientists say that, in their country at least, the main barriers to the broader use of ethanol today come from outside. Brazil’s […]

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