The Brazilian experience of sugarcane ethanol industry

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Biomass has gained prominence in the last few years as one of the most important renewable energy sources. In Brazil, a sugarcane ethanol program called ProAlcohol was designed to supply the liquid gasoline substitution and has been running for the last 30 yr. The federal government's establishment of ProAlcohol in 1975 created the grounds for the development of a sugarcane industry that currently is one of the most efficient systems for the conversion of photosynthate into different forms of energy. Improvement of industrial processes along with strong sugarcane breeding programs brought technologies that currently support a cropland of 7 million hectares of sugarcane with an average yield of 75 tons/ha. From the beginning of ProAlcohol to the present time, ethanol yield has grown from 2,500 to around 7,000 l/ha. New technologies for energy production from crushed sugarcane stalk are currently supplying 15% of the electricity needs of the country. Projections show that sugarcane could supply over 30% of Brazil's energy needs by 2020. In this review, we briefly describe some historic facts of the ethanol industry, the role of sugarcane breeding, and the prospects of sugarcane biotechnology

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