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With big boost from sugar cane, Brazil is satisfying its fuel needs
Larry Rohter, NY TImes
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.
(10 April 2006)
Now in the rearview mirror: low gasoline prices
Jad Mouawad, NY Times
...Drivers are once again feeling pain at the pump. Prices have soared in recent weeks, reaching a national average of $2.61 a gallon for regular gasoline, 36 cents more than at this time last year, according to AAA. In California, drivers have paid $3 a gallon and more.
Analysts warn that gasoline prices could jump further when the driving season begins. Yet there have been no shortages or hurricanes to blame for the high cost of fuel this year. Now, strong demand, limited growth in supplies and instability in some of the leading oil-producing nations are all contributing to more volatile oil markets, therefore higher gasoline prices.
Americans are increasingly facing the fact that inexpensive gasoline, like airline meals, has become a thing of the past. "Motorists need to prepare themselves for the possibility that gasoline will continue to go up each year," said Geoff Sundstrom, a spokesman for the national office of AAA in Heathrow, Fla. "There will be peaks and valleys, but prices will keep going up."
(8 April 2006)
Offshore drilling plan widens rifts over energy policy
Michael Janofsky, NY Times
WASHINGTON — A Bush administration proposal to open an energy-rich tract of the Gulf of Mexico to oil and gas drilling has touched off a tough fight in Congress, the latest demonstration of the political barriers to providing new energy supplies even at a time of high demand and record prices.
The two-million-acre area, in deep waters 100 miles south of Pensacola, Fla., is estimated to contain nearly half a billion barrels of oil and three trillion cubic feet of natural gas, enough to run roughly a million vehicles and heat more than half a million homes for about 15 years. The site, Area 181, is the only major offshore leasing zone that the administration is offering for development.
But lawmakers are divided over competing proposals to expand or to limit the drilling.
(9 April 2006)