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Biofuels in the Americas

Interviewees: David J. Rothkopf
C. Ford Runge
Interviewer: Stephanie Hanson
June 8, 2007

Biofuels are attracting media, investor, and government attention all over the world as a green alternative to oil. In particular, experts are touting Latin America's potential to become a nexus of ethanol production. David J. Rothkopf, author of a report for the Inter-American Development Bank on green energy in the Americas, and C. Ford Runge, professor of applied economics and law and director of the Center for International Food and Agricultural Policy at the University of Minnesota, discuss the viability of ethanol as an alternative fuel and its prospects in Latin America.

The Americas account for 80 perent of the biofuel production in the world, and Rothkopf says both Brazil and the United States have the potential to significantly expand production. But Runge argues that corn-based ethanol, which the United States produces, has several drawbacks: high cost of production, adverse environmental effects, and potential to drive up world food prices. Rothkopf says ethanol produced from grasses or other biomass, so-called cellulosic ethanol, would be more efficient than other types of ethanol, as well as better for the environment. He argues that Latin American countries have an opportunity to diversify their economies from commodities into energy by developing biofuels industries.


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