Ethanol blends have been in use in Brazil since 1924, but it was only in the mid -1970s that they became mandated. The 1970s oil crisis emphasized the need to reduce the country’s high dependence on oil imports. At the time 81% of Brazil’s oil came from abroad. In response, the government developed a public policy to incentivize the use of domestic ethanol as a fuel for the lightweight vehicle fleet. Solo ethanol fuelled vehicles were developed and commercialized by the local automotive industry in a join work between OEM and auto parts suppliers, becoming the majority of sales during a long period.

A turning point came in 2003 with the launch of flex-fuel vehicles when technology allowed us to measure the benefits of ethanol on the environment.

Society’s concerns with sustainability and health have fostered a renewed interest in biofuels. The results were staggering: the emission of 630 million tons of CO2eq into the atmosphere was avoided and it shifted a megalopolis, São Paulo, from the top to the end of the rank of the most polluted cities in the world. The upshot is that every car in Brazil runs on pure ethanol or a 27% ethanol blend. Thanks to the abundant supply and the flex- -fuel vehicles (FFVs), nearly 50% of our light fleet fuel demand is supplied by ethanol.

This experience showed that policymakers should view a national blending policy through a strategic lens. In short order, ethanol blending can improve a nation’s social and economic development. It is a turnkey solution delivering immediate results in the fight against climate change. It will decrease pollution in cities and is especially effective in decreasing fine particulate matter (PM 2.5) spewed from engines. It will enhance energy security by reducing dependence on imported oil, help with the trade balance and generate jobs and income in rural areas. Brazilian researchers concluded that the existence of an ethanol plant in a municipality raises the average GDP per capita by US$1,098, while the fifteen nearest towns experience an average GDP increase of US$ 475 when compared to similar locations in the same region.


Policymakers must conduct an analysis to answer foundational questions before deciding on a blending policy. Questions include: What biofuel supply options do I have? Could my internal biofuel supply meet a blend mandate demand? What type of technology would be needed? Where do I get the technology?

The first step is to analyze biofuel supply options. Crops such as sugarcane, maize, and other starchy feedstocks are well established and the technical requirements are minimal.