University of São Paulo: The path is to bet on renewables

With the advance of the war between Russia and Ukraine, the crisis in the supply of commodities in the world tends to worsen. For example, the price of oil continues to rise, which led Petrobras to increase the price of fuel in Brazil. The government and Congress discuss measures that can be adopted to contain this crisis. What is the solution to the problem?

Paulo Feldmann, professor at the Faculty of Economics, Administration and Accounting (FEA) at USP, says that the ongoing conflict teaches us the lesson of becoming independent from the consumption of fossil fuels. “It’s not good to be dependent on oil and gasoline. The vast majority of developed countries are in the process of becoming independent from substituting energy sources that pollute for other renewable sources. This is a very big effort that happens in every important country in the world.”

For Feldmann, Brazil has continental dimensions and all the conditions to be a country focused on renewable energy. “We are a country that has enormous sun exposure, that has winds, all along the coast. We can step up these forms of energy and become independent of oil and gasoline so that we can suffer less when there is a problem like this. Furthermore, Brazil is a country that has developed another fuel, ethanol, and could become independent of this crisis if it returned to the use of ethanol”, he says.

“This crisis is serious, it affects us, but it also teaches us a series of aspects, that we must have a higher priority in the generation and production of renewable energy and, above all, we must pay special attention to alcohol at this time. Almost all of our car fleet today runs on ethanol fuel. Most cars run on both gasoline and ethanol, so we could easily, very easily, switch to ethanol. This is a measure that would need to be adopted and depends on government action. Alcohol producers at the moment are not very interested in this issue, in this aspect, because the international market is very good for them, but it is necessary to convince producers and mill owners that the Brazilian market is a strategic market for them; all their training was developed in Brazil and at this time Brazil needs alcohol production. Therefore, we could set an example for the world of how a country can become independent from oil using other forms of energy, including alcohol.”

Pedro Luiz Côrtes, professor at the School of Communications and Arts (ECA) and the Institute of Energy and Environment (IEE), both at USP, analyzes possible solutions for this situation. One of the measures discussed is the possibility of calculating fuel production in reais, not in dollars. According to Côrtes, however, the most effective solution is ethanol, which is less sensitive to international variations and, therefore, could be used more. “Ideally, we would have a policy focused on the production of ethanol, which is a fuel, from an environmental point of view, much better than fossil fuels,” he says.

It is an alternative in which the entire production chain is national and, therefore, calculated in reais, being less subject to exchange rate fluctuations. “We have a solution, but it doesn’t actually happen for lack of a public policy focused on biofuels”, says the professor.

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