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The reality behind Brazilian biofuels in New Zealand


Bio-fuels from Brazil (ethanol) are being imported to petrol stations in New Zealand, especially around the Wellington region, touted as a sustainable, carbon friendly and cheap alternative to fossil fuels. What regions are they coming from in Brazil and what are the social and environmental conditions surrounding their production? It seems no one, not even the Green Party which supports these imports as being from sustainable sources in Brazil, knows where our imported bio-fuels are produced, nor under what conditions.

To help answer these questions The Pacific Institute of Resource Management (PIRM), a Wellington based NGO established in 1984, has arranged for Padre Tiago Thorlby to travel from Brazil to Wellington to tell of his experiences.

Padre Thorlby, also known as James Thorlby, is a Scots priest who has worked with landless people, homesteaders and sugarcane workers in Brazil for 25 years with the ecumenical Church organisation, The Pastoral Land Commission, the CPT, Comissao Pastoral da Terra, in Pernambuco, north-east, Brazil. The CPT is an agency of the Bishop's Conference in Brazil. The Brazilian government awarded the CPT the Human Rights Award 2003 in the Eradication of Slave Labour category for its work to combat slave labour throughout the country.

Thorlby says biofuels produced in Brazil for the rich worlds cars, are creating a catastrophe. To say biofuels produced for ever increasing exports from Brazil are clean, sustainable is an attack on Nature and a crime against those expelled from the land, he says in an article in Pacific Ecologist issue 17. Instead, Brazil's massive "latifundia" style sugar-ethanol farms destroy the environment and undermine local food security.

Padre Thorlby will speak at a public meeting, Thursday, 22 April, St John's in the City (cnr Willis/Dixon), 6:00 pm. A panel discussion will follow. See the Indymedia Events Listing for full details. This event is a day after the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority (EECA) is holding a conference in Wellington on Bio-fuels and Electric Cars featuring auto makers and others promoting bio-fuels.


Check out the PIRM websites:


Where are all the comments?

It seems that this is too hot a potato to touch for most! Well this topic addresses one of the concerns I have about the way we are going with producing and generating alternative fuels. When it comes to the question of whether land should be used to produce crops that will fuel the cars of people in the "more developed" or wealthier countries at the expense of food-production and creating natural imbalance, then we should not go down the wrong path!


That would only mean more environmental disaster created by human intereference.


A much more radical re-think is required.


Do we actually all need a car for transport? What about using our own body to power bicycles that are so constructed that they maximise the energy  generated  through muscle power?


What about making public transport like light rail, electrified trains, modern trams, subways, sophisticated bus- and trolley-systems the standard transport in larger and medium size towns and cities?


It may prove to be more efficient to have more smaller, yet centralised towns and cities as settlements, rather than the "super cities" and megalopolis kind of centres that are the trend of today.


Then energy from alternative sources can be produced and used close to the source of generation, thus making it more efficient.


Simply growing sugar cane, palm oil and other crops that produce alternative oils and gases to be used for fuels used in the old-fashioned existing motor-vehicles cannot be the solution. I am sure that the big car manufacturers will be able to develop the necessary technologies sooner, once the reliance on petroleum will have to stop.


Growing food and maintaining a healthy, sustainable and balanced environment come first, fuel production from grown crops and plants comes after that.


Bicycles .. Light Rail .. these are good ideas but in themselves are only partial solutions for parts of the population and their own unique needs. For example, age and infirmity, children and adults in remote areas and the general discouragement of home schooling, I am sure that there are many more .. however this is a digression on the biofuels matter.

New Zealand is already producing her own biofuels from milk whey and other waste products. This of course is synthetic alcohol, known in the trade as Industrial alcohol.

How much milk whey is produced by the dairy industry?




The matter goes much further

The matter goes much further than simply pumping fuel into a motor vehicle. How much of this synfuel is utilised by the medical and pharmaceutical industries?

Perhaps it is coming near time that the debate is widened and the books thrown open for public scrutiny?


Whilst I think of it .. how

Whilst I think of it .. how much of this synthetic alcohol is used by the cheap recreational alcohol and mixer industries ?

I know Fonterra has four

I know Fonterra has four alcohol plants in the NI supplying medical to RTD's.. I'd say it's more profitable for them than car fuel...

Good on you for raising this issue. Radical rethink is needed - green capitalism kills as quick as any other shade...

Thank you for that .. NI any

Thank you for that .. NI any idea where these plants are located ?

Could you please explain for me the abbr .. RTD ?

I was once involved in the purchase of 2 x 200 litre drums. I had a licence from Customs and excise. This was supplied for the purpose of making plant extracts and tinctures at a cost of NZ$2 per liter which the manufacturers pass onto herbalists and natural therapists at $30 dollars per litre of extract or tincture and even higher.

This synthetic alcohol is a deadly nerve toxin it first attacks the peripheeal nerves of the eyes and ears and in its turn the extremities such as fingers and toes. Medically these extracts are usually prescribed in 5 or 10ml doses so that the onset of symptoms is insideous and rarely noticed and even then from hearing aids to glasses the connection is rarely made, however the medics and pharmacists know that it is a nerve toxin because this is common knowledge and has been for nearly 100 years.

What is most alarming is its use by the recreational alcohol and mixer industries and which are consumed by the young folk in largish quantities at one sitting .. e.g. the bourbon stuff in 250ml cans usually between 8 and 12% v/v so if we were to assume a median of 10% v/v, then one can, provides a dose of 25ml and of course rarely is just one can consumed by exuberant youth.

Of course if one is well heeled enough to be able to afford to purchase the real alcohol such as Whiskey, Brandy and Rum etc and certified by the country of origin then the effect upon the consciousness is very different to that produced by the synthetics, and which do not attack the nervous system in the same manner.

One does not need a great deal of awareness to understand how harshly the police and the justice system deals with our young folk and blame them for most of the ills of society. Youth after all is the time of rebellion and pushing boundaries and that has always been so, and has been known since recorded history, and that is why the military likes to get them young when the raging hormones are between the ears.

I believe there are many who are aware that peak oil is here, so the balance of profit to be made from bio and synfuels is going to expand very rapidly and of course control of what is left has been the reason for this synthetic war on terror on a global basis.

I apologise to the original poster in this thread but the whole matter has many dimensions all of which are of great importance to us all who live in this divided nation.








rtd's are the  'ready to

rtd's are the  'ready to drink' booze mixes popular amongst skint teenagers that you talk about...


I don't know where the plants are... I'd guess Taranaki and Hamilton areas.

Thank you.

Thank you.

One may clearly see how the

One may clearly see how the Brazilian bio-fuel slots into it all. How very clever.

How much did Mr Key say that NZ must borrow from the IMF for the next 10 years. Was it a Billion a month ? The nation has been  sold for 120 billion plus interest