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Sweet Fuel: Brazilian Ethanol in Historical Perspective

Sweet Fuel: Brazilian Ethanol in Historical Perspective

February 12, 2024

3:00-4:30 PM

GLAS 311

Dr. Jennifer Eaglin | Associate Professor of Environmental History/Sustainability at Ohio State University

Today, Brazilian sugarcane ethanol is the most efficient biofuel on the global fuel market, and Brazil is the largest biofuel exporter in the world. Although Brazil has gained international renown for its sugarcane ethanol, few scholars have explored how it achieved this reputation. In fact, the military dictatorship that ruled Brazil from 1964-85 pioneered the ethanol boom through the National Ethanol Program, which it launched in 1975. This talk traces the Brazilian ethanol industry from its inception under state tutelage in 1933, through a state-led ethanol program (Proálcool) under the dictatorship, to the industry’s demise in 1990 and its 2003 rebirth with the launch of the flexible fuel engine that runs on any combination of ethanol and gasoline. Through her discussion of this Brazilian example, Eaglin more broadly explores the social and environmental implications of transforming sugarcane into a large-scale domestic fuel option as part of one of the most advanced alternative energy initiatives in the world.

Presented by the Energy Humanities and the Global South (EHGS) research cluster.

Contact: Dr. Carmela Garritano at