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Biofuels in Latin America: The state of play

Biofuels in Latin America: The state of play

Latin America accounts for roughly a quarter of global biofuel production each year and is home to one of the industry's pioneering markets - Brazil with its homegrown sugarcane ethanol sector. But in the last few years, ethanol's share of Brazil's fuel matrix has declined as production volumes slumped and uncertainties undermined the sugarcane sector. More recently, the other regional biofuel powerhouse, Argentina, has also faltered. The country's export-oriented biodiesel industry is facing the prospect of tariffs and other restrictions in its principal market, the EU. Has the Brazilian biofuels sector recovered and can its ethanol regain lost ground in the domestic market? And in Argentina, will biodiesel producers find another buyer abroad, or will they, or can they, look to local consumers?

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Ethanol: Brazil’s game
In 2012, global ethanol production volumes reached a total 84.1 billion liters, according to figures from the International Energy Agency (IEA). Of this figure, non- OECD Americas–a category that covers the major Latin American producers–accounted for some 28%, with the majority of that coming from Brazil.

Biodiesel: Two industries, two directions
Brazil and Argentina are home to the two largest biodiesel industries in Latin America. In 2012, the two countries each produced about 2.7 billion liters of biodiesel, a combined 23% of the global volume, according to the IEA, accounting for the majority of regional output and putting them behind the US and Germany, respectively, as the top producers worldwide.

Other players
To varying degrees, and with a range of success, other Latin American countries have tried to develop biofuel industries, usually focusing on supplying domestic demand. At least 10 countries currently have some form of a blend mandate enacted, while governments in other nations have set future targets.

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