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Cuban scientists met this week to analyze the possibilities to produce ethanol from sugarcane.
The First National Workshop on Cellulosic Ethanol, held at the ICIDCA (Sugarcane Research Institute), was attended by 42 experts, who reviewed the current situation on the international market and technological processes that are not based on food.

The Cuban experts, who gave two master lectures and presented 16 papers at the event, insisted on the danger of using crops to produce ethanol and biodiesel.

Participants in the meeting highlighted the international concern about using corn, wheat and soy, which are humankind's basic food, as raw materials to produce biofuels.

As an example of that, the European Union has decided to replace by 2010 all vehicles running on fossil fuel by those working on biofuels.

In addition, India is promoting an increase of up to 10 percent in gasoline-ethanol mixtures this year.

At the same time, many transnational companies in the United States are investing in big factories to turn cereals and vegetal oil into fuel to replace oil, gasoline and diesel.

Starvation, water shortage, deforestation, intensive use of fertilizers and herbicides that are dangerous to human health, and the eviction of peasants would be among the many consequences of that new industry.

Cuban scientists and institutions made it clear that the Caribbean Island will make the necessary efforts to contribute to debating and analyzing all possible variants to produce biofuels.

The experts agreed on the deficiencies of the industrial process based on food and the problems caused by that technology for land and food production for human consumption.

The costs of recollection, manipulation, storage and preparation, in addition to energy costs, show that extending that practice as a viable solution to high oil prices and the exhaustion of oil as a major energy source would be counterproductive.

However, insufficient economic information on total costs - not only in the industrial process -, and the attractive prices of hydrated ethanol in contrast to gasoline, are boosting the industry.

Scientists agreed that promising technologies to produce ethanol from waste are being researched and developed at present.

They noted the importance of carrying out economic studies about today's availability and potential of cellulosic wastes in Cuba.

They also debated the used of genetically-modified organisms to obtain a second generation of biofuels that will not be obtained from food.

The participation of Cuban researchers and institutions allowed attendees to exchange fundamental technological knowledge.

They also got an update of the world's major ethanol-producing companies and their prospects.


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