WASHINGTON — Mexican authorities considering how ethanol fits into their country’s energy mix heard from U.S. researchers about air quality, lung health and other quality of life benefits and from Colombian and Paraguayan regulators about their successful implementation of biofuels programs at a recent workshop hosted by Mexico’s Secretariat of Energy (SENER) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) in Mexico City.
For two days, national and foreign experts shared their experiences and technological advances in production, distribution and commercialization of ethanol for mixture with fuels. Environmental issues were a specific focus of the event, with topics covered including ozone formation, air quality in high altitude metropolitan areas like Mexico City and ethanol’s effects in vehicles and on health. The economic, social and environmental advantages and disadvantages of ethanol in comparison to other oxygenates such as MTBE and aromatics, such as benzene, toluene, and xylene, were also discussed in depth.
Among the experts were representatives from the National Federation of Biofuels of Colombia, the Ministry of Industry and Commerce of Paraguay, and the United Nations’ Sustainable Energy For All. From the United States, there were experts from Oakridge Labs, the American Lung Association, Urban Air Initiative, Growth Energy, the U.S. Grains Council, University of Illinois-Chicago, and Lifecycle Associates as well as a number of independent consultants who are considered experts in their respective fields.
They talked about their experience in the blending of ethanol into their gasolines by showing the background, regulatory framework, research and the benefits obtained in their countries in air quality, jobs, rural development, reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, and others.
In each of the cases covered in this workshop, convincing scientific data was shown on the effects of ethanol use and the benefits reached on the areas mentioned above, leading to technological improvements and widespread benefits.
The workshop was one part of a larger effort by U.S. industry to share information with Mexican regulators as they consider increased use of ethanol produced locally from sorghum or imported from the United States.
“Workshops like these are extremely important for sharing knowledge and experiences around the benefits that biofuels like ethanol provide countrywide. In the U.S., we have seen ethanol reduce harmful emissions, create jobs and provide consumer choice and savings at the pump,” said Emily Skor, CEO of Growth Energy, about the effort. “Growth Energy will continue our dialogue with colleagues in Mexico regarding how embracing ethanol will help contribute to a cleaner environment, improve water quality, and create a stronger rural sector and happy consumers.”
At the conclusion of the workshop, USDA and SENER agreed that it would be helpful to establish a bilateral ethanol working group to continue the dialogue established at the Mexico City workshop and to plan a “study group” of Mexican government and industry representatives to come to the United States to see firsthand the U.S. ethanol supply chain and experts to learn further about the benefits of ethanol blending.
“There is still much work to be done, not only in Mexico but around the world, to educate governments and its citizens on the powerful role that ethanol blending can play in mitigating carbon emissions in the transportation fuel sector and improving air quality without risking groundwater contamination,” said Tom Sleight, president and CEO of the U.S. Grains Council, which works globally to promote the export of U.S. ethanol and feed grains. “It is encouraging to hear that SENER wants to continue the dialogue established in Mexico City with the formation of a standing bilateral working group of representatives from Mexico and the United States and that Mexico supports a visit to the United States to better understand our ethanol supply chain and to visit further with fuel and environmental experts to better understand the issues.”
The workshop was intended to contribute to dialogue in Mexico about the many benefits of ethanol and to support alliances that will allow for the formation of associations and further research to help Mexicans to realize the benefits that the United States and other Latin American countries have achieved with the introduction of ethanol in their fuels.
“As the world leader in biofuel production, innovation and use, the U.S. has a wealth of information, analyses and industry experience that can be shared with Mexico and its policymakers as they work to allow the introduction of cleaner, less carbon intensive, biofuel into their fuel market,” said Bob Dinneen, president and CEO of the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA). “Biofuels have been critical in the fight to reduce carbon emissions and improve air quality in our most congested cities. We look forward to working together with Mexico as it evaluates the benefits that biofuels can offer.”