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U.S., Brazil Sign Deal to Expand Ethanol Production

The pact, signed by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Brazilian Foreign Minister Celso Amorim, aims to help countries, starting with those in the Caribbean and Central America, with research and development of biofuel-related technology and boost private sector investment.

The two countries intend to conduct feasibility studies and provide technical assistance with the Inter-American Development Bank, the United Nations Foundation and the Organization of American States. And they plan to look into developing biofuels standards and codes to govern international production, according to the Washington Post.

The deal was signed during President Bush’s five-country tour of Latin America aimed at improving U.S. relations there and counteracting efforts by Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez to use oil exports to gain allies.

The Department of Energy’s data show about 10 percent of total U.S. crude oil imports, or 1.04 million barrels a day, in December came from Venezuela, cited Bloomberg news.

“If you’re dependent on oil from overseas, you have a national security issue,” said President Bush in Sao Paulo, Brazil. “Dependency on energy from somewhere else means you’re dependent on the decisions from somewhere else.”

The president said the increased use of biofuels would not only diversify energy sources, but also create jobs and help clean up the environment.

Brazil is the world’s only major exporter of ethanol, derived from sugar cane. Along with the United States, which produces ethanol from corn, the two countries account for 70 percent of the world’s ethanol.

Environmentalists have raised concerns that the emphasis on ethanol will cause more problems, such as deforestation in countries that seek to grow plants for ethanol, and an increase in the price of corn for other products.

Organizations such as Greenpeace issued a statement questioning whether the reduction in greenhouse gases from producing ethanol would be as beneficial as capping carbon dioxide emissions, an approach President Bush opposes, reported the Washington Post.

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