A Few Things (Among Many) I Didn’t Know About Brazil

I am flying to Brazil today for a very brief visit. The Wikipedia entry on Brazil is very good, if true, and now I feel a little bit bad about some of the Wikipedia posts I’ve written in the past. Here are a few interesting facts about Brazil that caught my eye:

1. “Major export products include aircraft, coffee, automobiles, soybean, iron ore, orange juice, steel, ethanol, textiles, footwear, corned beef and electrical equipment.” Corned beef? Alas, the corned beef from Brazil is not Carnegie Deli-style, but a less fantastic meat-in-a-can variety.

2. “With the 1973 oil crisis the Brazilian government initiated in 1975 the Pró-Álcool program … a nation-wide program financed by the government to replace automobile fuels derived from fossil fuels in favor of ethanol. The program successfully reduced the number of cars running on gasoline in Brazil by 10 million, thereby reducing the country’s dependence on oil imports.”

3. “Brazil is the third largest hydroelectricity producer in the world after China and Canada. In 2004 hydropower accounted [for] 83% of Brazil power production.”

While it may be that Brazil has something to learn from us about corned beef, it looks as if they are well ahead of the U.S. in energy policy.


As for the corned beef part, IINM Brazil has more cattle than any other nation, so it's not all that surprising.


Almost every commercial plane I've been in is from Embraer in Brazil. They are pretty good planes...small though.


You have to like the use of hydroelectrics, but I wish people would stop commending ethanol usage.

Felipe Foltran

As a brazilian Economics student, I can tell you that all that information is true about my country.

Our Pró-Álcool program worked very well at that time, and nowadays we already have hybrid cars that work with any mixture of ethanol and gasoline.

I'm also happy that you're coming to Brazil, even after your July 20th post about the plane crash in Sao Paulo.

Have a nice trip!


Yeah, Brazil is one of the largest beef suppliers in the world. Steaks, canned, however you like it. After USDA Prime or Angus and such, and Japanese Kobe, it's probably the most sought-after and well-regarded in terms of quality.

Michael Richman

I wonder where and how they are getting their sugar cane. Sugar cane is notorious for mining the soil. The soil of the Amazon Jungle has almost no nutrients to begin with. Are they importing lots of fertilizer or are they clearing away more of the Amazon?



The article you linked to is about corn ethanol. Brazilian ethanol is made from sugar cane. It is much more energy efficient than its american counterpart and a lot cheaper.

Elson Silva, Ph. D.

Well, alcohol is an option for fossil fuel, but you should first read US pat. application 20040237529 which proposes to burn the entire plant as a solid biomass. It only requires to change the engine functioning to a simple version of a sort of block rotating oven.


When coming to Brazil you should also pay attention to the obesity of Brazilian that are far lower than Americans.

The solution to the energy may be holding at your own patent system as IP showing new ideas very tenable and sustainable in a long range.

Michael Broshi

While we're at it, we should not be so quick to commend hydroelectric power either:


Apparently, the release of carbon dioxide and methane from rotting plants can produce significantly more greenhouse gases than fossil fuel power plants, and I understand that the hydroelectric plants in Brazil are particularly bad polluters of methane gas (I heard the latter on an NPR story that I cannot now find the reference to).


Corned beef (the canned non-Carnegie Deli-style variety) is very popular elsewhere in the world. Growing up in Ghana we ate corned beef with all kinds of meals, in fact it was pretty expensive and was used only when some spare cash was available.


John -- Brazilian ethanol fuel production is based on sugarcane production, not corn. Most of the major criticisms of ethanol fuel production are based on corn -- ethanol production raises the cost of corn and has a net energy loss, for instance -- don't apply in quite the same way.


I was surprised to learn that the country with the largest population of Japanese people outside of Japan was Brazil.

Elson Silva, Ph. D.

Global warming may not be what the media is selling around.
There is a simple question:
Where was all the Carbon when life started?
Probably most of it was in the atmosphere and earth had conditions still good for life to take off. Global Climate has been changing independently of human develpment in the past like all glaciations prove it.

I would not mix ethanol with global climate. There are other more important issues nowadays: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C_bah8boGfM
dealing with human affairs.


Sao Paulo is 400km away from Rio. It has a good bunch of Japanese people living there. Big community. Second largest, after Los Angeles, I'd believe.


We subsidize sugar production in Florida, keeping Brazilian prices lower. We subsidize corn for ethanol, when sugar cane is a much superior source. We then send aid to third world countries because they can't make money growing crops that we subsidize our farmers to grower. Makes sense, right? Thomas Friedmann has written many columns in the NYT on this.


Stop waving your "Ph.D." around Elson Silva and get some common sense.

Chris Taffs

As an American that has been living in Brazil since before 9/11 I like to thank you on your visit and clearing up of the TRUTH... I use your blog and book as a referance in my classes teaching English. Yhank you and the other Steven for providing may an intualecutally

Chris Taffs

As an American that has been living in Brazil since before 9/11 I like to thank you on your visit and clearing up of the TRUTH... I use your blog and book as a reference in my classes teaching English. Thank you and the other Steven for providing many stimulating articles for my students that are executives. And please excuse the bad SPELLING in the last entry…

Chris Taffs

Corn is MUCH less efficient than corn and this is where the difference lies...

Chris Taffs

corn sorry sugar cane............