BRASILIA – Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva and Dominican counterpart Leonel Fernández expressed their support this week for biofuels as a weapon against climate change and a tool to combat poverty in less-developed countries.
“Global warming affects us all,” Fernández said in a joint statement with Lula after their private meeting in the Brazilian capital.
“The island of Hispaniola (which the Dominican Republic shares with Haiti) is in danger of sinking” – or, rather, becoming submerged – if the polar ice caps disappear or even if they just continue melting at the current rate, circumstances which would raise the ocean level worldwide, he said.
Lula said that Brazil will work with the Dominican Republic to “respond to the fundamental challenges of the 21st century,” among which he cited climate change and providing jobs for the rural poor in Latin America.
He offered the cooperation of Brazil – the world’s top exporter of ethanol – in developing a sugar-based ethanol industry in the Dominican Republic.
At the conclusion of the June 21 meeting, the two nations signed a cooperation accord to produce biodiesel using castor oil, produced from the castor bean, which is easily cultivated in moderately arid regions.
Lula also committed himself to “convince” Brazilian businessmen of the advantages currently offered by the Dominican Republic for biofuel production, advantages that Fernández emphasized.
The Dominican leader said that the Central American Free-Trade Agreement with the United States and the Dominican Republic (CAFTA-DR) makes the Dominican Republic an ideal platform for biofuel and other exports.
He pointed out that Brazilian-made ethanol faces high U.S. import tariffs that would not apply to Dominican biofuel exports.
Brazilian firm Infinity Bio Energy has already announced an investment of $80 million – with an additional $120 million planned – to install what will be the first ethanol production plant in the Dominican Republic.
The Dominican Republic was included among the countries in which Brazil and the United States, as per their agreement in March, will jointly develop pilot projects for ethanol production.