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oil-on-water1By ANDREW DOWNIE, The New York Times
Published: January 24, 2009

SÃO PAULO, Brazil — Brazil’s state-controlled oil company, Petrobras, announced a crisis-busting investment plan Friday to spend more than $174 billion over the next five years, much of it for prodigious deep-water oil and gas exploration.

The investment covers the 2009-2013 period and represents a rise of 55 percent over the $112.4 billion the company had vowed to spend on development between 2008 and 2012.

This investment is “very robust and very important for the continuity of Petrobras’s growth,” José Sergio Gabrielli, the company’s chief executive, told reporters Friday at a news conference in Rio de Janeiro.

Petrobras, whose full name is Petróleo Brasileiro, had promised to unveil its spending plans in September but delayed the announcement several times because of the world’s financial turmoil.

In 2007 and 2008, Petrobras and partners including Repsol YPF of Spain and the BG Group of Britain discovered vast deposits of oil under more than 4,000 meters of water, rock and salt.

Although the finds are at previously untapped depths and will be costly to extract, they hold an estimated 8 billion to 12 billion barrels of oil, according to Petrobras figures. Company officials and oil experts say that other reserves of that size could be nearby.

One of the finds alone, named the Tupi, holds the equivalent of 5 billion to 8 billion barrels of light crude oil and is the world’s biggest new field since a 12-billion-barrel find in Kazakhstan in 2000.

President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva of Brazil has said repeatedly that developing these oil reserves is vital to the country’s future, and Petrobras has set aside $28 billion to that end.

In all, new drilling could produce 219,000 barrels a day by 2013, 582,000 barrels a day by 2015 and 1.82 million barrels a day by 2020, he predicted.

Natural gas extraction would rise from 7 million cubic meters a day in 2013 to 40 million a day in 2020, the company added.

Petrobras produced a daily average of 2.18 million barrels of oil and gas last year.

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The Washington Post today compares the biofuel industry in the US and in Brazil. If on one side the American public opinion is in doubt about ethanol’s green credentials, the tecnology in Brazil has overcome all the obstacle and today produces a greener, cheap alternative to gasoline. The production of ethanol in the South American giant is the most efficient in the world and Brazilians consume more of it than gas.

According to a report released in June by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, ethanol from sugar cane is the cleanest fuel in the world, with its production and consumption reducing emissions of greenhouse gases by up to 90 percent compared with gasoline. The process of transforming sugar cane into ethanol requires eight times less energy than corn.

Unlike corn, which accounts for the bulk of U.S. ethanol, sugar cane is also grown in areas where it is less likely to compete with grains such as wheat or other varieties of maize that are vital to global food supplies. Sugar-based ethanol’s negligible impact on world food supplies is one of the major reasons it has been embraced without controversy in Brazil, even as critics in the United States have assailed their domestic corn-based industry for driving up global grain prices.

Sugar ethanol is also more efficient. The cost of producing ethanol from corn is three times the cost of ethanol from sugar cane. An acre of sugar cane can also yield more than twice as much ethanol as an acre of corn.

Read the article in full here.

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