Realising biofuels' potential in Latin America
Biofuels have the potential to make a significant contribution to greener energy, and Latin American countries could become major producers of fuels derived from plants. However, progress is needed on technological and market aspects if these energy sources are to become truly sustainable. An EU-funded research project, 'Biofuels assessment on technical opportunities and research needs for Latin America' (BIOTOP), worked to build closer links between the biofuels sector in Europe and Latin America. The project mapped the existing biofuels sector in Latin America and identified opportunities for collaboration in areas, including improved conversion technologies, standardisation, trade and sustainability. Working with five partners from the EU and five from Latin America, the project found there was considerable potential for more biofuel feedstock production. However, more focus is needed on environmental and socioeconomic aspects. The BIOTOP team also noted that development of the biofuels sector varies widely between different countries. The team identified a number of specific areas for future research cooperation. A key focus for first-generation biofuels should be on improving the efficiency of existing conversion technologies. For second-generation biofuels, the use of residues and by-products as feedstock looks promising. BIOTOP found that environmental and social regulations are in place in most countries, but are not well enforced. This means additional measures are needed to improve the sustainability of the sector. Other issues include agricultural intensification, water availability and land management. The BIOTOP project has laid the groundwork for better cooperation between Europe and Latin America in biofuels production and will contribute to the development of cleaner fuels for consumers.