The United States, Brazil, India, China and the European Union have created a forum to promote the use of renewable energy sources known as biofuels. Senior diplomats from participating countries gathered to launch the project at the United Nations Friday, where VOA correspondent Peter Heinlein picks up the story.
The biofuels forum brings together some of the biggest producers and consumers of renewable energy, with the aim of promoting an international market for biofuels. It also includes, with the United States, China, India and Europe, most of the world's biggest emitters of harmful greenhouse gasses.
The best-known biofuel is ethanol, and Brazil, the world's top ethanol producer, is hoping the new market will give it a big economic boost. Brazil and the United States together control nearly three-quarters of the world's ethanol market.
Brazil's Ambassador to the United States Antonio Patriota says the market will be good for both wealthy and rapidly industrializing countries trying to cut back on harmful greenhouse gas emissions. But he says the biggest winners could be poor countries that produce corn and other agricultural products used to make biofuels.
"For developing countries, greater resort to biofuels means significantly reducing their dependence on imported oil, redressing their trade imbalances, and saving income in order to increase investment in health, education and social development. Besides generating environmental benefits off course," he said.
U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs, Thomas Shannon hailed creation of the new market as "a huge step forward in the development of a new international understanding of energy".
"We understand the international biofuels forum and the efforts of all of our partners in addressing the issue of biofuels to be not just an issue of energy security, not just an environmental issue, but fundamental to how we are going to address basic economic and social development problems, and recognizing that by working together we will be able to identify ways to help countries with agricultural productive potential to be become major energy suppliers," he said.
A Brazilian industrial group estimates that current ethanol usage amounts to only two percent of world oil consumption. Brazil, with its vast land resources, is hoping to produce enough ethanol to satisfy 10 percent of the world's demand for gasoline within the next 20 years.
President Bush has set a goal for the United States to use 130 billion liters of alternative fuels a year by 2017. Current capacity is about 20 billion liters a year.