Global concerns related to the sustainability of energy systems and climate change, as well as increasing concerns about energy security have led to increased interest and support for biofuels around the world. In this context, ethanol has emerged as a concrete alternative transport fuel, particularly in the past decade. Although ethanol as transport fuel is not a novelty, the use of ethanol on a large scale and the formation of international ethanol commodity markets definitely mark a new stage in the realization of its potential.
As part of discussions about the merits of ethanol, a large debate has taken shape that puts the production of biofuels and the production of food as conflicting objectives, and as competitors for land and water. In this context, the least developed countries (LDCs) are sometimes seen as the most negatively affected due to potential increases in food prices and reduced availability of land. However, this debate often ignores the established economic realities in various developing countries, the potential to create synergies between fuel production and existing industries, and the broad environmental and economic benefits that such synergies could generate.
The large interest of many industrialized countries to exploit renewable energy sources as part of environmental or national security policies coupled with rising oil prices and the development of a global climate agenda have served as major drivers to promote biofuels such as ethanol. Poor countries, on the other hand, have a pressing development agenda. Thus economic, social and environmental benefits at the national level provide the strongest motivation for choosing biofuels.