• Ethanol;
  • productivity;
  • first-generation


Ethanol production from sugarcane, mainly in Brazil, on the basis of first-generation technology (22.5 billion liters, in 2007/2008 season, in 3.4 million hectares) replaces 1% of the gasoline used in the world today and is highly competitive in economic terms with ethanol produced from other crops in the USA and Europe. In this paper we discuss the potential for sugarcane ethanol expansion from two angles: (1) productivity gains which would allow greater production in the same area and (2) geographical expansion to larger areas. The potential of first-generation technology for the production of ethanol from sugarcane is far from being exhausted. There are gains in productivity of approximately a factor of two from genetically modified varieties and a geographical expansion by a factor of ten of the present level of production in many sugar-producing countries. The replacement of 10% of the gasoline used in the world by ethanol from sugarcane seems possible before second-generation technology reaches technological maturity and possibly economic competitiveness. Copyright © 2009 Society of Chemical Industry and John Wiley & Sons, Ltd