November 21, 2008 / 4:26 PM / 9 years ago

U.S., Brazil to speed up cellulosic ethanol research

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SAO PAULO (Reuters) - The world's top two producers of ethanol, the U.S. and Brazil, will join forces to speed up research into cellulose-derived biofuels, which use inedible plant matter rather than crops as their feedstock.

In a statement they said they would expand scientific collaboration led by the U.S. National Renewable Energy Lab (NREL) and Brazilian oil giant Petrobras' Center for Research and Development CENPES.

The two nations would also to help five countries in Africa, Central America and the Caribbean to develop their own biofuel industries, investing $4.3 million in biofuel projects in Guatemala, Honduras, Jamaica, Guinea Bissau and Senegal.

Existing partners already being helped to develop their biofuel industries including the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Haiti and St. Kitts and Nevis would also benefit.

The U.S. agriculture secretary Ed Schafer and Brazil's foreign minister Celso Amorim announced their agreement late on Thursday at an international biofuels conference Brazil has been hosting in Sao Paulo, which concludes on Friday.

The Latin American nation began pioneering use of sugar cane ethanol in the mid-1970s making cars adapted to run on the biofuel. A newer generation of "flex-fuel" cars launched around four years ago can run on any mix of ethanol and gasoline.

"Second generation" or cellulosic ethanol which is not yet produced on a commercial scale, involves breaking down the woody bits of crop waste or plants into sugars to ferment -- a method expected to emit less greenhouse gases than cane and corn-based production.

Reporting by Peter Murphy; Editing by Marguerita Choy

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