Obama, Brazilian president tout partnership on biofuels, environmental initiatives

Source: Elana Schor, E&E reporter • Posted: Tuesday, April 10, 2012

President Obama and Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff today touted the results of a year-old partnership between their nations that touches on advanced biofuels development and cooperation between global environmental regulators, among other high-profile energy issues.

Rousseff’s visit to the White House today gave Obama’s administration a forum to promote the benefits of a bilateral energy dialogue kick-started during his visit to the South American nation last year, as well as a new science and technology initiative discussed last month.

“Brazil’s been an extraordinary leader in biofuels and obviously is also becoming a world player when it comes to oil and gas development,” Obama told reporters today. “And the United States is not only a potential large customer to Brazil, but we think that we can cooperate closely on a whole range of energy projects.”

Fossil fuel development in Brazil became something of a political flash point for Obama after his trip to Rousseff’s country last year, when Republicans accused him of praising the foreign nation’s progress on production while giving short shrift to U.S. oil and gas. Another potential minefield on the biofuels front, the tariffs that America applies to Brazil’s sugar cane-based ethanol, was somewhat defused by the expiration in January of a long-standing 54-cent-per-gallon tariff on imported biofuels.

Rousseff acknowledged that shift today as she praised “recently announced reductions to ethanol tariffs” in the United States, while vowing to work with Obama on efficiency and smart grid projects that are “so very dear” to her counterpart.

Global efficiency efforts are set to claim the spotlight in June as Brazil hosts the United Nations Development Programme’s Rio+20 conference, for which the host city and Philadelphia are partnering in a sustainable infrastructure drive aimed at spotlighting urban energy conservation.

Obama and Rousseff also announced today a memorandum between U.S. EPA and the Brazilian environment ministry that spotlights environmental justice, a top priority of EPA chief Lisa Jackson, and a similar pact between the two nations’ housing regulators to pave the way for greener urban construction.