Posted on Tue, May. 22, 2007
Cuba to modernize its ethanol production
By ANDREA RODRIGUEZ
Associated Press Writer
Cuba is modernizing its ethanol-producing facilities despite Fidel
Castro's repeated assertions that making more of the biofuel could
starve the world's poor.
The island plans to upgrade 11 of its 17 refineries, which produce up to
47 million gallons annually of ethanol from sugar cane, said Conrado
Moreno, a member of Cuba's Academy of Sciences.
The refineries currently produce alcohol for use in rum and other
spirits, as well as medications and cooking on the island. But the
improvements will give Havana the capacity to one day produce fuel for
cars, Moreno told reporters at a conference on renewable energy.
Ethanol produced in Cuba is not for cars now, but "in four or five
years, we'll see," he said.
Castro has railed against a U.S.-backed plan to produce ethanol from
corn for cars in a series of editorials published in state-run
newspapers, claiming it will cause prices of farm products of all kinds
to spike and make food too expensive for poor families around the globe.
Castro has not been seen in public since undergoing emergency intestinal
surgery and stepping aside in favor of a government run by his
75-year-old brother Raul, the defense minister. Officials insist his
health is improving.
Brazil is the world's leading producer of ethanol from sugar cane. In
March, it signed an agreement with the United States to promote ethanol
production in Latin America and create international quality standards
to allow it to be traded as a commodity like oil.
That agreement helped spark the editorials from Castro, which have been
read repeatedly on state television and radio. In them, Castro
distinguishes between the cane ethanol Cuba produces and the corn-based
biofuel common in the U.S. but criticizes both forms.
Moreno conceded Tuesday that ethanol produced from sugar cane could
bring economic opportunity to some "isolated communities" in Cuba.
The 80-year-old revolutionary released another signed opinion to foreign
journalists Tuesday night, saying the damaging effects of producing
ethanol were not new.
"The dangers to the environment and the human species are topics on
which I have been mediating for years," Castro wrote. "What I never
imagined was the immense risk."