Climate emergency may channel millions in resources toward corn-based ethanol in the Amazon

by Fábio Bispo/O Joio e o Trigo on 3 July 2023

  • An agribusiness magnate from the U.S., who is already the biggest producer of corn-based ethanol in Brazil, plans to leverage “green” investments from governments and banks to meet negative carbon emissions using an unproven method.
  • His company is trying to implement in the Brazilian state of Mato Grosso a copy of his Midwest Carbon project, an initiative that plans to capture 12 million tons of carbon in ethanol plants and store them in North Dakota, below ground.
  • Even though the company alleges that it is rigorously controlling the environmental practices of its corn suppliers in Brazil, an investigation found that the local executives are themselves connected to illegal deforestation in Mato Grosso.

The American agribusiness magnate Bruce Rastetter, who is already the biggest producer of corn-based ethanol in Brazil, has plans to triple processing at his plants by relying on the generosity of governments and banks with green credits and incentives destined to combat climate change.

In 2021 and 2022, Rastetter’s businesses received more than 2.2 billion reais ($459 billion) in offsets and credits from compliance with environmental targets through FS Agrisolutions. All this money went to Rastetter’s ethanol plants in Mato Grosso, as well as resources from the National Economic and Social Development Bank (BNDES).

Now, the company plans to further leverage its businesses by selling itself as a negative carbon producer. Its promise is to implement a system for capturing carbon from plants and storing the gas below ground.

The system is called CCS (carbon capture and storage), and it was considered by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) to be an option for the mitigation of climate change. Nevertheless, over the years, the system still hasn’t proven to be effective on a large scale. In more recent bulletins, the IPCC warned that the capture of carbon is facing various restrictions in terms of viability, including high implementation costs, as well as demonstrating adverse impacts on human rights and ecosystems.

What Rastetter is trying to implement in Brazil is practically a copy of the Midwest Carbon project that he is spearheading in the United States with a promise to capture 12 million tons of carbon in ethanol plants. The gas will be captured in five states and transported through pipelines over more than 3,000 kilometers (1,860 miles) to North Dakota, where it will be injected into geological structures.

In Lucas do Rio Verde, Mato Grosso, FS obtained a license to drill in order to “evaluate the potential for injectivity,” according to the company. This region is located where the Pantanal, the Amazon and the Cerrado biomes meet, all of which are endangered biomes and locations where Rastetter has plants. Read more