Cuba: Etanol rojo
by Andrew Posner, Rhode Island, USA on 02.25.08
After 49 years in power, Fidel Castro has stepped aside and allowed his brother Raúl, 76, to become president. While hopes that "a younger generation might take power" have been washed away, many still expect to see changes with the "pragmatic military officer" in charge. One of the more surprising changes may come in the form of an ethanol boom in Cuba, where experts believe as much as 2 billions gallon could one day be produced annually, which would place Cuba third in worldwide production. According to Wired.com,
Fidel Castro hated ethanol. He thought it punished the poor by driving up food prices. But Cuba produces a lot of sugar, and with Fidel's brother Raul - a fan of biofuels - expected to call the shots, Cuba could become a key player in the global ethanol game.
Of course, Cuba wouldn't be able to start producing all that ethanol without "a huge investment in Cuba's rickety sugar industry." And doing so will require the kind of reform that has helped make China the powerhouse that it is: namely, foreign investment. This kind of reform may not be as unlikely as it sounds. According to a Washington Post article entitled 'End of Castro's Rule Opens Door for Reforms,' "Cuba's leaders likely will "want to pursue an incremental, gradual approach to reform" that does not privatize the large state-run sector but allows a new private sector to grow alongside it." Oh, and by the way, Cuba has been modernizing its ethanol infrastructure, albeit quietly.
Given the sorry state of Cuba's economy, and the fact that the country has little need for ethanol and could easily export it in large quantities, it wouldn't be surprising to see Cuban ethanol in gas stations around the world--except for in the United States, where a trade embargo is still in place.