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Questions and answers

1. Why are you introducing verified sustainable ethanol before the EU does and before taking other steps?

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• Sweden is well ahead of most EU countries in terms of biofuels. As the use of ethanol increases, the demand for sustainability declarations and certification increases.
• The current EU process is taking longer than expected. Because we believe the issue is too important to wait for the EU to act, we have developed our own processes to ensure sustainability and to promote the certification process.

2. Is it a way to convince a somewhat sceptical market?

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• We believe consumers and decision-makers have the right to demand guarantees that the ethanol we deliver is quality assured from an environmental, climate, social and ethical perspective and that it generates lower carbon dioxide than petrol and diesel.
• We feel that all fuels – even petrol and diesel – are to be specified and certified using the same sustainability requirements. Today emissions are only measured at car exhaust pipes. It’s time for the oil industry to declare their sources, processes, transports and other logistics involved in production and distribution.

3. What are the requirements for verified sustainable ethanol?

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• At least 85 per cent reduction of fossil carbon dioxide compared with petrol when compared with well-to-wheel. 
• At least 30 per cent mechanised harvesting today and a plan to increase to 100 per cent by 2014.
• Zero tolerance for felling rain forest.
• Zero tolerance for child labour.
• Rights and safety measures for all employees according to UN guidelines. 
• Ecological practices according to UNICA’s environmental initiative.
• Continual control to ensure that the criteria are met by Brazilian producers.

4. Mechanisation means that many labourers will loose their jobs?

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• Each machine replaces 80-90 harvesting jobs. At the same time production increases. This means more jobs and the company is working with labour unions to reduce the effects as much as possible through training. There are problems in some areas and these areas will be addressed.

5. Who has developed the verification system?

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• SEKAB together with its Brazilian partners.

6. Can’t a Swedish-Brazilian standard be seen as a technical trade barrier?

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• No! The criteria have been developed in consensus with the Brazilian ethanol industry. We hope that the rest of the world will follow our example for how to avoid trade barriers while adhering to sustainability criteria.  
• Being the first has its risks, but we have carefully studied the proposals that the EU is primarily looking at as well as those being discussed in the UK, the Netherlands and Germany. We’ve adapted to these when possible. Naturally our criteria will be developed and adapted to future EU requirements when they are ready.

7. Which ethanol is sustainable?

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• Initially from producers approved according to the established criteria. The process is ongoing and the number of approved companies will increase. The criteria will also continue to be developed and expanded.
• The ethanol used is primarily E85 and ED95, fuel for FlexiFuel cars, ethanol buses and heavy vehicles with ethanol engines.

8. Where does the ethanol come from?

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• The area around Sao Paulo, where about 80 per cent of Brazilian ethanol is produced.

9. What is the difference between verified ethanol and ethanol from other areas?

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• Verified ethanol is produced and verified in accordance with established sustainability criteria. Sustainable ethanol is produced in other areas in Brazil and the world, but the crucial difference is that SEKAB purchases only ethanol that has been verified as sustainable.

10. What is the difference between sustainable ethanol and unsustainable ethanol?

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• The chemical product ethanol is the same. The difference is how it is produced.

11. When did the process begin to develop verified sustainable ethanol?

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• Preparations have been ongoing for many years but intensified in May 2007.

12. How did you select the companies that supply the sustainable ethanol?

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• Having the same values was the key to identifying the first partners. We identified a number of producers who share SEKAB’s view of what is important from a sustainability perspective. These producers had to be willing to follow our criteria and to accept monitoring by a third-party. 
• Everyone participating shares the vision of the ethanol industry providing the products society wants, a vision that includes solutions for energy and climate problems. If ethanol does not meet the sustainability criteria, it isn’t a solution.

13. Was it easy to find appropriate producers?

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• We have stringent demands, which initially made it difficult to find producers who could deliver the volumes of ethanol we required.
• Development took longer than we thought, but this was simply because a similar process had never before been undertaken.

14. Were the producers negative to the quality requirements?

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• No. It was the extensive documentation confirming they met the sustainability criteria that took time to put together.
• The producers feel considerable responsibility for living up to the criteria.

15. When will the first verified sustainable ethanol arrive in Sweden?

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• The sugarcane is being harvested right now and the ethanol will be in Swedish pumps in August.

16. How will this verified ethanol affect the price of ethanol for Swedish consumer?

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• Insignificantly since there are such large volumes involved.

17. Aren’t quality requirements on Brazilian ethanol primarily a way of protecting ineffective European ethanol production and the development of cellulose ethanol?

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• No. We se the criteria as a bridge to a coming European certification of fuel that includes ethanol.

18. How will compliance to the sustainability criteria by the Brazilian ethanol producers be checked? Inspectors from Sweden/Europe?

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• This will be handled by a world-leading international independent company for verification and certification.

19. Why just a Swedish-Brazilian verification for sustainability? Wouldn’t it be better with global criteria?

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• Rome wasn’t built in a day. Eventually we hope that the sustainability requirements will become global just as trade policy has become. This can take 3-4 years.
• It’s important to remember that every biofuel has its specific sustainability issues and each country and producer has to take care of this in a way that is most appropriate for the individual case.
• The EU works with its own requirements. Germany, the UK and the Netherlands work with their own criteria. Unfortunately, none of these have yet come far enough in the process.
• We see our verified sustainable ethanol as an important way of bridging the gap between the production of sustainable and non-sustainable ethanol until EU legislation is in place.

20. Why is it taking so long?

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• When other countries discuss sustainability criteria for biofuels, they are often talking about a future, abstract market. In Sweden, it isn’t just about the future, it’s about here and now – the customer knows that when he or she uses ethanol (E85 or ED95), they are using an environmentally and socially sustainable product.
• Customer confidence in today’s ethanol is a prerequisite for creating future markets for sustainable ethanol.

21. Have the Swedish and Brazilian governments’ joint declaration of intent influenced development of a verified sustainable ethanol and trade policy?

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• After the agreement in September last year, our focus has expanded from including commercial agreements for ethanol for Europe to generally supporting development of the Brazilian ethanol production for more sustainable and verifiable ethanol.

22. What does this initiative include in concrete terms?

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• A bilateral agreement was signed by President Lula and Prime Minister Reinfeldt. 
• This agreement is between the industry organisations BAFF and UNICA. They drive the process together to move the entire Brazilian ethanol industry toward a more sustainable production and keeping the Swedish and European markets informed of the advantages and potential of sustainable ethanol.
• Commercial agreements between SEKAB and several partners in Brazil have been signed that supply SEKAB with sustainable ethanol that is verifiable and traceable.

23. How will customers know that they are using the sustainable ethanol?

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• We assume that the pumps with the verified sustainable ethanol will be clearly labelled so that customers will never have a doubt.

24. How much of the ethanol on the Swedish market will be verified sustainable?

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• We hope 100 per cent in E85 and ED95.
• Last year SEKAB provided over 95 per cent of the Brazilian ethanol that went into E85 and ED95.


On our Q&A page you will find many questions about the sustainable ethanol initiative answered.

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The system for verified sustainable ethanol is still in development and we appreciate comments and suggestions for improvements.

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