Press Release
March 10, 2006


Senate Minority Leader Aquilino Nene Q. Pimentel, Jr. (PDP-Laban) today called for full government support to the conversion of existing sugar mills in Negros island and other parts of the country into plants for producing ethanol fuel.

Citing the view of energy experts, Pimentel said the increased production of ethanol fuel, which is extracted from sugarcane, cassava or corn, can be more easily done among the substitute indigenous sources of fuel to reduce the countrys dependence on imported oil or fossil fuel whose prices are becoming more expensive.

Considering the urgent need to transfer to an alternative fuel that can be done expediently and at the soonest possible time, we should consider prioritizing the production of ethanol over other indigenous sources of fuel or fuel additives, he told the Public Affairs Forum 2006 sponsored by the Publicus Co. Ltd. at the Intercontinental Hotel, Makati City.

He emphasized that his proposal should be without prejudice to the continuous search for ways to tap the coconut as a source of coco-diesel and other indigenous sources of energy.

Pimentel, principal author of the Senate version of the alternative Energy Sources Bill, said he was told by sugar planters from Negros Occidental that many sugar mills could be converted into ethanol plants with assistance from the government at a cost of $1 million (about P51 million) per plant.

The cost of converting an existing sugar mills into ethanol mill is manageable and with political will, it is something that the government can very well afford to guarantee as loans to the sugar mill owners, he said.

Pimentel said that ethanol can be used principally as transport fuel additive. Ethanol is a colorless flammable liquid and as hydrous ethanol, it can be used as pure gasoline fuel substitute. In its anhydrous state, ethanol can be used to blend with or displace gasoline in various proportions.

My readings indicate that adding ethanol to gasoline enables machines and engines to burn the fuel more efficiently. And then, our need for diesel or oil products would be reduced considerably depending, or course, on the volume of ethanol that is mixed with the fossil fuel, he said.

Statistics of two years ago state that the country consumes $3.8 billion (or about P200 billion) worth of imported oil and petroleum products annually. Of this amount, 28 percent of P56 billion is consumed by transport users in the public and private sectors.

Pimentel said it can be anticipated that the promotion of ethanol even only as a mix for transport fuel faces a strong lobby from the car and oil industries.

These industries feel that if we move from fossil fuel to ethanol, we would cause them to suffer. There will be a need to retrofit the engines or retool the vehicles that will use ethanol mixed fuel instead of crude or refined oil products, he said.

However, Pimentel said that the car and truck and oil industries will have to give way to the larger needs and interest of the country. Likewise, he said the shift from fossil fuel to ethanol will be done not in one fell blow but incrementally as Brazil and Thailand are doing.

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