The U.S. Grains Council (USGC) hosted a regional seminar in Panama City, Panama, held on Mar. 21-22, that brought together critical stakeholders and high-level government officials from Central American (CTA) countries and the Dominican Republic to learn about and discuss the technical aspects, benefits and challenges of ethanol and gasoline blending in the region.

While there, the Council and the Industrial Association of Sugar Cane of Panama (AZUCALPA) signed – and U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Undersecretary for Trade and Foreign Agricultural Affairs Alexis Taylor witnessed – an ethanol memorandum of understanding (MOU).

The MOU recognizes the importance of assessing the role and benefits of biofuels and ethanol in the promotion of economic growth, diversification of the energy matrix and decarbonization of transportation in the global energy transition to address global greenhouse gas emissions.

“This MOU bolsters economic and energy security through both domestic production and strengthening trade ties between our two nations,” said Taylor.

“Ethanol blending helps countries meet their climate change goals by boosting the use of renewable energy and reducing greenhouse gas emissions in the transportation sector. I hope these benefits encourage other nations throughout the region to explore ethanol blending policies of their own.”

Participants included ministers and vice ministers from the mines and energy, environment and agriculture sectors, along with representatives from national refineries, agro-industrial industries, oil and gas, finance, logistics and transportation.

“Cultivando Energia is an incredibly impressive event that brings together like-minded individuals from across the region who can share their concerns and explore areas of collaboration in developing coherent and robust biofuels programs in their countries,” said USGC Regional Director for Latin America Marri Tejada, who signed the MOU on behalf of the Council.

“We are encouraged by the high-level of distinguished representatives at the conference, further demonstrating the interest and willingness to continue the development of ethanol use in their countries.”

The seminar - Cultivando Energía - also included extensive discussions around ethanol’s role in the global energy transition; dispelling ethanol myths; ethanol’s contribution to greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction; the ethanol production chain; ethanol pathways in Latin America; and regional challenges to ethanol policy.

“We want to thank the U.S. Grains Council for organizing this seminar and for their support and accompaniment with technical, strategic and best practices contributions which have been of great value and which we are sure will continue to be of great importance for the biofuels sector in Panama,” said Rodrigo Cardenal, CEO of Grupo Calesa and President of AZUCALPA.

“As a national agricultural industry with a tradition of more than 100 years operating in Panama, we are very optimistic about implementing a national biofuel and renewable energy program. We know the direct, positive impact and benefits the program will provide in terms of creating direct and indirect employment, ensuring investments in agriculture and the impact on several communities.”

Global ethanol consumption has grown from 16 billion gallons in 2010 to more than 27 billion in 2022. CTA, with an area of 523,000 square kilometers (Km2) and a population of around 51 million, consumes on average 244 gallons of oil and oil products per person per year.

Fuel consumption for transportation has increased 9.1% over the last few years, driven by an increase in population, a growing middle class and an increased vehicle ownership.