October 30, 2018 / 2:03 AM / 21 days ago

UPDATE 1-Brazil's Bolsonaro backs ethanol industry, pledges partnership

(Adds comments, context on new policy)

By Marcelo Teixeira

SAO PAULO, Oct 29 (Reuters) - President-elect Jair Bolsonaro backed Brazil’s ethanol industry and pledged to be a partner of the biofuel sector, according to remarks aired on Monday during an international sugar conference in Sao Paulo.

Right-wing Bolsonaro, who beat leftist Fernando Haddad in a run-off vote on Sunday, said in a video that he would like to see Brazil retake global leadership in ethanol production, which it lost to the United States some years ago.

“In the past, we were leaders on this front and we will once again lead, certainly,” he said in the video presented by congressman Evandro Gussi, who authored the bill passed in Congress this year that implements Brazil’s new policy to boost consumption of renewable fuels called RenovaBio.

This industry “is very important. It reduces carbon emissions, and from something that is ours, gives energy to Brazil. You can count on us, we are partners on this issue,” Bolsonaro said.

Gussi said he recorded the video some days ago, before the run-off vote.

The RenovaBio program is seen by many in Brazil’s sugar and ethanol industry as a lifeline to mills that are in a difficult financial situation after several years of low prices for the biofuel and the sweetener.

The new policy, which has yet to be fully regulated by the federal government that will take power on Jan. 1, gives fuel distributors growing targets for annual traded volumes of biofuels such as ethanol and biodiesel.

There were doubts in the ethanol industry if Bolsonaro, who at one point threatened to pull out of the Paris climate treaty, would back the policy and go ahead with its implementation.

Some days before the second round of the election, he did a U-turn, saying that Brazil would honor the treaty it has signed. (Reporting by Marcelo Teixeira; Editing by Peter Cooney and Leslie Adler)

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