Cuban leader Fidel Castro recently called the
Bush ethanol project a "genocidal" plan that
would spawn world hunger, though Brazil's
left-leaning government has agreed with the
Bush administration to help boost the global
use of ethanol.
The United States produces ethanol from
corn and Brazil makes the fuel from sugar
cane. The two countries intend to promote
their products in developing countries.
"Substituting the consumption of gasoline
with ethanol, produced from corn -- it's true
madness," said Chavez during a speech on
Tuesday, accompanied by top Cuban officials.
"To produce the ethanol necessary to
substitute the gasoline consumed only the US,
it would be necessary to cultivate nearly all
the arable land on this continent," he said.
Like Castro, Chavez insists planting corn
and sugar to produce fuel will waste land and
water resources that could otherwise be used
to grow food.
Ethanol has become an attractive fuel
alternative due to the soaring price of crude
oil, and even Venezuela -- which supplies
around 9 percent of US oil imports -- has
promoted ethanol as a substitute for lead
additives in gasoline.
The criticisms by Chavez, a self-styled
revolutionary and sworn enemy of Washington,
appeared to put him at odds with Brazilian
President Luis Inacio Lula da Silva, who has
said ethanol can revolutionize the global
Brazil has the world's most advanced
biofuels market after it started powering cars
with ethanol three decades ago. In recent
months, a global craze for renewable
alternatives to gasoline has attracted big
Chavez insisted he was not confronting
Lula, and instead accused the US "empire" of
seeking to stir up conflict between the
The firebrand Chavez, whose influence has
grown due to his nation's expanding oil
wealth, often vies with the market-friendly
Lula for influence over the continent's
increasingly left-leaning governments.
Latin American leaders, including Lula and
Bolivian President Evo Morales, are slated to
meet next week in Venezuela to discuss energy
integration plans, most of which have been
promoted by Venezuela.
Chavez on Tuesday urged fellow Latin
American governments to shun ethanol and
instead rely on Venezuela's reserves of oil
and gas for their energy needs.
"Latin America should not worry about its
energy supply, because all the oil and fuel it
needs is here in Venezuela," he said.