Agriculture's Energy

The Trouble with Ethanol in Brazil's Green Revolution

By Thomas D. Rogers

306 pp., 6.125 x 9.25, 4 halftones, 3 maps, notes, bibl., index

  • Paperback ISBN: 978-1-4696-7045-4
    Published: December 2022
  • Hardcover ISBN: 978-1-4696-7044-7
    Published: December 2022
  • E-book EPUB ISBN: 978-1-4696-7046-1
    Published: November 2022
  • E-book PDF ISBN: 979-8-8908-6348-5
    Published: November 2022

Buy this Book

For Professors:
Free E-Exam Copies

To purchase online via an independent bookstore, visit
Thomas D. Rogers's history of a modernizing Brazil tracks what happened when a key government program,created in the 1970s by the nation’s military regime, aspired to harness energy produced by sugarcane agriculture to power the country's economy. The National Alcohol Program, known as Proálcool, was a deliberate economic strategy designed to incentivize ethanol production and reduce gasoline consumption. As Brazil's capacity grew and as international oil shocks continued, the regime's planners doubled down on Proálcool. Drawing financing from international lenders and curiosity from other oil-dependent countries, for a time it was the world's largest oil-substitution and renewable-energy program.

Chronicling how Proálcool experimented with and exemplified the consolidation of government, agribusiness, large planters, agricultural and chemical research companies, and oil producers, this book expands into a rich investigation of the arc of Brazil's Green Revolution. The ethanol boom epitomized the vector of that arc, but Rogers keeps wider development imperatives in view. He dramatizes the choices and trade-offs that ultimately resulted in a losing energy strategy, for Proálcool ended up creating a large contingent of impoverished workers, serious environmental degradation, and persistent hunger. The full consequences of the Green Revolution–fueled consolidation continue to take a toll today.

About the Author

Thomas D. Rogers is Arthur Blank/NEH Chair in the Humanities and Humanistic Social Sciences and associate professor of Latin American history at Emory University. He is the author of The Deepest Wounds.
For more information about Thomas D. Rogers, visit the Author Page.


"Rogers demonstrates his prowess as a researcher through his analysis of development strategies in Brazil. His extensive archival research, complemented by interviews with influential policymakers and local business leaders, along with his long-term commitment to agro-environmental histories, have yielded innovative and well-substantiated outcomes."—Thaís R. S. de Sant´Ana, A Contracorriente

"This urgent, humanist history of Proálcool teaches important lessons about the social implications of collective energy choices in an era of climate crisis. Emphasizing social structures, health issues, and power relations, Rogers demonstrates the great importance of a historical perspective in understanding the complexity of the energy challenges which the world is currently facing."—Antoine Acker, Geneva Graduate Institute

"Revealing the achievements and the costs of Brazil's much-touted energy program, Rogers provides insight from multiple, overlapping angles—including economics, energy, agriculture, the environment, labor, politics, health, and, crucially, hunger. The book should appeal to readers in a wide range of historical fields and related disciplines."—Eve E. Buckley, University of Delaware