One of the many fuels bandied about as substitutes for gasoline is ethanol. In the U.S., corn is one of the major plant sources for this fuel, however, in Brazil, sugar cane is the plant stock used to ferment the fuel.
In Brazil, a lot of cars are sold as flex fuel capable meaning they can run on gasoline or ethanol blends, some models are only available in flex fuel versions. They grow a lot of sugar cane in Brazil and the cost of ethanol is less per mile driven than gasoline even though ethanol yields less miles per gallon. Whether the cost differential is due to tax differences isn’t clear.
An interesting sidelight to this is that U.S. sugar producers are currently protected from low cost sugar imports by import restrictions which means they can keep their prices high. The result is that ethanol made from U.S. sugar is too expensive to be competitive as fuel so these same farmers can then get subsidies for converting their sugar to ethanol, sweet deal for them, not so sweet for you and me.
Of course, this gets into another issue which is how much energy is used to produce ethanol and how much do we get back out. On that issue, gasoline is hard to beat.
Wouldn’t it be nice if the government would stay out of the market and let prices provide incentives for production of whatever alternative fuels worked best from whatever sources were most economical? Then people could decide for themselves what they wanted to put into their tank.