Accoring to a post in Biopact:
At the FO Licht World Ethanol Conference held recently in Amsterdam, director Jacyr Costa Filho of the Brazilian commodity brokerage Sociedade Corretora De Alcool Trading SA, who has 20 years experience in the sector, announced that by 2030, the ethanol output of a hectare of sugar cane will rise to a staggering average of 13,000 liters, more than twice the current output.
Just like the steady rise of the past quarter of a century, the increased productivity of the coming decades will be the result of a series of new technologies and processes, ranging from the development of high-yield plant varieties to the creation of new planting, harvesting and processing techniques.
Being a tropical grass species, sugar cane yields far more energy per hectare than ethanol crops grown in the more temperate climates of the North (US/EU). Corn, for example, yields around 3000 liters, whereas sugar beet may deliver 1000 liters more; one hectare of wheat can be turned into a meagre 1,200 liters of biofuel. These low yields make that the crops in question have a very low positive energy balance, somewhere between 1 and 1.5 for corn and between 1.5 and 2.5 for beet. In other words, for each unit of energy you put into planting, harvesting and processing these feedstocks into ethanol, you only get 1.5 to 2.5 units back in the form of a useable biofuel. The energy balance of sugarcane-based ethanol in Brazil is many times stronger, around 8 to 1. Some highly efficient producers even reach a balance of 11 to 1 (when bagasse, a processing residue, is used to power the ethanol facilities, and when the excess electricity thus produced, is fed to the grid) (earlier post)
If this is true, it seems that countries in the tropical and semi-tropical climates have a huge advantage when their ethanol is compared to corn ethanol and will continue to have an advantage compared to cellulosic ethanol. The energy advantage combined with their labor cost advantage are a powerful combination.