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South America Environment, Science & Technology, and Health Newsletter ISSUE 108

by Stoner, Larissa A — last modified Jan 10, 2013 10:04 AM
Contributors: rhessmiller
In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. section 107, any copyrighted material herein is distributed without profit or payment for non-profit research and educational purposes only.
Agriculture: Argentina: Study Proves Glyphosate Toxic; Continued Soy Expansion Worries Argentina. Health: Dengue Claims 54 Lives in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; Yellow Fever: First Possible Death Reported In Argentina; WHO Wants Agreement With Brazil To Increase Yellow Fever Vaccine Production. Water Issues: Short On Water, Mine Sector Looks Seaward in Argentina. Brazil: Classifying Underground Waters. Forests: Million Acres of Guyanese Rainforest to Be Saved in Groundbreaking Deal; Activist Bishop Receives Death Threats in Brazilian Amazon; Brazil: Snakes Invade Brazilian City As Forest Disappears; Brazil: Managed Forestry Offers Hope of Saving Amazon; BoliviaLoses 270,000 hectares of Forest Annually. Fishing & Marine Conservation: Salmon Virus Indicts Chile’s Fishing Methods; Anti-Whaling Initiatives Set To Play Out In Chile; Artisan Fishermen in Chile’s VIII Region Protest Quota System; Brazil: Fisherfolk to the Turtle Rescue!. Protected Areas: Argentina: Historic Ruling Defends Wetland; Highest Peak in the Americas Attracting Trekkers—and Trash. Science & Technology Argentinato invest US$150 million in Science Infrastructure. Pollution: PeruTribe Battles Oil Giant over Pollution. Climate Change: Study Confirms Chile Glacier Retreat; La Niña and Climate Confusion. Infrastructure Development: Road to Progress, or to Eco-Degradation? Energy: Chile: Law Suit Filed Against Puerto Montt Diesel Generator; Criticisms Multiply Against Argentina, Brazil Binational Dam; ChileSpends US$10.7 Billion on Energy in 2007; Chile's Congress Approves Renewable Energy Law; Brazil, Argentina, Bolivia Agree To Build Five Joint Hydro Power Plants

South AmericaEnvironment, Science &Technology, and Health Newsletter

NOTE:  The South America ESTH Newsletter is now also available on the Intranet - http://brasilia.state.gov/hub/default.htm

Edition #108.  Also attached is a calendar of up-coming ESTH events across the Western Hemisphere.  The information contained was gathered from news sources from across the region, and the views expressed below do not necessarily reflect those of the Regional Environmental HUB Office or of our constituent posts.  Addressees interested in sharing any ESTH-related events of USG interest are welcome to do so.

 

Agriculture

Argentina: Study Proves Glyphosate Toxic

MAR. 24, 2008 - The herbicide glyphosate, used in Argentina to eliminate weeds in soybean fields, takes time to degrade and is not innocuous, says a study by researchers from various Argentine institutions.  "Its toxicity was known, but it was thought to degrade much more quickly than it does and that its residues were absorbed without effect; but we found that such is not the case," Horacio Zagarese, of the Chascomús Technological Institute, told Tierramérica.  Along with researchers at the universities of Buenos Aires and La Plata, Zagarese's team found that glyphosate, also used to destroy illegal coca plantations in Colombia, drives up the concentration of phosphorous in lakes and ponds, and alters the presence of algae that are the basis of the aquatic food chain.  "With soy being the most extensive crop in Argentina and if tons of glyphosate are used, it's evident that in the long term this will have an impact," he said.

Source – Tierramerica http://www.tierramerica.info/nota.php?lang=eng&idnews=eco&nro=333

Continued Soy Expansion Worries Argentina

MAR. 2008 - Every year Argentine soy farmers seem to set new records—in land area under cultivation, in production, in tons exported, in foreign-exchange earnings.  As they do, analysts worry that the trend is getting out of hand.  Concern about soy monoculture is not new.  Experts have warned for several years that expanding soy cultivation—driven by demand from the developing world, particularly China and India—is crowding out other forms of agriculture.  In the process, they’ve said, it has caused soil depletion in the humid pampas, one of the world’s most fertile regions, and deforestation in northern Argentina.  Now, however, even those who promoted soy cultivation have become worried as farming of the crop has continued to spread. Government officials have joined the chorus, citing over-reliance on a single crop and inflationary effects from rising soy prices to justify an increase in the federal tax on soy exports to 44.1% from the previous 35%.  Critics argue the real reason for the tax hike was to fill public coffers further.  The government, already riding high on soy-levy revenues, stands to gain well over US$1.0 billion this year from the increase announced in March.  But when Economy Minister Martín Lousteau, in announcing the tax hike, cited the importance of stopping the advance of “soyzation,” he was echoing the sentiments of many experts who fear the consequences here of soy’s relentless advance.

Source – EcoAmericas (please contact Larissa Stoner for complete article)

Health     

Dengue Claims 54 Lives in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

MAR. 27, 2008 - A dengue epidemic has claimed at least 54 lives in Rio de Janeiro state since January.  Brazilian Health Minister Jose Temporao said that 1,200 soldiers from the army, air force and navy would be deployed to set up three field hospitals, while an additional 500 would spray insecticide and place poison in standing puddles of water where the mosquitoes breed.  More than 43,000 people have contracted disease since January 2008 in Rio de Janeiro state — nearly double the 25,107 cases reported in all of 2007. The state is home to 16 million people.  On March 26, Rio de Janeiro state Governor Sergio Cabral ordered health officials to break into homes suspected of containing standing bodies of water if the owners could not be found.

Source – Yahoo News http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20080327/ap_on_he_me/brazil_dengue 

Yellow Fever: First Possible Death Reported In Argentina

MAR. 12, 2008 - A logger is suspected to be the first fatal case of yellow fever in Argentina since the 2007 outbreak in neighboring Paraguay. The man, 39, together with a crew of men was logging in the northern province of Misiones and according to local sanitary officials had all the symptoms of the mosquito transmitted viral disease.  Five more loggers in the crew are considered “risk” cases and blood samples have been sent to Buenos Aires for testing. They are under surveillance in a Misiones province hospital.  Argentine federal health authorities have extended compulsory vaccination to five more provinces bordering with Paraguay and /or Misiones province.  In the last nine months there have been 16 proven fatal cases of yellow fever in Paraguay and 17 in Brazil.  Officials from Paraguay, Brazil, Uruguay, Venezuela, Bolivia and Peru will coordinate and monitor yellow fever immunization for people living in border areas, as well as efforts to eradicate the disease-spreading insects, the Pan American Health Organization said.

Source –MercoPress http://www.mercopress.com/vernoticia.do?id=12881&formato=html 

WHO Wants Agreement With Brazil To Increase Yellow Fever Vaccine Production

 

FEB. 28, 2008 - The World Health Organization is going to propose an agreement with Brazil to increase the production of yellow fever vaccine until the end of the year. According to press reports, the WHO has only 6 million doses of vaccine in stock, after lending 4 million to Brazil and 2 million to Paraguay, but believes that that number won’t be enough to deal with a possible epidemic in Africa and in Latin America.

Source – O Estado de Sao Paulo

Water Issues

Short On Water, Mine Sector Looks Seaward in Argentina

MAR. 2008 – The Israel-owned Mekorot Water Company has begun feasibility studies for a seawater desalination plant at the iron-ore mine MCC Minera Sierra Grande, located in Argentina’s Río Negro province.  In Chile and Peru, meanwhile, gold and copper mines already have started desalinating Pacific Ocean water to counter growing concern that the mining sector is consuming inordinate shares of the two nations’ supplies of fresh water.  Mining accounts for the lion’s share of Peruvian and Chilean exports, as increasing international demand pushes gold and copper prices close to record highs.  Although not as dependent on mining, Argentina has begun tapping its substantial mineral deposits—mainly copper and gold, but also iron and aluminum—in both its northwest provinces and the southern Patagonia region.  In recent years, water has become an increasingly sensitive subject for Latin America’s fast-growing mining industry, which uses vast quantities of water—and electricity.  Mines not only strain water supplies on account of their heavy consumption, but also diminish acceptability of existing sources via heavy metal contamination .

Source – EcoAmericas (please contact Larissa Stoner for complete article)

Brazil: Classifying Underground Waters

MAR. 24, 2008 - Underground waters in Brazil are already categorized according to their characteristics and degrees of contamination, and an indication of the appropriate use for each aquifer.  According to their natural hydrogeochemical characteristics, the waters would be classified in five categories, as well as a "special class" for aquifers earmarked for preservation of ecosystems or for feeding lakes and rivers.  The National Environment Council adopted the measure on Mar. 12 with the aim of monitoring and protecting water resource quality, as decontamination is costly and slow.  Previously, underground waters were polluted with no control of state agencies. "Now we will be able to promote better water resource management and zoning," Council technical adviser Cleidemar Batista told Tierramérica.

Source – Tierramerica http://www.tierramerica.info/nota.php?lang=eng&idnews=eco&nro=333 

Forests

Million Acres of Guyanese Rainforest to Be Saved in Groundbreaking Deal

MAR. 27, 2008 - A deal has been agreed that will place a financial value on rainforests – paying, for the first time, for their upkeep as "utilities" that provide vital services such as rainfall generation, carbon storage and climate regulation.  The agreement will secure the future of one million acres of pristine rainforest in Guyana and will open the way for financial markets to play a key role in safeguarding the fate of the world's forests.  The initiative, the first of its kind, follows Guyana's extraordinary offer to place its entire standing forest under the protection of a British-led international body in return for development aid. The deal, drawn up by the international firm Stephenson Harwood, is the first serious attempt to pay for ecosystem services provided by rainforests.

Source – The Independent

Activist Bishop Receives Death Threats in Brazilian Amazon

 

MAR. 26, 2008 -A shadowy consortium of ranchers and loggers has put a $500,000 price tag on the head of a bishop who defends poor settlers and Indians in the Amazon, according to a human rights group.  The consortium has apparently mapped out a detailed plan to kill Bishop Erwin Krautler, an Austrian national who has worked in the largely lawless northern state of Para since 1980, according to the Catholic Church-linked Indigenous Missionary Council.  Powerful Amazon business interests have criticized the 69-year-old Krautler, who often protests land grabbing, debt slavery and environmental destruction.  The bishop has been under police protection since last year, according to Para state police spokesman Emanuel Villaca.

 

Source - The Associated Press

Brazil: Snakes Invade Brazilian City As Forest Disappears

MAR. 19, 2008 - Snakes -- including one 10-foot anaconda -- are increasingly invading the eastern Amazon's largest city Belem.  The snakes are driven from the rain forest by destruction of their natural habitat, according to IBAMA, the Brazilian government's environmental protection agency.  Ibama has been called out to capture 21 snakes this year in Belem, Brazil, a sprawling metropolis of 1.5 million people at the mouth of the Amazon River.  In normal years, Ibama receives one or two calls a month.  Ibama believes the increasing snake presence is a result of rising deforestation by loggers, ranchers and developers in the Amazon jungle surrounding the Belem urban area.  "Deforestation destroys their habitat, so they come to the city," reports a veterinary team that captures the snakes and takes them to a zoo or to an outlying park for release.

Source – CNN http://edition.cnn.com/2008/WORLD/americas/03/11/brazil.snakes.ap/index.html

Brazil: Managed Forestry Offers Hope of Saving Amazon

FEB. 18, 2008 - Buzzing chain saws and heavy machinery hauling logs through the Amazon jungle may look at first like reckless destruction.  But a forestry project on the Jari River in northern Brazil is being hailed as a model for preserving the world's largest rain forest.  "Selling certified timber harvested in a sustainable way is the only solution for the Amazon," said Augusto Praxedes Neto, a manager at Brazilian pulp and paper company Grupo ORSA.  For five years ORSA has managed the world's largest private tropical forest, located on either side of the Jari River in the northeastern Amazon region.  It harvests only 30 cubic meters (12,713 board feet) of timber per hectare (2.47 acres) every 30 years, just under the natural regeneration rate. Trees are felled and transported in a manner to produce minimal impact on the forest, and are then recorded in a computerized inventory.

Source – Reuters http://uk.reuters.com

BoliviaLoses 270,000 hectares of Forest Annually

 

MAR. 16, 2008 – According to the Vice-Minister of Biodiversity in Bolivia, Bolivia loses 270,000 hectares of forest annually due to the expansion of the agricultural frontier.  The departments (i.e. states) most affected are La Paz, Santa Cruz, Beni, and Pando.  Forests cover 50 million hectares – or 46% - of the country’s territory.  Over 1,400 reports of illegal deforestation were documented in 2007.  Poverty in rural areas, lack of environmental education, and the increasing demand for forest products are indicated as primary causes of deforestation in the country.

 

Source – Univision http://www.univision.com/contentroot/wirefeeds/50noticias/7432721.html

Fishing & Marine Conservation

Salmon Virus Indicts Chile’s Fishing Methods

MAR. 27, 2008- A virus called infectious salmon anemia, or I.S.A., is killing millions of salmon destined for export to Japan, Europe and the United States. The spreading plague has sent shivers through Chile’s third-largest export industry, which has left local people embittered by lay–offs of more than 1,000 workers.  It has also opened the companies to fresh charges from biologists and environmentalists who say that the breeding of salmon in crowded underwater pens is contaminating once-pristine waters and producing potentially unhealthy fish.  Some say the industry is raising its fish in ways that court disaster, and producers are coming under new pressure to change their methods to preserve southern Chile’s cobalt blue waters for tourists and other marine life.

Source – The New York Times (please contact Larissa Stoner for complete article)

 

Anti-Whaling Initiatives Set To Play Out In Chile

MAR. 2008 - Environmental groups plan to press for a ban on whaling in the southern oceans at the next meeting of the International Whaling Commission (IWC), slated to be held in May in Santiago, Chile.  Meanwhile, the Chilean government, which has been outspoken in its opposition to Japanese whaling, is considering declaring all waters within its 200-mile Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) a permanent sanctuary for whales and other cetaceans.  And green groups are urging Chile to propose a Latin-America-wide agreement to declare all EEZ waters in the region—from Mexico to Antarctica—off limits to whaling, according to Juan Carlos Cárdenas, executive director of the Santiago-based green group Ecoceanos.

Source – EcoAmericas

Artisan Fishermen in Chile’s VIII Region Protest Quota System

MAR. 12, 2008 - Artisan fishermen in Chile’s VIII Region protested March 10 against irregularities in the distribution of the country’s sardine and anchovy quota system that favors commercial fishing interests. The fishermen claim that 70 percent of the total allotment is designated for a small number of large commercial vessels, while some 340 smaller boats, each with an average of ten fishermen, must compete for the remaining 30 percent.  The conflict stems from a 2007 decision by Chile’s National Fishing Authority to increase the fishing industry’s annual sardine and anchovy quota. The country’s artisan fishermen objected to that move as well, maintaining that it favored the interests of larger commercial enterprises at their expense.  The criteria for determining the fishing quotas were based on statistics from 2002 – 2004, including a vessel’s frequency of catches and average haul over those years, as well as the number of years an enterprise has been involved in fishing.  According to Chile’s Confederation of Artesian Fishermen (CONAPACH), irregularities in the calculations resulted in some artisan fishermen with over three decades of experience being excluded from the quotas entirely.

Source – Santiago Times

Brazil: Fisherfolk to the Turtle Rescue!

MAR. 10, 2008 - A conservation campaign is motivating fisherfolk in southern Brazil to fight accidental capture of sea turtles.   The mission of the Tamar Project (Brazilian Program for the Conservation of Sea Turtles) in Florianopolis (southern Brazil) is to raise awareness among the local residents about the need to conserve the turtles, and to work with local fishing families to reduce accidental capture.  Fisherman Josemar Teixeira reported to Tierramérica that until a few years ago each time a turtle ended up in his nets it would be shared among everyone to eat.  But since the Tamar project began in 2005 that practice stopped in Florianopolis "because we all know it is prohibited," he adds.  Unlike traditional fishhooks, in the form of a "J" and with sharp points, the new hooks used by fisherfolk are more rounded and closed, making it difficult for a turtle to get caught on them, and if it were to occur, "it would reduce the impact of the injury," said the biologist.  In a year of tests with the new hooks, the turtles brought in by the fishers have suffered much lighter injury. The center rehabilitated 94 turtles in 2007.

Source - http://www.tierramerica.info/nota.php?lang=eng&idnews=2469

Protected Areas

Argentina: Historic Ruling Defends Wetland

MAR. 10, 2008 .- A 20-kilometer embankment constructed by an agri-business firm in the Esteros del Iberá wetlands, in the eastern Argentine province of Corrientes, must be demolished, says a court order.  In an unprecedented decision, the Corrientes Superior Court of Justice upheld the ruling of two lower courts in a case filed in 2005 by a resident when the embankment was just 1.5 km long.  "It is an historic ruling. It was a completely illegal project because it was inside the reserve," Jorge Cappato, an activist with the environmental group Fundación Proteger, told Tierramérica.  Along with the recently enacted Forestry Law, this decision is "one of the two best news items in recent years for Argentina in the area of sustainable development," he added.  Esteros del Iberá is a freshwater wetland extending over 1.4 million hectares and holds a vast array of plant and animal species, including many that are endangered.

Source – Tierramerica http://www.tierramerica.info/nota.php?lang=eng&idnews=eco&nro=327

Highest Peak in the Americas Attracting Trekkers—and Trash

MAR. 2008 - Rising 22,841 feet (6,962 meters) above sea level, Argentina’s Aconcagua is the highest peak in the Americas and the object of many a mountain climber’s most ambitious dreams.  With a fast-growing number of those dreams becoming reality, however, Aconcagua and the natural area containing it are being spoiled by large quantities of trash left behind by trekkers and climbers.  The number of visits to the 175,000-acre (71,000-ha) protected area—Aconcagua Provincial Park, located in Mendoza province—has increased dramatically in recent years.  Increasingly, visitors are complaining about packaging, food and human waste littering the landscape—particularly at campsites located above 16,000 feet (5,000 meters), where there are no permanent park-ranger stations.

Source - EcoAmericas

 

Science & Technology

Argentinato invest US$150 million in Science Infrastructure

MAR. 01, 2008 – The Government of Argentina presented an infrastructure plan for science and technology for the period between 2008 and 2011, which will have a budget of US$150 million and will be carried out by the Ministries of Planning and Science.  According to the Minister of Science Lino Baranao, 137,650 square meters of new buildings destined for science and technological production.

Source – SciDevhttp://www.scidev.net/gateways/index.cfm?fuseaction=readitem&rgwid=1&item=News&itemid=4273&language=2&CFID=8415648&CFTOKEN=28813030

Pollution

PeruTribe Battles Oil Giant over Pollution

MAR. 26, 2008 - It is a familiar story. Big business moves into a pristine wilderness and starts destroying the environment and the livelihoods of the indigenous people who live there.  But in a reversal of plot, there are now cases of people living traditional lifestyles who are now invading the territory of the big companies and taking them on at their own game. The story of the Achuar tribe living in the Amazon rainforest of north-eastern Peru is one of them.  Last year, they filed a class action lawsuit against oil giant Occidental Petroleum, in Los Angeles.  Now they are awaiting a judge's decision on whether the case can proceed in the US or will be sent back to Peru, where it stands little chance of coming to court.

Source – BBC http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/7306639.stm

Climate Change

Study Confirms Chile Glacier Retreat

MAR. 11, 2008 - Researchers at Santiago’s Universidad Tecnológica Metropolitana (UTEM) have confirmed that the O’Higgins glacier in Chile’s Southern Ice Field is one of the sector’s four fastest-receding ice masses.  The study, conducted over the past two years by UTEM cartographers Iván Gabriel Soto and Claudio Vargas, measured the volume and position of the glacier between 1961 and 2001.  Using GPS technology and satellite imagery, the scientists found that the O’Higgins glacier receded nearly eight kilometers and lost 6.8 cubic kilometers in volume over the relevant time period, a consequence of global climate change.  To put that amount in perspective, Juan Óscar Martínez, UTEM’s director of Cartography, said that 6.8 cubic kilometers is roughly 26 times the volume of Chile’s El Yeso reservoir in the Cajón de Maipo, the principal water source for the Santiago Metropolitan Region’s six million inhabitants. In January, Chile’s Water Management Authority (DGA) announced the creation of a Snow and Glacier Unit to study melting in Chile’s glacial regions more thoroughly. The agency hopes to designate certain parts of southern Chile with a high concentration of glaciers as protected areas in order to stem further melting.

Source – Santiago Times

 

La Niña and Climate Confusion

MAR. 10, 2008 - It is still difficult to predict the local impacts of the cyclic climate phenomenon known as La Niña, which has been responsible for catastrophic floods in Bolivia, Ecuador, Peru and Argentina, and -- on the other extreme -- severe drought in Chile.  The death toll has already reached about 100, and around one million people have been affected by the floods and drought.  La Niña is characterized by an atypical cooling of the surface waters of the ocean and an increase in the winds blowing east to west at the equator. The better known El Niño is the opposite: warmer surface waters and weaker winds.  La Niña tends to provoke intense rains in Colombia, Ecuador, the high plains of Bolivia and Peru and northwestern Argentina, and drought in Uruguay, southern Brazil, northeastern Argentina and central Chile.

Source – Tierramerica http://www.tierramerica.info/nota.php?lang=eng&idnews=2468

 

Infrastructure Development

Road to Progress, or to Eco-Degradation?

MAR. 2008 - For the locals who use it regularly, the old Colombian road from Mocoa in the department of Putumayo to Pasto, which is in the department of Nariño, has been a curse since it was built in the 1930s.  Each trip means stopping repeatedly and backing up to allow a vehicle to squeeze past in the opposite direction.  Residents here are tired of the road. They are tired of watching people die on it.  But now the prayers of the citizens of Putumayo and Nariño are being answered: a US$183 million project, which includes widening and surfacing some sections of the old road and building a 28-mile (45-km) new stretch, is underway and will be finished by 2010.  The new Mocoa-Pasto road is part of the Initiative for the Integration of the Regional Infrastructure of South America (IIRSA), a US$55 billion project of South American nations to integrate their highways, waterways, energy grids and pipelines.  But like many IIRSA projects, the new road also poses real risks.  It could open the once-isolated Mocoa region to logging, mining and oil operations and attract thousands of migrants from both Colombia and neighboring nations.  Environmentalists say an intense increase in development activity could wreak havoc on southwestern Colombia’s Andean-Amazon Piedmont region, which the road traverses.  The balancing of development against cultural and environmental concerns is a common challenge raised by IIRSA, which was born in 2000 at a meeting in Brasília of South America’s presidents and involves some 335 projects funded by governments and such multilateral organizations as the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) and the Andean Development Corporation (CAF).

Source – EcoAmericas (please contact Larissa Stoner for complete article)

Energy

Chile: Law Suit Filed Against Puerto Montt Diesel Generator

MAR. 26, 2008 - A US$43.2 million, 90 MW diesel-powered electricity generating plant planned for Trapen, near the outskirts of Puerto Montt (Region X), has sparked strong public opposition and contributed to the growing national debate about Chile’s lack of an energy policy.  After taking over the Route 5 twice earlier this year to draw attention to their health, safety and environmental concerns posed by the diesel generator, local residents filed a lawsuit to stop the project.  Community leaders assert that the Trapén diesel-powered plant – proposed by a Santiago-based firm called Energia Latina S.A. - was hastily approved by regional environmental authorities in a matter of days without any public notice or review. They also assert that Energia Latina’s diesel project plan was misleading and inaccurate.

Source – Santiago Times

Criticisms Multiply Against Argentina, Brazil Binational Dam

MAR. 24, 2008 - Under pressure from rising energy demands, the governments of Argentina and Brazil are taking a new look at old plans for the Garabí hydroelectric dam on the Uruguay River. Ecologists say it would endanger the flow of this already highly exploited water source.  In late February, Argentina's President Cristina Fernández and Brazil's President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva ratified the decision to relaunch work on the binational Garabí dam, first planned in 1972. A technical commission was created to oversee the preliminary work and construction is slated to begin in 2011.  The first Argentine-Brazilian dam would have an energy-generating potential of 2,800 megawatts and would mean flooding 33,000 hectares of inhabited land on both sides of the river. Its location would be on the stretch between the far northeastern Argentine province of Corrientes and the southern Brazilian state of Rio Grande do Sul.  Also planned are two more Argentine-Brazilian dams along the same river: San Pedro and Roncador.

Source – Tierramerica http://www.tierramerica.info/nota.php?lang=eng&idnews=2517

ChileSpends US$10.7 Billion on Energy in 2007

MAR. 24, 2008 - Chile spent US$10.7 billion to satisfy its energy needs in 2007, about twice what the country should have spent for energy, according to a report released by the Santiago Chamber of Commerce (CCS).  The CCS report attributed the extra energy costs to special circumstances related to a natural gas shortfall from Argentina, sharply higher world prices for petroleum products, and the current drought plaguing most of the country.  Chile’s recent energy costs amount to approximately 7 percent of the nation’s Gross National Product.  Still, these “special circumstances” seem unlikely to change in the mid to long term: world petroleum reserves are on a downhill trajectory according to most experts, meaning prices are going no where but up, and Argentina’s natural gas shipments will continue limited according to Argentine energy experts. The CCS’s report also found that the nation has spent US$9.3 billion in “extra” energy costs since 2004, when the energy sector’s problems first began to take a larger profile in the nation’s conscience.

Source – Santiago Times

Chile's Congress Approves Renewable Energy Law/energy/article/32352

MAR. 06, 2008 - Chile's Congress voted on March 5th to require electric utilities to invest in and supply nonconventional energy sources (NCES) as part of the government's drive to diversify current tight energy supplies.  The vote in favor of the project, which mandates that NCES account for at least 10 percent of the energy supplied by Chile's electric utilities by 2024, was unanimous.  The next step is for the project to be signed into law by the president.  Nonconventional energy sources include wind, solar, geothermal, hydraulic and other forms of energy that have low environmental impact and are still not widely used in the local market.  Chile, which imports nearly all of the fuel it consumes, has been grappling with a serious energy shortage amid cuts in natural gas from sole supplier Argentina and lower hydroelectric reservoir levels caused by scant rainfall.  Short energy supplies caused electricity prices on the spot market to more than quadruple in 2007, and are cramping Chile's economic growth potential.

Source – Environment News Network http://www.enn.com/energy/article/32352

Brazil, Argentina, Bolivia Agree To Build Five Joint Hydro Power Plants

 

FEB. 26, 2008 - Brazilian Mines and Energy Minister Edison Lobão announced that Brazil will build three binational hydroelectric power plants with Argentina and another two with Bolivia, totaling 10,000 megawatts and R$ 30 billion (USD 17 billion).  According to press reports, after the presidents of the three countries met in Buenos Aires on February 23, it was agreed that Mercosur ministers will meet to discuss the bloc’s energy policy in 10 days.  Asked about Argentina’s request to receive part of the gas Brazil receives from Bolivia, Lobão said that there will be no change to existing contracts, although Brazil could help its neighbor with surplus electricity. Reports also highlight that President Evo Morales said that Brazil, Bolivia and Argentina have committed to help each other in case of energy crises. The nuclear cooperation with Argentina includes the creation of a binational state company to develop a joint nuclear reactor for electricity generation.

Source – Public Affairs US Embassy Brasilia

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