An Utter Failure of Imagination

Alexei Barrionuevo has an article in Saturday's New York Times about a potential energy crisis facing Argentina, Chile and Brazil. What is notable about the article is the utter failure of the leaders cited in the article to look aggressively at alternative methods of generating energy, some of which are under their noses.

First, let's look at Lula:

President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva of Brazil is particularly preoccupied with the risk of power shortages that could occur as early as 2009, according to analysts. In an interview in September, he said the region's gas woes were reason to support new hydroelectric power plants and projects to produce
electricity from sugar cane. "I do not want to make Brazil dependent on gas," he said.

Instead he seems determined to make Brazil dependent on hydroelectric power (right now Brazil gets about 90% of its electricity generated this way) and damage the environment even more.

Then there's Nestor Kirchner:

Nestor Kirchner, Argentina's president, has steadfastly refused to raise his
country's gas and electricity prices, which are among the lowest in the

world, ahead of the Oct. 28 election. Mr. Kirchner's wife, Cristina

Fernández de Kirchner, is the leading candidate to succeed him.


Instead, his government placed winter energy-use restrictions on industries  and cut off its neighbor to the west, Chile.

While there is no specific mention of Michelle Bachelet's policy in
Chile, frankly one wonders if she has much of one when one reads this: 

During one of the coldest South American winters here in decades,
neighboring Argentina cut at least 90 percent of the natural gas it

sends to Chile 79 times along pipelines that connect the two countries.

  Power plants and factories in this smoggy capital were forced to switch to
diesel and fuel oil, which belch more air pollution and have nearly

quadrupled the cost of producing electricity. Santiago reported its

highest number of dangerous smog days in the past seven years.

and this:

With few options, Chile's government, led by President Michelle
Bachelet, is moving on several fronts to diversify its energy supplies.

Two liquefied natural gas terminals should be completed by the
middle of 2009. Chile is also opening up some land for oil and gas

exploration, though it historically has found little.

Ms. Bachelet received a government-financed study last week exploring the
prospects for building nuclear power plants, which is likely to be a

controversial decision for the next government.

The net impact of all this is that these nations are relying on tradition instead of innovation. Here's how Chile gets most of its energy:

At present, the Central Grid System (SIC) which supplies nine out of
the 13 regions of the country, and serves 93 percent of the total

population of 15 million, is mainly fed by hydroelectric power (59

percent), followed by natural gas (24 percent), coal (12 percent), oil

and biomass.

No mention made of the potential for geothermal energy in the Atacama desert. No mention of developing wind farms in the Roaring Forties (Chile has one in Aysen, Argentina has a few small ones). Here's the potential for wind in Patagonia:

In the Patagonia region in Southern Argentina winds are strong and constant.   

The load factor is 42 percent (a ratio that takes into account days with
wind above a certain speed), whereas in most areas in the world

considered apt for wind power generation it does not go beyond 30 or 35

percent. Average wind speed in most locations in Northern Patagonia is

7.2 to 7.8 meters per second. In Southern Patagonia (Santa Cruz,

Chubut), it is 9 to 11.2 meters per second.

It certainly seems as if Patagonia is one of the best places on Earth for wind power. The problems in energy generation for these countries seems to be more a failure of imagination than a lack of resources.

< How low law enforcement has fallen | Reality on Film in Brazil >
  • The Online Magazine with Liberal coverage of crime-related political and injustice news

  • Contribute To TalkLeft

  • Display: Sort: