Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Vale building wind farms?

I'm honestly intrigued. The Brazilian mining giant is teaming up with Australia's Pacific Hydro to build two wind farms with 140 MW of capacity as part of a 500 MW in capacity that Hydro is building throughout all of Brazil.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Rio+20 and the struggle with hot air

I've been in dozens of meetings where a Fearless Leader (TM) stands up and says "We must do this." Which is followed by a Greek chorus of Timid Followers saying "Yes, we must do this," at which point nothing more is said about this Thing That Must Be Done.  Everyone present knows This Thing will not be done because no responsibilities are assigned, no evaluation mechanisms are created and no sanctions proposed for those who fail to do This Thing. 

There are going to be a lot of those Fearless Leaders in Rio this week, and I'm afraid Rio+20 is going to look like one of those oft-repeated meetings. A lot of hot air is not very convincing solution to the world's hot air problem.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

No styrafoam for Guyana?

The government of Donald Ramotar is considering restrictions in importing products that are packaged with styrofoam. Somehow, I think Guyana is a place this would actually work.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Google helps Amazon tribe get into carbon markets

Android to the Amazon's rescue. 

Smart phones running Google's operation system together with Google Earth satellite technology have helped the Surui tribe create a forest carbon inventory, says blog Mashable, and as a result have been approved to sell carbon credits.

PDVSA tries something mildly intelligent

Much as I love to take the piss out of PDVSA, they've got an interesting biofuels experiment I thought worth mentioning. 

Can Brazil’s plastic bag bans give a lift to Amazon jute growers?

For decades it was the main fiber used in making shopping bags and coffee sacks – jute, also known as burlap, a plant grown in various locations along the Solimoes River. Between the 1950s and the 1970s, demand for the product collapsed with rise of plastic bags that became an unfortunate symbol of prosperity throughout the developed world. Now the clock may be turning back as cities around Brazil join a growing global trend toward plastic bag bans or taxes.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Rio+20 paints a target on its back

It’s always easy to take the piss out of climate conferences. Thousands of activists and diplomats flying across the planet to sign a milquetoast, watered-down, pre-negotiated statement (when they even manage to do that) are crying out to be lampooned by anyone who follows the issue (and of course, a plethora of indignant environmentalists angry they didn’t get invited).

In a rare display of maturity I’ve decided not to bang this particular drum when it comes to the Rio+20 meeting scheduled for June, a United Nations sponsored meeting on sustainable development that marks the 20th anniversary of a 1992 Rio environment summit. But when it comes to the venue for the event, I simply can’t keep my trap shut.

Monday, April 30, 2012

Argentina oil grab fuels Brazil’s biodiesel confusion

Possibly the last unexplored angle on Argentina’s abrupt nationalization of oil company YPF that snatches the stake held by Spain’s Repsol – a perpetuation of the confusion over Brazil's potentially lucrative but currently struggling biodiesel industry.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Brazil's dam fish cultivation

Brazil's taking a bad idea and teaching it to swim.

As I mentioned not long ago, dam reservoirs are really nasty things to create but once you have them in place they provide enormous advantages for advancing alternative energy. Now Congress is proposing that dam operators find another way to take advantage of them -- raising fish. And not just any fish. We're talking about non-native species like carp and tilapia.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Belo Monte nearly bankrupts the OAS?

Interesting tidbit pops up in this week’s edition of Semana, Colombia’s premier news magazine. The Organization of American States came close to running out of cash at the end of last year, with December’s paychecks hanging delicately in limbo as the agency struggled to with a growing deficit. Finally OAS Secretary General Jose Miguel Insulza managed to scrape together $3.5 billion that kept the group afloat.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Venezuela's Dept. of WTF, officially lost in outer space

I think Setty's Dept. of WTF post most clearly summed up how the world should see the Chavez government's plan to partially privatize Venezuela's state oil company PDVSA. (Yes, *that* Chavez, the one who has spent a decade yelling about the evils of privatizations and the better part of five years nationalizing everything in sight.)

Which is why I'm not sure where to look now that top government dog Diosdado Cabello is accusing the opposition of riling up public opinion about the massive oil spill at the Jusepin field as an way of ... privatizing PDVSA??

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot indeed.

Sorry, sir, we can’t afford to staunch this torrential oil spill

I'm now officially one month behind on the horrid oil spill in eastern Venezuela, which is pretty inexcusable, though I have to thank the The Economist, Gustavo at Caracas Chronicles and Setty for keeping an eye on this one.

Some absolutely staggering details about what happened out in the Guarapiche river in the state of Monagas at the Jusepin oil field surfaced in the last couple days. State oil company PDVSA still has not released any detailed information on how much crude was spilled, (Setty's got a great roundup of what has been said), but it's quite obvious that it was a lot worse than it needed to be.

An excellent story by David Gonzalez in El Nacional lays out the most glaring problem: at least two PDVSA managers refused to halt output even after the severing of a pipeline had been confirmed and a 30-meter column of oil was shooting into the air. They determined -- I shit you not -- that it would take too long to restart production if they shut it down.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

I'm still not dead yet

I swear. I've just been struggling to keep my head above water at work. I'll soon rise from the ashes like the Phoenix. Wait, that would contradict the idea that I'm not dead.

I've got some stuff in the pipeline. Thanks for remembering me.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Nordic journeys in financing tropical environmentalism

Find a worthy environmental cause around the world, a group of tropical do-gooders looking for cash, a well-intentioned project to fight global warming, you can bet the Norwegians have it on their radar screen. I honestly find it commendable. Someone asks for help protecting the environment and Norway – with generous income available due to its offshore oil operations – raises its hand. It’s sure a nice contrast to America’s “what’s in it for me?” approach or Canada’s “we’re part of the deal until we’re not” plan.

But my hunch is the Norwegians are getting antsy. They’ve put up funds for environmental projects around the world and the going is slow.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Boring Amazon coverage

Bloggers love to pick on reporters, so here we go.

This latest New York Times story on Brazil sliding back into deforestation oblivion is just plan dull and lazy. I would note that for a fancy newspaper correspondent it shouldn't be that tough to get on a plane and at least walk through some part of sketchy deforested southeastern Para. This most recent story seems almost entirely based on an interview with former environment minister Marina Silva and a few phone calls to some environmental types.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Hey, who’s been putting fungicide in my OJ?

Brazil, apparently. The price of orange juice hit an all-time high this week because of a flap over US imports of OJ from Brazil. The culprit: the chemical carbendazim, a chemical used to kill fungus that in high enough quantities has been linked to infertility.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Breathe free and easy, Venezuela, refinery emissions are under control

I have to admit being a bit puzzled after stumbling over this press release from Venezuela’s state oil company PDVSA. The company for no apparent reason in late December put out a statement trumpeting the fact that the El Palito refinery’s emissions are up to code, based on a study done by a company that is not identified.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Sao Paulo’s plastic bag war and its discontents

Brazil’s biggest city is jumping on the plastic-bag-banning-bandwagon. We’ll, actually it’s trying to. The municipal government of the 20 million strong city of Sao Paulo last year issued a decree blocking supermarkets from passing out plastic bags for free, a move backed by the state’s environment ministry. That follows bans and taxes in cities around America including Seattle and Washington D.C. and much more comprehensive efforts in European countries such as Italy and Ireland.