Oh well, the Amazon was dying anyway

The Brazilian Amazon faces a couple new energy-related threats: In the last few days Bloomberg carried this very self-promoting story about possible oil discoveries in the Amazon:

“The Amazon is one of the last frontiers in the whole world where you can find giant and super giant oil and gas fields,” Mello said. “It has a third of all the gas in Brazil.”

Note that the touting needs to be taken with a grain of salt, as Mello has a company that’s seeking oil in the Amazon.

Meanwhile, the Brazilian government gave a first construction permit to the Belo Monte dam, an 11,000-megawatt project that will displace Venezuela’s Guri dam as the third-biggest in the world.

I’m not usually one to cite gringo activists rather than local news sources, but in this case the pro-dam argument is obvious enough: Brazil needs electricity in order to give power to local communities, process steel, and run new oil refineries. The criticism is pretty well summed up here:

The “partial” installation license, non-existent under Brazilian environmental legislation, will allow for NESA to open access roads and initiate forest clearing at dam construction sites in an area of 2,118 acres. “The partial installation license granted by IBAMA is intended to transform Belo Monte, a notoriously illegal and catastrophic dam project and a huge waste of taxpayers’ money, into a fait accompli,” said Christian Poirier, Brazil Program Coordinator at Amazon Watch.

The risky $17 billion Belo Monte Dam Complex will divert nearly the entire flow of the Xingu River along a 62-mile stretch. Its reservoirs will flood more than 100,000 acres of rainforest and local settlements, displace more than 40,000 people and generate vast quantities of methane – a greenhouse gas at least 25 times more potent than carbon dioxide.

Bummer dude…well anyway I’m sure they’ll do an excellent analysis and make sure there aren’t any undiscovered beetles in the area before they flood it into an inland sea. Not.

4 thoughts on “Oh well, the Amazon was dying anyway

  1. westslope

    I’m not sure the pro-dam argument is that obvious. It will produce and sell electricity at prices below full cost. Once again, a populist government in a hurry is subsidizing massive natural habitat destruction.

    HRT Participacoes em Petroleo SA trades in Brazil and I don’t have an account but I looked and wished I had a Brazilian account. The assets are stupendous and the company just raised $1.5 billion in an initial public offering (IPO) in the autumn. Oil can drilled and extracted using floating platforms. If roads can be minimized, so can the ecological footprint.

    The Belo Monte dam is another issue. I’m willing to bet that it becomes a darling of the global enviro-activist movement. If the local aboriginals are not on side, I do not see why this project should go ahead.

    1. westslope


      If I understand correctly, work and environmental impact assessments (EIA) will proceed in parallel.

      However, I must disagree with the minister that basic infrastructure has little impact. Roads can be nasty. Very nasty.

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