Monthly Archives: September 2011

PDVSA Pension Ponzi – Ramon Illarramendi explains why he wants to buy NuScale nuclear plant company

Not long ago, I was surprised to see this bit of news: Ramon Illarramendi wanted to buy some shares in nuclear plant developer NuScale Power from a U.S. receiver. The receiver has control of those shares after seizing them from Illarramendi’s son, Pancho, for buying them with misappropriated money as part of a half-billion-dollar Ponzi scheme.

Anyway, Ramon Illarramendi’s lawyer just sent over this statement, in which he explains his reasoning and defends his reputation. The heart of the issue is:

The court should not accept a fire-­sale price for NuScale. It is an enterprise of immense value. I have asked the court to allow me and others to bid for these assets in an open and transparent process to ensure that these workers (through their pension funds), Oregon State University, and all other shareholders of NuScale, receive all the benefits of their investment.

Thanks very much for sending in the statement. I’m always happy to give people the chance to reply. My only question – why send this now, 12 days after the press started to pick up on the relevant court filings? I am guessing it may have had to do with today’s Dow Jones story on the subject. Excerpt after the jump, with a few very juicy tidbits:

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WSJ: Chavez wants out of ICSID, again. Yawn?

Today’s Wall Street Journal says (subscription only) Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has had documents drawn up to withdraw his country from the World Bank’s International Centre for the Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID).

This comes after foreign companies have lodged dozens of complaints against Venezuela in international tribunals, including 18 active cases at ICSID.

But this “withdrawal from ICSID” meme seems unlikely to go anywhere:

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PDVSA Pension Ponzi: One for the “Whaaaaaaaaat?” file

Kudos to Associated Press for this weird, weird scoop.

Father of disgraced Venezuelan-American proposes to buy company left teetering by son’s fraud

HARTFORD, Conn. — The father of a disgraced Venezuelan-American financier says he is assembling an offer to buy a U.S. nuclear energy company that lost millions of dollars in financial backing because of his son’s crimes.

The offer to buy NuScale Power Inc. of Corvallis, Ore., comes from Ramon Illarramendi, a former director of the Inter-American Development Bank.


PDVSA sued in US, buying Chinese oil rigs

We love the Google alerts. A have been laying off the blerg lately, but these both showed up at once and I couldn’t resist.

The owners of the oil tanker Minerva Ellie sued Venezuela’s state oil company PDVSA in US court last month for alleged nonpayment of $2.15 million in freight, waiting time (demurrage) of almost $54,000 and “Turkish Straits Expenses” of almost $66,000. This would appear to be a shipment to Belarus, as Venezuela doesn’t usually send oil through there on its way to Houston.

Unrelatedly, PDVSA is buying 17 land drilling rigs from Honghua Group Ltd. for $240 million, according to a filing with Hong Kong regulators. Remember how China offered credit for purchases in yuan? I’m guessing this is one of those. Feel free to check — I’m busy reading about copper.

Also, this. I haven’t taken the time to read the whole Wikileaks file on my areas of interest, but what I’ve seen is mostly more amusing than scandalous. Like this. Wes Lohec, the usually very circumspect head of Chevron operations in Latin America, is quoted:

Lohec underlined that the [Government of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela] needs Chevron’s expertise because it “is headed down a path that is disastrous for them.”

It’s not the sort of thing that will get anyone killed, but it’s probably not what Chevron wants to say directly to the Venezuelans, either. I think the word is “awkward.”

There are some more interesting items in there. Adrienne Pine points to a cable here that shows US suspicions that one of Honduras’s most powerful men may have been involved in cocaine smuggling. That’s a bit more than awkward.

Did Chile learn anything from the trapped miners?

Stolen from, click for original

Looks like it. The number of sites being mined in Chile has doubled this year, to about 8,000 from 4,000 last year, as people are driven to the hills by high copper prices. But even as more sites are opening, mining death is down a bit. Last year was the deadliest in more than a decade in Chilean mines, with 45 people dying in recorded accidents. This year, only 14 died through July, well below trend. In fact, even if the same number again die by the end of the year, that would still make 2011 the least deadly year since 2002. Here’s hoping.

Even one workplace death isn’t acceptable, of course. And it does nothing to comfort a family to know that their loved one died in a less deadly year. But the good news is that fewer families are suffering such a loss. It will be interesting to keep an eye on this as the year goes on. If Chile can really go from its deadliest year in ages to its safest, it will have things to teach to other countries.

(Also note that some of the small, uninspected mines may have unreported deaths, as nobody wants to go to the authorities and get their mine shut down. Also note that the unions blame additional deaths on work conditions, particularly the frequent moves from high elevation to low and back again. So the figures behind this post need to be taken with a grain of salt.)

Big agro screws organic corn

Here’s what the insane hippies at the Organic Consumers Association has been saying since at least 2000 about splicing natural pesticides into genetically modified corn:

Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis)-spliced corn and crops pose a mortal threat to organic and sustainable (low-chemical input) agriculture, since they may soon destroy the effectiveness of organic farmers’ most important biopesticide. In its non-GE, natural Bt spray form, Bacillus thuringiensis is the most important pest control agent in organic
agriculture, with yearly sales in the US alone of $60 million. This non-GE spray form of Bt is applied externally and evaporates within 2-7 days. Scientists predict that the super-potent, long lasting toxin found in Bt gene-spliced corn and other plants are likely to give rise to Superpests such as corn ear-worms which will be immune to the
natural organic Bt sprays.

And then there’s this (quoting the Wall Street Journal):

Widely grown corn plants that Monsanto Co. genetically modified to thwart a voracious bug are falling prey to that very pest in a few Iowa fields, the first time a major Midwest scourge has developed resistance to a genetically modified crop.

And from the Bloomborg:

Monsanto Co. (MON)’s insect-killing corn is toppling over in northwestern Illinois fields, a sign that rootworms outside of Iowa may have developed resistance to the genetically modified crop, according to one scientist.

Michael Gray, an agricultural entomologist at the University of Illinois in Urbana, said he’s studying whether western corn rootworms collected last month in Henry and Whiteside counties are resistant to an insect-killing protein derived from Bacillus thuringiensis, or Bt, a natural insecticide engineered into Monsanto corn.

Isn’t it great to be able to say “I told you so”? No? Confirmation of your intellectual cleverness isn’t adequate compensation for the impending loss of the best organic pesticide? Be a sport! All in good fun here.