Monthly Archives: December 2011

Please give money to Wikipedia, people

Wikipedia’s funding mechanism used to be simple:

If you approach Light City by air—and there is no other way of approaching it, no roads, no port facilities—if you don’t fly they don’t want to see you in Light City—you will see why it has this name. Here the sun shines brightest of all, glittering on the swimming pools, shimmering on the white, palm-lined boulevards, glistening on the healthy bronzed specks moving up and down them, gleaming off the villas, the hazy airpads, the beach bars and so on.

Most particularly it shines on a building, a tall beautiful building consisting of two thirty-storey white towers connected by a bridge half-way up their length.

The building is the home of a book, and was built here on the proceeds of an extraordinary copyright law suit fought between the book’s editors and a breakfast cereal company.

However, the breakfast cereal lawsuit money is apparently running out. That is the only reasonable explanation for the fundraising letter pasted below.

If you haven’t donated to Wikipedia and have ever used it, please send them money. You know that no matter how much you or your friends may make fun of the site, you use it, and it is probably the greatest repository of human knowledge there ever has been.

Nobody needed to make Wikipedia. It was made and is maintained almost entirely by volunteers. And to keep it going and keep it free and public, users need to chip in. I thank you all for donating to this blog earlier in the year. Now, I ask you to please consider giving money to Wikipedia.

Click here to go throw them a few lucas, wouldn’t you?

Here’s the pitch: Continue reading

Odd commodities and your thank-you present: Butterflies

Talking about Colombia has this sweet, odd commodities story.

Alas de Colombia is a Cali-based butterfly exporter that employs 25 disadvantaged women in a region once terrorized by paramilitaries. The women, often single mothers, nurture the butterflies to chrysalis stage when Alas de Colombia buys them for $1 each. There is then a window of 10 to 20 days to ship the butterflies to its destination while they emerge from their cocoons.

It is also a good excuse for me to give you a thank-you present for all of your attention, tips and thoughts throughout 2011. You folks are an amazing group of readers, very smart and thoughtful and funny. I couldn’t ask for a better bunch of cyberspace companions. Thanks. Just for you, as a sort of end-of-year-holiday present, some of my favorite butterfly photos. I took most of these in Venezuela, but there is also a smattering of Peru, Bolivia, and Brazil. See if you can figure out which one was taken in an illegal mining camp in Peru. Butterflies are amazing.

Petroperu to join Ecopetrol, Petrobras with share sale

I guess this is sort of old news, but there’s a new tidbit here.

Peruvian state oil refining company Petroperu has obtained central government approval to list up to 20% of its shares on the Lima Stock Exchange, the company said in a filing with the bourse Monday….

Originally much bigger, Petroperu lost the rights to much of its assets — including oil production blocks and refineries — as part of state asset sales in the 1990s.

But in recent months, newly-named Peruvian oil officials have said that the country will begin to recover assets like oil fields when exploration contracts expire…

Interesting stuff. Also interesting to see the remaining 100% state-owned miners and oil companies in the region, such as Pemex, Codelco and PDVSA. Big range of current situations there. Ownership structure isn’t determinative, apparently. (thanks to Peru English News for the link to the Platt’s story.)

Venezuela changes tune, to pay up for natural gas

The big news last week in Venezuela oil and gas was that Repsol and Eni will spend $1.5 billion to develop the ginormous offshore Perla gas field, which they discovered two years ago. The field alone, with about 8 trillion cubic feet (Tcf) of reserves, has more than half as much natural gas on tap as the entire country of Argentina, South America’s top gas producer. Amidst Repsol’s rather hypey PR campaign — with an exaggerated reserves figure (talking about gas in place, rather than recoverable reserves) and lacking any timeline — the figure that jumped out at me was $3.69.

That is, Venezuela is now going to pay $3.69 per million BTU for the gas from this field. That is more than twice as much as the company has traditionally been willing to pay producers. For example, here (on page 32) you can see that Harvest Natural Resources’s Petrodelta joint venture receives a steady $1.54 per thousand cubic feet of natural gas in the country. $3.69 is enough to make my prior prognostication wrong, wrong and wrong. Continue reading

Chile: Electricity rationing in the copper zone

This would seem to add a bit to the development risk on new mining projects.

The lack of fossil fuels and the grave drough that the Andean country is suffering are responsible for why the Chilean government would have decided to decree electricity rationing for the residents of the Arica-Parinacota and Antofagasta regions, which belong to the Great North Interconnected System (SING).

The weird thing is that this “drought” comes after a very wet winter. But hey what do I know. What I know is that while this may increase public approval slightly for the HidroAysen Patagonian dam project, it is almost certain to increase public abhorrence of new copper and gold mines.

Ecopetrol pipeline explosion kills 11, injures 99

Stolen from the Guardian. Click for original story.

Big explosion in a gasoline & diesel pipeling in Colombia yesterday. Here’s Reuters:

A huge explosion at a gasoline and diesel pipeline in Colombia
killed 11 people, injured at least 70, and destroyed dozens of homes on Friday, in an incident described by President Juan Manuel Santos as a “great

There is some debate about the cause. At first Ecopetrol blamed thieves, but now Dinero says it was weather (my translation):

As a result of the powerful wintertime atmospheric wave over the country, soil moved in such a way that generated tension and the later rupture in the Salgar-Cartago products pipeline, causing a hydrocarbons spill in the Aguazul (Bluewater) creek valley, which came in contact wth a heat source, generating a series of explosions and a fire.

While you can’t predict and prevent all pipeline spills in a place as rainy and mountainous as Colombia, this does make me wonder if it’s part of the same problem that Lungs of the Earth wrote about this week — that state oil companies can be relatively exempt from public pressure on environmental issues.

Another issue here is climate change — the two years of constant rain and flooding in Colombia and Venezuela is a result of two consecutive La Niña events. There are now some predictions of a third consecutive year (via).

Adding: I check my mail and see Kepler sent a good English-language version of the story from the Guardian, with the photo I stole above.

Lungs of the Earth on Brazil’s hoky oil crackdown

Lungs of the Earth

extends its eternal vigilance to Brazil’s $11 billion crackdown on Chevron.

…Chevron didn’t do itself any favors in this case. It took more than a week to accept responsibility for the incident, initially describing the spill as a “sheen” caused by natural geological seeps. But an American oil company will have a target painted on its back wherever it goes. The real litmus test will be how Brazil reacts to an incident like this from a local company. Or rather *the* local company – Petrobras, which produces close to 90 percent of Brazil’s crude….

I’ve noticed Petrobras’ larger than life presence in Brazil has left oil almost entirely off the radar screen of one of the world’s most active environmental movements. It’s the pride and joy of the new Brazil, its logo is on everything, its shares are present in probably 99 percent of Brazilian retirement portfolios. No hot-to-trot state prosecutor is going to sex themselves up by chasing after Petrobras.

Read more.

PDVSA Pension Ponzi: Guillen sentenced

Since I am traveling, we shall let the US Attorney for Connecticut do the talking. I will be back on line (with a keyboard I understand how to use) one of these days, I promise.


David B. Fein, United States Attorney for the District of Connecticut, announced that JUAN CARLOS GUILLEN ZERPA, 44, a citizen of Venezuela, was sentenced today by United States District Judge Stefan R. Underhill in Bridgeport to 14 months of imprisonment, followed by two years of supervised release, for conspiring to obstruct a U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission investigation of a Connecticut hedge fund advisor. GUILLEN also was ordered to pay a fine in the amount of $10,000. Continue reading