Archive for March 13th, 2007

Chavez sudden about face on ethanol as fuel: How empty ideology is damaging this country

March 13, 2007

(In Spanish here)

Sometimes the actions of this Government and our elected President are simply absurd. Ideology dominates reality and if anything goes against the pseudo-Bolivarian thinking it must be bad. Meanwhile, things are done in the name of that ideology, call it the Bolivarian revolution or the ever evolving and ill-defined XXIst. Century socialism, that are either illogical or have no foundation on fact, knowledge or logic. While crime soars, the Minister of Information says statistics are no worse than any other country and crime has not increased despite a three-fold increase in homicides since Chavez took over the Presidency. Meanwhile poverty remains at the same levels of 1998, despite the fantastic oil windfall of the last few years, but we are led to believe that things are being done for the poor, but they are only being done in their name but not for their benefit. Meanwhile Chavez travels in luxury to give away the money to richer countries that rightfully belongs to Venezuelans and only yesterday for the first time in eight years, did he go visit the only country in the region whose poverty does indeed deserve some help from us Venezuelans, Haiti.

But the smoke and mirrors of the ever-moving ideology of the empty revolution rule everything else. Knowledge and science are of course sidelined whenever it is necessary. Environmentalism is invoked when convenient, but Lake Maracaibo is a disaster due to the neglect of PDVSA. That company’s environmental research projects are dead after the experts were fired in 2003 and little if anything has been actually done to replace them. The project of using natural gas for cars was canceled in 2000 by the Chavez administration because it was part of the previous Government’s plans, only to be resurrected last year with the dramatic surge in local gasoline consumption made the Government realize something had to be done after six wasted years of inaction. Gasoline in use in Venezuela contains one of the most harmful additives for the enviroment. Even the collapse of the viaduct in the Caracas-La Guaira highway can be directly blamed on the cancellation of the monitoring project of the pressures on that bridge by Chavez in 2000.

And all of this comes to mind because yesterday our President, showing how improvised everything is in Venezuela in all respects, suggested that he was going to talk to Lula, “as soon as he can” in order to “dissuade him from using ethanol as a fuel”. Chavez call on the Nations of Latin America not to devote their fertile lands to generating fuels for the “for the vehicles of the rich”. Meanwhile the President of Venezuela’s Petrochemical Company cancelled a meeting in which he was supposedly going to give a talk showing how bioethanol was much worse for the environment than gasoline.

There are so many imprecisions and lies in the above paragraph, that I can only address them one a time to show how what Fabre called “Government by witticism” by Chavez is not only damaging this country, but making us look like fools abroad.

First of all, trying to dissuade Lula from using ethanol as a fuel, goes in the face of a project that is already over 30 years old in Brazil, to replace costly imported gasoline by cheaper substitutes made from sugar cane. 80% of the cars in that country can run on both gasoline and bioethanol or a combination of both and this figure is expected to reach 100% in two years. Moreover, biofuel produces 40% of that country’s fuel needs. Currently, the bioethanol cost is so much cheaper than oil, that it is much cheaper to produce than gasoline for the Brazilians, a country that four decades ago did not produce any oil either, but is by now self sufficient in that too. The biofuel project is in fact a source of pride for Brazilians, who view it as a show of their industrial capability that they developed a countrywide project like that, independent of anyone or any country in the world and they did it quite successfully.

More importantly the biofuel industry in Brazil generates more employment than the equivalent in an oil industry per barrel, as it provides also rural jobs to farmers, promoting rural areas over cities in that country. This fact was recognized by Chavez as recently as two years ago, but he seems to have a case of amnesia induced by the recent hug between the Head of the Evil Empire and his buddy Lula.

Thus, not only is Chavez disregarding history and fact, but also he is attempting to intervene in the internal affairs of that country on a matter, which is considered to be a source of national pride, and which Brazil believes can catapult that country into the big leagues of globalization. For Lula, the agreement signed with the US is actually considered a victory for his country in that respect.

Additionally, it also ignores the huge differences in food production, between Brazil, a net exporter of agricultural products, and Venezuela, a net importer, despite the fact that the Chavez administration has devoted so much money, time and effort to this field. However, the methods used, coercion and threats, rather than promote agricultural production and investment have had exactly the opposite effect, with agricultural production dropping by 9% in 2006 according to figures by the Ministry of Agriculture.

Even worse, is the President’s charge, now apparently supported by fake non-existent research at Venezuela’s petrochemical company, run by a party hack, that ethanol is worse environmentally than gasoline as fuel. Nothing is further from the truth, research in the US, Australia and Europe shows that this is far from being the case. In fact, hydrocarbons from biofuel combustion have shown to be reduce by 60-70% that of traditional petroleum contaminants.

But more importantly, biofuel is a renewable energy source, in contrast with oil, which is non-renewable. Even the processing is fairly self-contained as in the case of sugar cane, where the baggasse is burnt as fuel for the processing of the ethanol.

But the worst part of Chávez statements is that this is all simply an ideological posture on the part of our President. It all comes simply from the fact that the President of the US is in favor of biofuels, something which Chávez apparently did not learn about until fairly recently. You see, as reminded to us by Tal Cual today, on Valentine’s Day 2005, only two years ago, President Hugo Chávez signed a cooperation agreement with none other than Brazilian President Lula, by which that country as going to provide Venezuela with 30 thousand barrels a day of ethanol. Not one to be shy, that same day at the press conference, Chávez boasted that an ethanol plant was being built in his home state of Barinas and that state was going to double its production capacity for sugar cane, in order to produce even more ethanol for our country. This is the same partner that he plans to convince of the evils of ethanol as fuel.

That same day, Chávez sounded much like his archenemy from the evil empire when he said: “it will generate employment, develop agriculture, industry, clean energy for ecological equilibrium, so many benefits…”

And just so that you don’t think that Chavez was shown some new studies in the intervening two years showing the evils of ethanol as fuel, on February 26th. only 15 days ago, Venezuela and Cuba signed an agreement to
install eleven, yes eleven, ethanol producing plants in Venezuela, a contract signed by Cuba’s Minister of Agriculture.

Thus, this new position is just a pose, grandstanding by our show-off President now that he found out the Evil Empire likes and is interested in ethanol and may compete for Lula’s attention with our autocrat. What this clearly shows is how much damage is being done to our country by these stupid positions, based on empty ideology, which only create enemies and make our country less credible in the eyes of our neighbors.