O mundo de olho no Brasil: Green Challenges Posed by Black Gold

Vamos lá Lula, muito fácil foi até agora culpar as pessoas de olhos azuis pela injustiça e falta de Sustentabilidade no mundo, agora é a vez do Brasil mostrar como pode fazer diferente aliando Sustentabilidade com Desenvolvimento após achar petróleo.

Artigo em inglês para a gente praticar a leitura e saber o que estes gringos estão falando da gente. YES! O mundo está de olho no Brasil.

Green Challenges Posed by Black Gold
By Fabiana Frayssinet to Inter Press Service

RIO DE JANEIRO, Sep 16 (IPS) – Brazil’s discovery of vast offshore oil and natural gas reserves raises the question of how to tap the newfound wealth without causing severe environmental impacts and without leaving aside the development of clean energy alternatives.

Two years ago, the government of left-wing President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva predicted that industrial-scale production of biofuels, of which Brazil is a leader, would turn this country into a “green Saudi Arabia.”

But in late August, during his announcement of proposed new legislation to govern exploration and drilling of the deep sea oil reserves discovered in 2007, Lula made a very different sort of prediction: that South America’s giant would become a major oil-producing power in the near future.

Whether the development of the two energy fronts is contradictory or parallel, the forecast that Brazil would become an oil giant is worrying to environmentalists.

The fervor over the huge reserves found seven km below the surface of the Atlantic Ocean, under a layer of salt up to two km thick, has dangerously sidelined the dream of a country with a cleaner energy mix, say environmentalists.

In an earlier interview with IPS, Fabio Feldman, head of the Sao Paulo Forum on Climate Change and Biodiversity, had expressed concern over the future exploitation of the so-called subsalt reserves, estimated at between 50 and 80 billion barrels of oil – up up to six times the country’s entire proven reserves of 14 billion barrels.

Feldman fears that the new availability of cheaper abundant oil supplies will make the country’s energy mix, in which hydroelectricity accounts for around 70 percent of the total, “dirtier.”

The level of alarm among environmentalists was seen during the Aug. 31 ceremony in which the president announced the government’s draft law on the oil reserves, when Greenpeace activists held up enormous yellow signs in front of Lula reading “Subsalt is Pollution: Can’t speak of one without speaking of the other.”

The draft law introduced by the government, which is pending congressional approval, would create a national development fund, by means of which the subsalt oilfields would finance anti-poverty initiatives and projects in education, science, technology, and the environment.

The fund, according to the government, is aimed at avoiding the “curse of the black gold” which has afflicted so many oil producers that have focused on quick oil riches for the few while ignoring the need to bolster industrial development and fight widespread poverty.

But Greenpeace complains that environmental impact studies and protection plans with regard to the development of the subsalt oilfields are not being carried out prior to approval of the proposed new oil legislation.

According to projections by the global environmental watchdog, if the subsalt reserves are used up over the next 40 years, Brazil will release around 1.3 billion tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) a year into the environment, as a result of the refining and burning of petroleum.

Greenpeace says that even if Brazil were able to cut deforestation in the Amazon jungle – which is responsible for more than half of the country’s greenhouse gas emissions – to zero in the next few years, emissions caused by the development of the subsalt reserves could offset the positive impact.

In an interview with IPS, Ricardo Baitelo, coordinator of Greenpeace Brazil’s renewable energy campaign, says the reasons for the alarm are real.

Because the subsalt oilfields formed long before “post-salt” reserves, the oil is much deeper and is associated with more carbon dioxide gas, which means that much more CO2 will be released – up to three or four times more, he said.

At the world climate change conference in December in Copenhagen, “agreements to cut emissions will be signed, and although Brazil is not subject to emissions caps, it will be in the future because the subsalt reserves will lead to an increase in this country’s emissions of between 10 and 100 percent,” said Baitelo.

He pointed out that the environmental risks posed by the exploitation of Brazil’s offshore oilfields include the release of different kinds of greenhouse gases, the pollution caused by oil refineries and the burning of fossil fuels, and oil spills in the sea, “which plays a major role in climate regulation.”

Green Party (PV) lawmaker Fernando Gabeira said that if studies show that the subsalt reserves produce more polluting emissions, he will propose a tax on each extra ton of CO2 released in the process.

Gabeira said the Lula administration wants the legislation on the subsalt reserves to be approved by Congress as quickly as possible, before the environmental consequences are debated.

“The government says: ‘we have to pass it now, and we’ll leave a bit of money for afterwards, to mitigate environmental problems’,” Gabeira told IPS.

“But we want to start working already on an oil production model that, although not exactly sustainable, would be less destructive,” he said.

In response to the criticism from environmentalists, Brazil’s state-run energy giant Petrobras – which under the government’s draft law would either operate the oilfields on its own or by means of service contracts with private companies – reiterated in a press release its “commitment to sustainable development” and said the bill stipulates that C02 associated with the subsalt reserves must not be released into the atmosphere.

Petrobras underscored that it had invested in pilot projects involving “geologic carbon sequestration” techniques, which capture CO2 and inject it directly into underground geological formations, storing it there so it does not escape into the atmosphere.

The company also said it is investigating new uses for CO2, such as carbon dioxide fixation through the production of microalgae, which would be used to produce biodiesel.

But Greenpeace says the carbon capture and storage (CCS) technologies are still in the experimental stage and will not be viable until at least 2030.

Petrobras also said it will fully comply with Brazil’s environmental laws “as always, independently of the opinions or pressures of anyone, whether in Brazil or abroad.”

In its communiqué, the company said that since the volume of CO2 emissions arising from the tapping of the subsalt reserves has not yet been determined in the exploration process, “any study based on the projected increase of emissions is premature.”

Environmentalists are also urging the government to continue investing in renewable energy sources.

FONT: IPS – Inter Press Service

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