Brazil’s largest company, Petrobras, accused of political kickbacks

September 18, 2014

Jonathan Watts – The Guardian, 09/17/2014

The brutalist headquarters of South America’s biggest company, Petrobras, offers a harsh riposte to those who try to romanticise Brazil as a land of golden beaches and endless forest. This week, the concrete edifice in central Rio de Janeiro was the focus of a pro-oil rally by thousands of petrochemical workers amid a presidential election debate dominated by how to manage the nation’s vast fossil fuel reserves.

It is a question that has opened up the biggest gap between President Dilma Rousseff, an old industry champion of the Workers Party, and her main challenger Marina Silva, a former environment minister who has pledged to shift priorities towards alternatives energies like wind, solar and ethanol.

This is more than just a Brazilian rerun of George Bush and Big Oil versus Al Gore and climate concern, because state-run Petrobras is no ordinary company and – with the company also mired in a massive corruption scandal – this is no ordinary time.

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Indians in Brazil say gov’t deceived them about dam project

September 17, 2014

EFE – Fox News Latino, 09/16/2014

Brazil’s Munduruku Indians charged Tuesday that the government deceived them and defied a requirement to consult with the tribe before approving the construction of a new hydroelectric dam in the Amazon jungle.

A statement distributed by the Missionary Indian Council, a group linked to the Catholic Church, said the indigenous people “are outraged” after the government of President Dilma Rousseff set Dec. 15 as the date to receive bids to build the São Luiz do Tapajos power plant in the northern state of Para.

Government officials met with Munduruku representatives two weeks ago to discuss the Indians’ rights to be consulted about developments in their lands, as mandated by Convention 169 of the International Labor Organization.

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Brazil building Amazon observation tower to monitor climate change impact

September 15, 2014

Agence France-Presse – The Guardian, 09/14/2014

Brazil is building a giant observation tower in the heart of the Amazon to monitor climate change and its impact on the region’s sensitive ecosystem, a newspaper has reported. The Amazon Tall Tower Observatory is a project of Brazil’s National Institute of Amazonian Research and Germany’s Max Planck Institute, O Estado de São Paulo said.

The tower, which will rise 325 metres from the ground, will be equipped with high-tech instruments and an observatory to monitor relationships between the jungle and the atmosphere. It will gather data on heat, water, carbon gas, winds, cloud formation, carbon absorption and weather patterns.

The project has been seven years in the making, with a site finally being selected far from any human presence, about 100 miles from Manaus, capital of the state of Amazonas, project coordinator Antonio Manzi told the newspaper.

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Some companies profit as Brazil struggles to secure power

September 12, 2014

Todd Benson and Marguerita Choy – Reuters, 9/11/2014

A small group of energy companies in Brazil are increasing revenues at a time when the country is grappling with its worst power crisis in more than a decade, taking advantage of sky-high prices to sell electricity in the spot market.

Power generators that have managed to produce extra energy in recent months or who aren’t restricted by long-term supply contracts are being rewarded with prices up to six times higher than the average cost on conventional electricity contracts.

At the same time, distributors that had to resort to the short-term market to fulfill demand increases are facing financial burdens and are being rescued by the government.

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Pantanal: The activists fighting to preserve Brazil’s pristine wetlands

September 11, 2014

Mick Brown – The Telegraph, 09/11/2014

Water is life. And in the Pantanal of Brazil, the largest wetland on earth, life is dizzying in its abundance, variety and beauty. We had driven the 100 miles from Cuiabá, the state capital of Mato Grosso, passing through the Cerrado – the huge band of forest and savannah that stretches through Brazil – descending, almost imperceptibly, into the northernmost reaches of the vast natural bowl that is the Pantanal.

On either side of the two-lane road, the land stretched out in a mosaic of flooded pasture and patches of thick vegetation.

It was dusk – ‘the birds’ happy hour’, as Glauco Kimura de Frietas put it – and the sky was a riot of golds and reds. A pair of macaws darted overhead, a flash of red and blue against the dark-green canopy of trees. A flock of storks picked their way through the water, past spreading tufts of water­lilies. ‘Tiger heron, jabiru stork, roseate spoonbills…’ Kimura de Frietas, a biologist and the freshwater programme coordinator for WWF Brazil, checked off the species as we stood by the road, gazing up at the darkening sky, the air alive with the clamour of nature’s most beautiful music.

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Some companies profit as Brazil struggles to secure power

September 11, 2014

Todd Benson and Marguerita Choy – Reuters, 09/11/2014

A small group of energy companies in Brazil are increasing revenues at a time when the country is grappling with its worst power crisis in more than a decade, taking advantage of sky-high prices to sell electricity in the spot market.

Power generators that have managed to produce extra energy in recent months or who aren’t restricted by long-term supply contracts are being rewarded with prices up to six times higher than the average cost on conventional electricity contracts.

At the same time, distributors that had to resort to the short-term market to fulfill demand increases are facing financial burdens and are being rescued by the government. The situation underscores the imbalances of the Brazilian power system, which has come under stress because of a prolonged drought. The energy crunch has also become a hot topic in Brazil’s presidential race, with the government facing criticism for not ensuring a stable power supply at reasonable prices.

Read more… 


Brazil soccer field harnesses player-power

September 11, 2014

The Associated Press - CBS News, 09/11/2014

Kids streaking back and forth on a soccer field in scorching tropical heat promises to produce something more than buckets of sweat.

Billed as Brazil’s first player-powered soccer pitch, a field inaugurated Wednesday in a Rio de Janeiro slum harnesses the kinetic energy of players’ movements to provide nighttime illumination. Soccer legend Pele was on hand for the pomp-filled event in the Morro da Mineira slum, which saw a local youth team put the system to the test.

Under the project, sponsored by Royal Dutch Shell, around 200 energy-capturing tiles developed by British startup Pavegen were installed the width and breadth of the field and covered by a layer of AstroTurf. Working in conjunction with solar panels also installed around the field, the player-powered tiles feed electricity to a system of floodlights overhead.

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