In Brazil, Water Is Power

March 24, 2015

Jack Levine – The Huffington Post, 3/23/2015

Of the many stories I heard about the drought while I was in Brazil earlier this month, one stands out: a colleague was riding the elevator in her building and saw a note from a concerned neighbor. “Dear neighbors,” the note read, “As you know we are in a severe crisis. Everyone must do their part to conserve water. That is why I have decided to only wash my car once per month. I hope everyone else can make a similar sacrifice.”

I had just spent five days in Sao Paulo, visiting electric utility executives to imagine how software technology could better engage their consumers toward addressing the deepening crisis. Twenty million people live in Sao Paulo, which is suffering its worst drought the metropolis has seen in nearly a century. A couple of weeks earlier, during Carnival, some towns in the region had canceled street parades for fear there may not be enough water to clean the streets or cool down the crowds. Officials from Sao Paulo’s water utility, Sabesp, had already begun rationing water.

The last time Brazil faced a water crisis of this magnitude, a small private utility – the Sao Paulo Railway and Light Company – was at work constructing the foundation of a modern infrastructure to supply water and power. Today, Brazil’s system of reservoirs and dams provide not just drinking water; they supply more than three-quarters of its electricity generating capacity. So as the Cantareira’s stores fluctuated like a dollar stock – dipping to just five percent of capacity in early February  – Brazil’s utilities braced for an energy crisis.

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Brazil after the 2014 elections: a bumpy road ahead

March 2, 2015

Sergio Fausto – The German Marshall Fund of the United States, 2/27/2015

Brazil’s future prospects, and ability to harness its advantages, will hinge on its own policy choices over the next few years. Yet the outlook for meaningful change is unclear. At present, Brazil is in a weaker position than four years ago, from both an economic and a foreign policy standpoint. Even in a scenario where Brazil’s economy gradually returns to the course it was on until 2008, no major strategic changes are likely to happen in Rousseff’s four-year term.
Read full report here.

Brazil prosecutor looks to block corruption leniency deal: report

February 23, 2015

Reuters, 02/21/2015

A Brazilian prosecutor sought to block a possible government leniency deal with construction and engineering companies implicated in a giant bribery and money laundering scheme at state-run oil company Petrobras, according to a document published Saturday on a Brazilian news site.

The letter requests an injunction to stop Brazil’s comptroller general from approving any leniency deals with the companies, on the grounds that such a move could obstruct the police investigation.

Reuters reported on Friday that a number of companies alleged to be involved in the corruption scheme were seeking such deals, which could allow them to continue bidding for state contracts.

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Brazil water shortage: Sao Paulo devastated by its worst drought on record

February 23, 2015

Zachary Davies Boren – The Independent, 02/23/2015

As Brazil continues to battle a historic drought, millions of people in its largest city are about to run out of water.

São Paulo, home to around 20 million, is experiencing its lowest rainfall since 1930, and new water-saving measures have been introduced in an attempt to manage the escalating catastrophe.

Services including schools and hospitals are having to adapt to the country’s newfound water struggles, with The Telegraph reporting that doctors have even been forced to cut short dialyses treatment for kidney patients.

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Whose oil in Brazil?

February 13, 2015

The Economist (print edition), 2/14/2015

THE slogan under which Petrobras, Brazil’s national oil company, was founded in 1953 was o petróleo é nosso (“the oil is ours”). Ours, not the foreigners’, was the implication. That, too, is the sentiment behind the oil policy of the Workers’ Party (PT) governments that have ruled Brazil since 2003. But as Brazilians contemplate the huge corruption scandal now engulfing Petrobras, they might ask themselves just who “ours” refers to.

The PT disliked a successful reform of Petrobras in the 1990s, which stripped it of its monopoly of production and distribution while subjecting it to market discipline and arm’s-length corporate governance. When the company and its new foreign partners made huge deep-sea oil strikes in 2007 Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, Brazil’s president, saw a chance partially to restore Petrobras’s monopoly. New oil laws drawn up by Dilma Rousseff, his chief of staff and successor, gave the company sole operating rights and a minimum 30% stake in the new fields.

Lula and Ms Rousseff saw oil as the spearhead of an industrial policy that involved fostering favoured sectors and presumed national champions. Lula ordered Petrobras to build four new refineries, three in the poor north-east. A new rule required up to 85% of equipment and supplies for the oil industry to be nationally produced. A dozen new shipyards studded the Brazilian coast, fed on cheap government loans. They provided 74,000 new jobs, boasted Ms Rousseff during her campaign last year for a second term. “We created an immense industry.”

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Petrobras Hits Drilling Snag at Brazil’s Biggest-Ever Oil Find

February 12, 2015

Peter Millard and Sabrina Valle – Bloomberg Business, 2/10/2015

Petroleo Brasileiro SA redirected a well at its biggest oil discovery after encountering a pressure zone, underscoring the technical challenges facing the producer’s new management team.

The “drilling phase” of the well at the offshore Libra field hasn’t been halted because of the procedure, the Rio de Janeiro-based state-run company said in an e-mailed response to questions Tuesday. A snag caused the company to halt drilling for more than a week, two people with knowledge of the matter said earlier, asking not to be named because the matter isn’t public. Libra is expected to start commercial output in 2020.

While Petrobras expanded output to a record in December at the so-called pre-salt region that holds Brazil’s largest deposits, it has also run into drilling disruptions in the past. In 2010, it abandoned the first well it started at Libra, citing mechanical issues. In 2011, it briefly halted production at the Sapinhoa field in the same region after a pipe ruptured.

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Ohio attorney general files motion to join suit against Brazil’s Petrobras

February 9, 2015

Will Connors -WSJ, 2/9/2014

The attorney general from Ohio said Monday that his office has filed a motion on behalf of Ohio pensioners to join a lawsuit against Brazilian state-run oil firm Petrobras , alleging that the oil company at the center of a vast corruption scandal violated U.S. federal securities laws.

Petrobras is already facing more than a dozen class-action lawsuits in the U.S., including from the city of Providence, R.I., but the suit from Ohio’s pension fund appears to be the most serious legal threat yet to the company.

Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine said in a statement that the motion has been filed on behalf of the Ohio Public Employee Retirement System, and that his office “has a responsibility to evaluate if companies and their executives are defrauding Ohio pensioners.”

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