Why GE just built its big new R&D center in Brazil

November 13, 2014

Dan Primack – Fortune, 11/13/2014

GE’s vice chairman explains why the company picked Rio de Janeiro as the location for first new global R&D center in over a decade. General Electric GE -0.41% today opened the doors to its first new global R&D center in more than a decade, with a facility in Rio de Janeiro that eventually could employ 400 people. John Rice, vice chairman of GE and CEO of its global growth and operations division, was in Brazil for the launch, and took some time to speak via phone with Fortune.

What follows is an edited transcript of our conversation:

FORTUNE: Why is GE opening such a large R&D facility in Rio de Janeiro?
RICE: Brazil and Latin America have been great markets for us for a long time. So when you do something like this, it’s really about the quality of the people we can find to work there. You can open a center but if you can’t hire great people, it self-selects to something not very significant. There’s also the fact that here we have some very progressive participants in the world of oil and gas, including Petrobras, who are really pushing the boundries in terms of going to deeper, more complicated places. We have to learn how to support them by developing new capabilities both for them and with them.

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Factbox: Marina Silva’s policy proposals for Brazil

September 3, 2014

Anthony Boadle and Paul Simao – Reuters, 08/30/2014

Environmentalist Marina Silva unveiled her campaign platform for Brazil’s Oct. 5 presidential election on Friday, boosted by government data that showed the economy had fallen into a recession in the first half of this year.

Following are her main policy proposals aimed at restoring business confidence and investment in Brazil and putting the country on a path to sustainable growth:

ECONOMY: Return to the basic tripod of policies that gave Brazil financial stability a decade and a half ago: fiscal discipline, inflation targeting and a floating exchange rate, ending central bank intervention that has overvalued the real currency.

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Brazil throws troubled ethanol industry tax breaks, credit

April 24, 2013

Alonso Soto, Reese Ewing – Reuters, 04/23/2013

Brazil’s government threw its sugar-ethanol industry a lifeline on Tuesday, by cutting taxes and sweetening credit for the struggling sector it hopes will resume investments in new biofuel plants to bolster output.

Finance Minister Guido Mantega, who announced the measures, said he expected a recovery in the ethanol industry could also help curb stubborn consumer inflation by bringing down fuel prices and reducing Brazil’s dependence on gasoline imports.

The reduction of the so-called PIS/Cofins – payroll and social security taxes – and interest rates on loans is expected to help ethanol groups such as Louis Dreyfus, Bunge , Cosan and others offset production costs that have risen steadily in the last decade.

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Rousseff deepens Brazil power costs cuts as inflation accelerates

January 24, 2013

Raymond Collitt – Bloomberg, 01/23/2013

Brazil will lower energy costs this year more than the government previously announced and made the cuts effective today as part of an effort to slow inflation that has remained above the central bank’s target since August 2010.

“Beyond anticipating the enforcement of the new rates, the cut is bigger than previously announced,” President Dilma Rousseff said in a nationally-televised address yesterday.

The president said the cuts that go into effect today rather than early next month will pare consumers’ power costs 18 percent and those for industry by 32 percent compared to the reductions of 16.2 percent and 28 percent she had announced in September.

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End all trade barriers

January 18, 2013

Bob Dinneen – Ethanol Producer Magazine, 01/16/2013

As America’s ethanol industry continues to fight to expand the domestic market for ethanol through the increased use of E15, more flex-fuel vehicles (FFVs) on the road, and more consumer fuel choice at the pump, the global market for ethanol has been critical to maintaining the health and profitability of our nation’s ethanol industry.  Despite the arrival of the E10 “blend wall” for ethanol in the U.S, the ever-increasing demand for ethanol globally has helped the U.S. industry continue to grow and thrive at the same time it fights to combat an artificially constrained U.S fuel market.

While the U.S. ethanol industry historically only exported a small amount of its product every year, that all changed in 2009 when improving industry economics led to the U.S. ethanol industry becoming the lowest-cost producer on the planet. This ultimately led to a dramatic and sustained surge in U.S. ethanol exports around the globe. Amazingly, annual ethanol exports from the U.S. expanded from a meager 113 million gallons in 2009 to 397 million gallons in 2010 to a record 1.2 billion gallons in 2011. Although exports of U.S. ethanol in 2012 are not expected to be much higher than around 750 million gallons, this amount still represents the second-largest export total in U.S. history.

It is widely accepted that the reduction in U.S. ethanol exports in 2012 is in large part due to the sustained drought conditions suffered in the Midwest that have, in turn, significantly increased ethanol feedstock costs, and thereby hurt global price competitiveness. There is strong evidence, however, to suggest that the reduction of exports in 2012 is not solely the result of recent shifts in industry economics, but has been exacerbated by a recent effort by Brazil to erect new barriers to U.S. ethanol imports. While exports of ethanol to Brazil made up more than one-third of all U.S. ethanol exports in 2011, exports to Brazil have fallen significantly in 2012 due to new protectionist measures put in place over the past 18 months.

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Ghosts of 2001: Brazil worries about another energy crisis

January 10, 2013

Anthony Boadle – Reuters, 01/09/2013

Brazil looks less vulnerable today to an energy crisis similar to one in 2001 that cut output at factories, lopped about a percentage point off economic growth, and led millions of people to spend their nights by candlelight.

Still, the risk of a major disruption remains – in part because the South American economic powerhouse has grown so much since then and electricity output has not kept up with soaring demand.

Twelve years ago, Brazil experienced a severe drought that reduced water levels at hydroelectric dams just as is happening today. The solution then was to ration energy supplies for eight months, in large part because the nation relied on such dams for 88 percent of generating capacity.

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Brazil says no to power rationing

January 10, 2013

The Miami Herald/AP, 01/08/2012

Brazil says it will not resort to energy rationing despite low water levels in the country’s hydroelectric power plants.

The executive secretary of the Mines and Energy Ministry is Marcio Zimmermann and he tells reporters on Tuesday that Brazil will activate generators fueled by natural gas if needed.

A hotter than usual summer and lack of rain have caused water levels at hydroelectric dams in most of the country to drop to a third of their capacity. The levels are similar to those registered in 2001, when rationing was imposed and blackouts occurred.

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