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Latin America Green News: Chile considers nuclear, Costa Rica ponders carbon neutrality and Mexico automakers challenge fuel efficiency

Amanda Maxwell

Posted October 26, 2012

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Latin America Green News is a selection of weekly news highlights about environmental and energy issues in Latin America. 

October 21 – 26, 2012

Chile

Chile’s Energy Undersecretary, Sergio del Campo, announced that the government will begin studying the potential for building nuclear power plants again. The government had been analyzing this option but stopped after the 2011 Fukushima disaster in Japan. Del Campo underscored that the administration does not intend to start a full nuclear program, but rather wants to generate information in case future administrations want to pursue nuclear energy options. (Santiago Times 10/24/2012)

New problems at a major CMPC cellulose plant in central Chile led to another episode of air contamination on Tuesday. That morning, citizens noticed a horrible stench that caused headaches, nausea and vomiting, which the company says was caused by a mechanical failure in the ventilation system. CMPC, a company belonging to the Matte group, has had similar problems in the past, for example in Nacimiento where citizens continued to suffer from ongoing pollution even though the plant there had been fined for contamination and bad odors. (Radio Universidad de Chile 10/25/2012)

Government and industry representatives announced that they expect liquefied natural gas, or LNG, to supply a third of Chile’s electricity demand by 2020, due to $4.5 billion of investment in new projects in the coming years. Currently, LNG meets 23 percent of the demand in the central main grid, and 10 percent in the northern grid.  (La Tercera 10/21/2012)

In 2012, growth in the installed capacity of Chile’s main central grid will be four times what it was in 2011, with new generation projects adding 931 MW of new power. Two of the major projects contributing to this total are the Santa María coal-fired power plant, from the Chilean energy company Colbún, with 350 MW, and the Bocamina II coal-fired power plant from international energy company Endesa, with 350 MW. (La Segunda 10/22/2012, CentralEnergía.cl)

Chile was rated among the top ten countries with the most “green” stamped buildings. Seventeen of Chile’s existing buildings meet the energy efficiency and environmental requirements needed to qualify for LEED’s (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) stamp of approval, and the evaluation included the 152 buildings in total (in construction or already built). The first place country was the United Arab Emirates, which had more than 700 projects already LEED certified or in the process of certification. (La Tercera 10/22/2012)

Costa Rica

Based on one analysis, Costa Rica could achieve carbon neutrality by 2021 by cutting emissions by 26 percent, a total of about 5,800 gigatons of carbon dioxide. The country’s greenhouse gas inventory predicts that by 2021 Cost Rica will emit 21,700 Gt of CO2 – 61% of which would come from transportation, 24% from agriculture, 11 % from waste management, and 4% from industry. The nation’s forests will offset about 15,900 Gt of these emissions leaving 5,800 gigatons that will need to be cut. The country could achieve these emission reductions in transportation and industry (3,300 Gt), cement production (100 Gt), agriculture and waste management (2,425 Gt).  (El Financiero  10/19/2012)

Large energy users and the private electricity generators in Costa Rica see a dark future if there’s no action to increase energy production and lower rates. Criticizing the government for its lack of vision for the energy sector, they pointed out that while the country is importing electricity from its neighbors at increasing prices, the national electricity company is prohibited from buying additional power from local private generators that produce hydro and wind power. They also questioned the wisdom of focusing 75% of the hydroelectric expansion in the country on just two dams – the Diquis and Reventazón projects – both of which face delays.  (El Financiero 10/24/2012)

Mexico

Toyota and the Mexican Automotive Industry Association (MAIA) took legal action to stop the passage of proposed regulations, called NOM 163, to improve Mexico’s fuel efficiency standards for cars and light trucks. NOM 163 would harmonize Mexico’s fuel efficiency standards with those of the U.S. and Canada, and help the country meet its goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 30 percent by 2020. Toyota and the MAIA argue that the new regulations would be too strict and would raise the price of producing cars, thereby reducing sales. The government says that reducing the amount of fuel that Mexico’s fleet uses could reduce CO₂ emissions by 160 million tons by 2030. (Reuters Africa 10/26/2012)

President Calderón initiated a new Law on Dumping in Mexican Marine Zones to increase the Marine Secretary’s abilities (Semar) to prevent and reduce pollution in Mexican waters. The law would give Semar the power to enact preventative and security measures, grant and rescind dumping permits, and destroy vessels that are not in accordance with the law. Permission for dumping would only be granted if it presented no serious effects to the ecosystem or to human health, and any material that is too toxic or that can be treated or recycled would be refused. The new law would comply with international standards and the objectives of the National Development Plan 2007-2012. (Hoy Tamaulipas 10/25/12) 

Thanks to $50 million in credit from the North American Development Bank (NADBank), El Provenir is investing $51 million in a new wind park for Victoria City in the state of Tamaulipas. The company has been studying the possibility of installing four 20-KW turbines in the area for three years, and hopes to initiate its project next year. Nine companies have expressed interest in wind projects in Tamaulipas, and those projects’ combined capacity could reach 1,600 MW. (Terra 10/22/12)

Also in renewable news, the governor of Coahuila de Zaragoza, Rubén Moreira, and the General Director of Spain’s National Renewable Energy Center (CENER) signed an agreement allowing the two groups to work together on renewable energy. According to the two-year agreement, CENER will advise Coahuila on the use of renewable energy as the focal point of social and economic development, on studies of the potential for renewable energy, and on the evaluation of potential project sites. (Reve 10/23/12).

Mexico’s Green Ecologist Party (PVEM) expressed concern about new oil wells that the state oil company, Pemex, has started drilling off the coast of Matamoros in the Gulf of Mexico. Humberto Rangel Vallejo, head of PVEM’s northern office, believes that drilling can be done responsibly, or it could done with ruinous consequences, as has happened at the Coatzacoalcos River and the Champayán Lagoon. He stated that “that is what worries us, that there are spills, and with them pollution; we want Pemex to come and take advantage of this area, but with great responsibility to the Matamoros coast.” (Conexión Total 10/24/12)

For more news on the issues we care about visit our Latin America News archive or read our other International blogs

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Switchboard is the staff blog of the Natural Resources Defense Council, the nation’s most effective environmental group. For more about our work, including in-depth policy documents, action alerts and ways you can contribute, visit NRDC.org.

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