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Denée Reaves’s Blog

Latin America Green News: Chilean candidates slam HidroAysén, climate change costly for Costa Rica, new biodiesel plant in Mexico

Denée Reaves

Posted August 30, 2013

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

August 26-29, 2013

Chile

Former president and current presidential candidate Michelle Bachelet traveled to the Patagonia region of Aysén where local communities and organizations pressed her on her stance on HidroAysén and other proposed dams in the area. At a local event Bachelet, who has previously stated that she does not think HidroAysén’s five dams and transmission line project is viable, stated “we believe that the environmental institutional has to work and … has to properly combine the needs of population growth and the economy with environmental needs and the needs of communities." (Diario Financiero 8/28/2013, I Love Chile 8/27/2013)

Marco Enríquez-Ominami, another presidential candidate, came out even more strongly against HidroAysén this week. He warned that legal restrictions prevent the company’s transmission line from running protected areas, and that right now the line is planned to cross national parks and reserves, natural monuments and other protected sites. He also called the dams’ existing approval “illegal,” since the dams were evaluated separately from the transmission line. (El Dinamo 8/28/2013)

Spanish seafood manufacturer Robinson Crusoe is betting on renewable energy in Chile, with its Chilean subsidiary, Trans Antartic, looking to a new 36MW wind farm in the south to help power its operations. The first turbines of the $80 million project should be installed in October, and the company is already considering adding 60MW more in a second-stage project. (Business News Americas, 8/27/2013 – subscription required)

Costa Rica

Climate change cost Costa Rica $710 million between 2005 and 2011 according to a recent study. Road infrastructure and the agricultural sector were the most affected by the impact of climatic disruptions in that time period. In terms of infrastructure, the losses ascended to $367 million during the study period.  Over the past 20 years, losses in the agricultural sector due to droughts totaled $168 million. Climate disruptions in Costa Rica are also contributing to higher costs in the construction and operation of power plants.  (El Financiero 8/28/2013)

Pesticide use in Costa Rica is falling, according to a new study requested by the Chamber of Agricultural Supplies. The study found that the country uses 50% less pesticides per hectare than five years ago. In 2008, pesticide use was the equivalent of 20kg per hectare of cultivated land and by 2012, this figure had dropped to 11.4 kg. The reduction is the result of two programs that promote the responsible use of pesticides and provide guidance to agricultural works on how much pesticide should be used. (Revista Summa 8/26/2013)

Around the world water losses are estimated at about 30%, but in Costa Rica water losses reach as high as 50% to 60%. While Costa Rica still has abundant water resources, experts point to a need to improve the efficient management of this increasingly scarce resource and create a strategy that includes widespread water conservation and waste water treatment. (El Financiero 8/27/2013)

Mexico

The Mexican Center for Environmental Law (CEMDA) has recently released an analysis called The Financial Architecture of Climate Change in Mexico. The analysis highlights the global average raised annually for climate change, 800 billion dollars. Of this amount Mexico recieved, 7% or 625 million, from multilateral financial institutions in 2012. The report details how much of this money is currently funding already existing projects and how much is funding upcoming projects. The document not only serves as a way to record the progress of money raised and used for climate change, but also to provide a transparent report to Mexican society on their government’s actions. The report was released in conjunction with CEMDA’s new website with more information about national and international funding for climate change. (Terra 8/26/2013).

Mexican scientists from the National Autonomous University have constructed a pilot biodiesel producing plant in Mexico City. The plant will be used to help power the city’s public transportation system (RTP), and can produce a predicted 2,000 liters daily of biofuels from edible oils disposed of by local restaurants and hotels. The plant, funded by the National Advisory of Science and Technology-Government of Mexico City division, will be implemented in four phases: quantifying the amount of oil disposed of in order to convert it into biodiesel, construction of the plant, establishment of a laboratory to monitor the quality of the biodiesel material, and monitoring the emissions of the RTP fleet. (El País 8/28/2013)

The federal energy reform proposals so far focus mainly on managing oil and gas as well as the future of Pemex in the country, but fail to detail directly how renewable energy will factor into this equation. Octavio Cortés, an expert on geosciences and natural resources at the National Autonomous University in Mexico, states that Mexico has done very minimal exploration and development of renewable energies even though the technology to use these energy sources is readily and easily accessible. Cortés also touches on the dangers of exploiting shale gas due to its irreversible environmental effects and sites the United States as an example of the difficulties in shale gas exploration.  The reforms proposed by the president would allow small producers to sell renwable power, a process currently allowed but that has yet to be implemented by  the Federal Commission of Electricity (CFE).   Under the current process CFE must launch a competitive bid process and producers submit  projects of up to 30 megawatts of power, for review. Some, like Adrián Escofet, President of the Mexican Association for Wind Energy, feel that the delay in implementing this idea is deterring investments in the renewable energy sector. (Vanguardia 8/26/2013, El Financero 8/28/2013).

Regional

While HidroAysén remains stalled in Chile, the Argentine government announced new large hydroelectric dams in its Patagonia. The Chinese company Gezhouba Group Corporation has entered a joint venture with the Argentine Electroingeniería to build two new dams with a combined installed capacity of 1,740 MW for almost $4.1 billion on the Santa Cruz River. (Pulso 8/22/2013)

For more news on the issues we care about visit our Latin America Green 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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