Brazil has been at the forefront of pioneering renewable energy, but the discovery of oil off her coast has left this country with a dilemma. Brazil, hitherto known as a powerhouse of green energy is facing a major threat and although the majority of the country's cars are powered by ethanol, oil looms large on the horizon. Petróleo Brasileiro S/A - Petrobras is the embodiment of the Brazilian government's monopoly in the oil sector's integral activities, a monopoly sanctioned by law. The Petrobras platform at the heart of the oil-rich Campos Basin, is capable of producing a world record-breaking 100,000 barrels of crude per day, meaning that when fully operational, Brazil could rocket into the top five world oil producers, alongside Kuwait and Iraq.
The Brazilian government through a spokesperson has suggested that although there are very many poor people in the country and that each Brazilian consumes energy at a rate that is less than seven times what each American consumes, the Brazilian population need, and have the right to have energy sufficient to meet their need.
Brazil's status as a leader in green energy technology is threatened by this new development. But my view is that, just as the Brazilian government intervened at the start of the ethanol programme (expensive though it was) and thereby contributed substantially to its success, the same should apply to oil. Brazil has already designed its economy around renewable energy sources and apart from ethanol for auto-mobiles, there is extensive reliance on hydro-electricity and wind produced energy.
It might be impossible to ask a developing country like Brazil not to exploit its substantial oil reserves, but the country's head-start in developing and exploiting renewable energy technology places her in the unique position where further development can indeed be achieved without the over-reliance on oil for revenue and energy, which has been the undoing of some other oil producing nations. Nigeria, for example, comes to mind.
A big ask, maybe, but the Brazilians have demonstrated a capacity for careful planning. And much of the same will be required methinks, including inter alia ensuring that the oil and gas sectors are as environmentally friendly as possible with emissions as low as possible. Consideration may be given for instance, to the technique of carbon capture and storage, a technique that is currently being employed by Norway in its oil and gas industry. An environmentally friendly approach to the development of the oil and gas sectors will be necessary, in order to achieve an outcome that benefits the majority of Brazilians without at the same time damaging the country's reputation for its renewable energy successes.