Latin America Climate, Energy and Environment News: 2/18 - 2/24/2012


Civil unrest continues in Chile as protests in the Aysén region turned violent this week. Local constituents and non-governmental organizations continued protesting in Aysén for improved healthcare, education, cost of living, and fuel prices. They also raised issue with the excessive police force quell protests in both Aysén and the capital this week (Santiago Times 2/23/2012). A proposal to provide subsidized fuel to the Aysén region has been on the government’s agenda for quite some time, but officials fear a domino effect resulting in necessary fuel provisions to other distressed areas. No decision has been made yet, but massive road barriers in place from the ongoing protests in Aysén have effectively kept ministers from entering the region and will do so indefinitely despite police force (Revista Electricidad 2/23/2012).

An Irish energy company and a Chinese technology company (Mainstream Renewable Power and Xinjiang Goldwind Science and Technology Company) are teaming up for the second time to install a wind farm in northern Chile. This project will invest $450 million dollars into a 70 MW wind farm in the Antofagasta Region. Chile currently gets only five percent of its energy from renewable fuel sources but hopes to get 20 percent by 2020 (Santiago Times 2/24/2012). Geothermal and mini hydro power are also being heralded as pathways to achieving Chile’s ambitious energy goal by 2020. Combined, they have the power to produce 10,000 MW of energy. But accelerated development of these technologies has been lackluster in Chile and in the case of geothermal there’s a need to move forward with needed investment in exploration. (Electricidad 2/21/2012).

Chile’s environmental policy is under close scrutiny after the latest Environmental Performance Index ranked the country # 58 in the world for green consciousness. Conservation is the main concern. While Chile does not rank high relative to other places in the world in terms of biodiversity, the species it does have are endemic to Chile and therefore arguably require greater protection. The biggest threat to conservation is Chile’s rapid urbanization including the construction of hydroelectric dams, highways, and the development of coastal regions for tourism. Chile’s conservation codes have not been properly updated since the Washington Convention of 1940. Gonzalo Pineda, the Minister of Environment stated, “We obviously need an updated approach to conservation” (Santiago Times 2/22/2012).

Costa Rica

Costa Rica’s Environmental Minister Rene Castro announced the official proposal to include the hammerhead shark in the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES). CITES aims to ensure that international trade of wild animals and plants does not threaten their survival. The inclusion of the hammerhead shark under CITES would ensure the supervised trade of the species and a certification of hammerhead shark products allowing consumers to make informed purchases. The official proposal will be submitted to the CITES committee in their next meeting in 2013 (La Nación 2/23/2012).

Another attempt by Infinito Industries to gain permission to mine gold in the Alajuela Province of Costa Rica was thwarted by a Costa Rican court yesterday. The company’s initial concession to extract 800,000 ounces of gold in Cutris of San Carlos was annulled in 2010. Infinito Industries now claim that they have the right to the mining concession and will take the issue to the international courts if Costa Rican courts continue to block the project (La Nación 2/23/2012).

New statistics show that Costa Rica is increasingly dependent on diesel fuels to power the countries’ growing power needs. According to the Regulatory Authority for Public Services, electricity generation based on diesel grew by 24 percent in 2011. Furthermore, thermal power provided over nine percent of the total energy generation while the country aims to generate only five percent of its power from thermal sources. Teofil do la Torre, president of the Costa Rican Institute of Electricity, pointed toward the year’s below average rainfall as a hindrance to using cleaner energy like hydropower. He cited the summer season which can decrease water flows for hydropower by up to 70 percent and he predicted the same scenario for the upcoming summer (La Nación 2/24/2012).


The Senate will question Juan Rafael Elvira Quesada, Mexico’s Secretary of Environment and Natural Resources, on the details of authorizations granted to the Cabo Cortés resort.  Environmental legislation decreed specific development paradigms to the mega project in conjunction with water management parameters as well as a ban on sand dune construction. The Senate is proceeding with further investigation on permit discrepancies and possible punishment for the government officials responsible for violating the environmental legislation (Mexican Senate  Social Communication 2/21/2012).

The President of the Mexican Association of Renewable Energy emphasized the country’s need to take an integrated approach to energy generation. He called for a cohesive combination of all sources of renewable energy, stating that the reliance on just one type of energy would be a critical mistake. He recognized that the National Development Plan outlines policies for implementing renewable energy generation which has helped generate  $2 billion dollars in energy investments from various corporations worldwide (Reve 2/21/2012).

150,000 trees were planted on the Mexican side of the Colorado River by the Water and Wetlands of Pronature Sonora organization. The project began in 2000 with the aim of reforesting the Colorado River banks, bringing a resurgence of wildlife, restoring biodiversity and wetlands, and reducing greenhouse gases. The leaders of this initiative hope to plant another 80,000 trees by the end of the year (La Crónica 2/22/2012).


 Composed by Amanda Wheat

Note: The linked articles and excerpts in this post are provided for informational purposes only and do not necessarily reflect the views or positions of the Natural Resources Defense Council.