Latin America Climate, Energy and Environment News: 4/22 - 4/27/2012


Chileans celebrated Earth Day in the capital of Santiago this week with a series of environmental activities ranging from bike riding to community clean-up of some of the city’s public spaces. The U.S. embassy also joined the spirit of the day by providing trees to the children of Las Condes to plant in the Punto Verde district (La Tercera 4/22/2012).

Also on Earth Day, opponents to the massive HidroAysén mega-dams project held their first major event of the year with a cultural festival in Santiago. Five thousand people attended the event with speakers and popular musical groups, who organized under the slogan “Red Light for HidroAysén” (Ecosistemas 4/22/2012).

Blackouts continue to plague several regions throughout Chile due to shortcomings in the country’s largest grid, the Central Interconnected System (SIC). The most recent blackout hit Monday and lasted for twelve minutes throughout several regions affecting more than 950,000 customers. While this event was initially caused by a truck collision in Santiago, it draws attention to the larger flaws of the central system which some criticize for its dependence on natural gas from Argentina. The summer’s drought has also had a reported effect on the issue as it forces the system to operate at a more expensive energy generation capacity. (La Tercera 4/24/2012). Lodewijk Verdeyen, the CEO of E-CL (the main power generator of northern Chile), spoke about what he sees as the best answer to Chile’s current energy problems: increasing overall energy efficiency. Verdeyen argued that Chile could save up to 35 percent of its consumption with better efficiency measures and equipment. ( 4/23/2012).

The fishing community in Caleta Ventanas, a coastal area with a high density of fossil fuel power plants, spoke out against industrial contamination of the local waters. Sergio Silva, President of the Ventanas Fishermen’s Union, stated that the plants have been spilling coal into the ocean for the past fifty years, causing damage to the tourism and agriculture sectors as well. (Radio BioBio 4/26/2012)

Costa Rica

Multiple strategies are under consideration in Costa Rica’s effort to become carbon neutral. The taxi industry recently proposed replacing existing fuel tanks with systems of liquefied natural gas (LPG). The economic feasibly and overall environmental benefits are currently being studied by the Environmental Ministry’s Department of Climate Change in conjunction with the United Nations Development Program, with the vision that carbon neutral taxis will snowball into carbon neutral buses and other public transit systems. (El Financiero 4/24/2012) The bus industry has  already taken major steps to limit carbon output. Autotransportes Pavas, has changed 300 buses over to a 50 percent diesel fuel and 50 percent LPG combination, or in some cases 100 percent LPG. Further plans are also being drawn to implement an electric tram operating between Pavas and the Atlantic, a trip that 150,000 people per day typically travel each day. (El Financiero 4/242012). In addition, Costa Rica is calling on more people to simply revert back to using buses for transportation. In an interview with El Finaciero, Jorge Arredondo, the head of the National Chamber of Transport stated, “For every 60 people who leave their vehicles at home and opt for other means of travel, the streets of Costa Rica eliminated 300 meters of congestion.” This year, nationwide campaigns will remind people that bus transit is faster and more environmentally friendly than using their own cars. (El Financiero 4/24/2012)


La Jornada highlighted two similar situations in which government authorities are permitting large projects in and near Mexico’s protected areas: the coral reef in Cabo Pulmo National Marine Park and the wetlands of Nayarit and Sinaloa, known as “Marismas Nacionales.” Despite the national protected status of both places, the Secretariat of Environment and Natural Resources (SEMARANT) has given the green light to an environmental impact statements for developments in these two delicate habitats. (Vanguardia 4/24/2012)

In a recent visit to Mexico’s Matzabock community, presidential candidate Gabriel Quadri de la Torre warned that if the ecological crimes committed in the country’s natural reserves are not stopped this year, there grave consequences will arise in 20 years, such as the extinction of the Lacandona jungle.  Torre proposed that the jungle, which is suffering from deforestation and neglect, be declared in a state of national emergency in order to put a moratorium on the deforestation that is currently wreaking havoc on the area. (El Mañana 4/23/2012)

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.