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Energy: why is Brazil a laggard?

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Rafael Herzberg's picture
Consultant energy affairs, Self employed

Rafael Herzberg- is an independent energy consultant, self-employed (since 2018) based in São Paulo, Brazil* Focus on C level, VPs and upper managers associated to energy related info, analysis...

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  • Aug 16, 2020

Energy: why is Brazil a laggard?

This question is relevant because for many years the country has been in last place when the metric is USD/MWh among the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) - "the emerging ones".

The reasons are widely known. But then what is the central reason for not "turning around the situation"?

Here goes my diagnosis. It is our scale of values.

We don't mind being "well behind". There is no motivation to change, as it would require courage, detachment and a more objective approach. These are three conditions that are not part of our cultural profile, which is backed by smoothing things over, cronyism and subjectivity. 

And so: what to do?

Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on Aug 16, 2020

Rafael, Pierre Messmer will one day be recognized as one of the most courageous heroes of 20th-century energy, not to mention environmental protection and human rights, to boot.

Messmer and Jean Simon were sous-lieutenants in an ex-colonial French military unit when the Nazis invaded France in World War II. Together, they hijacked an Italian cargo ship in Marseille, sailing it first to Gibraltar then London, where the two joined the French Foreign Legion. Messmer went on to fight in nearly every French military campaign of the war, including D-Day, and after France's liberation was awarded six citations of the Croix de Guerre (War Cross). After the war he ascended the ranks of French politics and was elected Prime Minister in 1972.

At the time nearly all of French electricity was reliant on foreign oil, so when OPEC annnounced its 1973 oil embargo it threatened the country's entire electricial grid. To achieve energy independence Messmer announced, by parliamentary decree, a program aimed at generating all of France's electricity from nuclear power. The massive investment would allow France to compensate for its lack of indigenous energy resources by applying its strengths in heavy engineering, and was summarized in a slogan: "In France, we do not have oil, but we have ideas."

Later known as The Messmer Plan, France was to decarbonize nearly all of its electricity within 16 years - faster than any country then or since. I don't know whether Messmer's decision was motivated at all by environmental concerns; either way the result is the same.

One day Brazil will follow in France's footsteps, but whether it must first be brought to its knees by foreign oil interests remains to be seen.

Dr. Amal Khashab's picture
Dr. Amal Khashab on Aug 17, 2020

Brazil has a huge hydro potential , as well as solar and wind power. Rafael pointed out to a corrupted deep state.

Dr. Amal Khashab's picture
Dr. Amal Khashab on Aug 16, 2020

Is there any national common interest among Brazilians?

Rafael Herzberg's picture
Rafael Herzberg on Aug 17, 2020

Hi Amal, that's a great question.

The answer is yes!  The Brazilian public sector (Executive,Lesgislative and Judiciary) plus governement owned/controlled companies involve the largest unitary chunck of the country's GDP.

Because of this fact, a huge contingent of public servants are loyal to the Government, whoever it is. These servants are better paid as compared to the private sector. Not to mention their life-long stability (accordning to the law).

Bottom line, in my opinion, as opposed to having an efficient system , Brazil has an actual - very well desguised dictatorship - by which servants are "bought" and in return they offer stabiliity for the ongoing leaders. Regarless of their parties and their "political" trends. It has been this way for decades. "Right" or "Leftists"  presidents have been elected but the story was always the same: huge corruption scandals, cronysm, sweet heart deals involving the public sector and the list goes on and one.

Conclusion: the national interest is this "game". Why sould it change?


Dr. Amal Khashab's picture
Dr. Amal Khashab on Aug 17, 2020

 The deep state definition.

Rafael Herzberg's picture
Thank Rafael for the Post!
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