It was learned that Douglas Tompkins’ widow – to whom we would like to express our deepest sympathy for her irreparable loss – has visited President Mauricio Macri at the Casa Rosada at the beginning of last week. Of course, both the President and the environmentalist have every right to meet and exchange ideas. However, what is most striking is that the President should value Ms. Tompkins’ opinion in relation to the alleged environmental damage that the dams could cause to the province of Santa Cruz, over provincial legislation, the resolutions of the public hearing held on December 9th (and nearly a hundred presentations made by environmental specialists, members of NGOs and residents), the huge socio-economic and energy benefits the dams would bring to Santa Cruz and the country at large, the building of strategic relations with the most powerful country on Earth and the nearly 13,000 million dollars in investments committed for infrastructure (many of them already tendered). Our OETEC Observatory was one of the specialized NGOs participating in the public hearing. We offered President Macri some reflections on this matter, with the purpose of providing a socio-environmental vision that considers the interests of the common good and not just the interests of foreign parties who behind an environmentalist discourse, seek to hinder the sustainable development of the countries in the region.
The scam of the yaguareté
The same newspaper reports that those who participated in that meeting with Ms. Tompkins were, among others, the Minister of the Environment and Sustainable Development, Sergio Bergman, and the Vice-President of National Parks, Emiliano Ezcurra. About Ezcurra the paper says: “Macri’s words at that meeting must have had some effect on Emiliano Ezcurra, who was at that table too. The vice of Parks has been the Head of Bank of Forests, one of the country’s most recognized environmental organizations, until he assumed his new role”. First point: an organization recognized by whom? Secondly, Ezcurra was a member of Greenpeace for twenty years, until he was dismissed. Thirdly, as reported by the newspaper El Tribuno (Salta) – among many other media, between 1999 and 2001 Ezcurra was part of a very peculiar scam in the province of Salta while being an activist at that NGO. The yaguareté project, undertaken by Greenpeace, was the excuse to prevent the construction of the Gasoducto Norandino (it is believed that Pan American Energy was involved, because the construction of the pipeline was against their interests). The project attempted to demonstrate that the area was densely populated by yaguaretés. It seems that Ezcurra, according to what “baqueano” (someone who knows an area very well and acts as a guide) Pablo Corro testified, had hired him to ride a calf wearing a satellite collar supposedly on a yaguareté, as a way to confirm the presence of such a beautiful animal. The route of the collar (carrying a GPS) was disseminated from the portal of Greenpeace throughout the world, including the naive taxpayers of the Project, who contributed $100,000. But the scam had its Achilles heel: Corro was never paid for the promenades of the collar and he denounced it. Biologist Pablo Perovic, who had allegedly captured the yaguareté, was officially separated from the academic activities by the School of Natural Sciences (Universidad Nacional de Salta) and Ezcurra was ejected from Greenpeace. And now the same Ezcurra happens to be the Vice-President of National Parks – and the head of the environmental machination against dams.
Environmental fundamentalism to power (and a suggestion in this regard)
In Clarín we read later that, to appease the environmental NGOs, unhappy with the choice of Bergman as Environment Minister, President Macri had to designate the “Cali Villalonga ecologist and legislator, former head of the Environmental Protection Agency…” [and also]… Diego Moreno, president of Wildlife Foundation, as Secretary of Environmental Policy, and Dolores Duverges, Director of the Fundación Ambiente y Recursos Naturales, as Secretary of Planning and Management. This is the team of ecologists with which the government will do battle, no doubt, in the environmental fronts that will be opening from now on. And dams, no doubt, seem to be one of the main ones”. Some insights. What is the relationship between Ezcurra, Villalonga, Moreno and Duverges? First of all, their direct or indirect connection with Greenpeace. The first three come from there, and it must be added that Villalonga participated in the scam of the yaguareté, although he came out unscathed. Secondly, and as expected, also their deep rejection of nuclear and hydro energies brings them together. So, in view of the foregoing and of his attachment to Greenpeace, we at OETEC – an NGO also concerned and fighting for a healthy environment – are asking the President of Argentina to please receive Patrick Moore, a founder of Greenpeace, although his vision is substantially different from that of the Ministry of Environment officials. Together with the Moore NGO, our Observatory will launch in 2016 an awareness campaign for a scientific and nationally responsible environment in Argentina (informally launched during the 3rd Congreso de Responsabilidad Social – CIRS, in September this year). Finally, we respectfully suggest the President that if he is at variance with the laws of the province of Santa Cruz, the resolution of the public hearing held on December 9th and the position of OETEC, at least devotes the same amount of time he gave Ms. Tomkins to listen to what Moore has to say. Our Observatory managed to bring Moore to the country financing finance all costs and placing him at the entrance of the Casa Rosada at “zero expense”.
Legislation of Santa Cruz and public hearing
The newspaper Clarín said that: ‘last October, Ezcurra and his NGO presented an application for amparo (individual protection claim) before the Supreme Court, asking for an environmental impact study to be done, and stopped the construction [of the dams]. The Court had already accepted a similar proposal of the Association of Environmental Lawyers of Patagonia”. However, and faithful to his style, when addressing the issue of environmental impact, the very pro-government journal ignores a tiny detail that we want to remind him of. In the framework of the 5th and 8th articles of the Provincial Law 2.658 about Environmental Impact Assessment, and in accordance with what was established by the Undersecretary of Environment of the province of Santa Cruz, a public hearing on the construction of dams was held on December 9th. What was the purpose of the public hearing? It is a fundamental instrument of environmental policy that relies on citizen participation, for the purpose of submitting the environmental impact study to their consideration by the parties involved in the construction and management of the energy works to be done. The audience in question extended from 11 am until 19:10 pm; it included about 61 presentations that, due to the questions and opinions of the audience that crowded the room (250 people seated capacity) ended with almost 100 interventions. Strangely enough, none of the NGOs opposed to the works on the Santa Cruz River, especially the Bank of Forests, were present in this instance of participation, which was dramatically claimed by them in the social networks and in their own communication means; apparently they just wanted to legitimize the actions taken by their own organizations and not the proposals expressed by laws and provincial States. At the hearing all environmental aspects and wildlife protection, the protection of glaciers and the level of decoupling of dams in relation with Lago Argentino were discussed, as well as the expropriation aspects, in particular those affecting on the 200 meter point from the shore line, especially presented by the representatives of the aboriginal people; the benefits of hydroelectric power compared to other types of energy using fossil fuels; an important consensus of almost all sectors about the general benefit of the dam for the province was attained, always stressing and coinciding on the need that the dam be constructed respecting all the rules, especially those referring to the environment. There are also studies of a serious technical background that ensure the level of dams is uncoupled from Lago Argentino and therefore they will have no impact on the glaciers. The resolution of the minutes of the public hearing reads as follows: “… The study of the environmental impact of the dam has been approved… The community is informed that they are invited to continue accompanying this procedure of environmental impact assessment”. That the President of the nation and the authorities of the Ministry of Environment ignore the results of the public hearing represents an undemocratic behavior without precedents in this matter, seriously injuring the institutions and the credibility of the citizenship upon such instruments.
Suggestion to the Ministry of Planning and Management
Before being appointed to the charge mentioned in the subtitle, Dolores Duverges was the former Director of the NGO Fundación Ambiente Recursos Naturales (FARN). Duverges is part of the compensation Macri gave to the fundamentalists Green organizations for having appointed Bergman. From FARN, the newly appointed official rejected, using the traditional junk science arguments, the hydroelectric reactivation of the country and the relaunching of the Argentinian Nuclear Plan. Examples abound, but we will mention two. Their web site shows the following headline: “Save the Santa Cruz River: don’t put the Perito Moreno glacier at risk” (October, 2015). As for the Nuclear Plan, a profuse 30-page report entitled “Nuclear energy. Analysis and perspectives – June 2011″ starts by misinforming the reader with regard to Fukushima, Chernobyl, the radiation emanating from this type of centrals, etc. From our Observatory we have refuted these anti-nuclear nonsenses one by one. But we would like to stress the following text. On pages 22-23, we can read: “Argentina must rethink its expensive nuclear program based on broad and informed discussions and public consultations, in particular because the nation promotes –unilaterally – the consolidation of the first Latin-American park of nuclear reactors in Lima (province of Buenos Aires), in moments in which Fukushima dramatically showed how dangerous it is to concentrate several nuclear reactors in the same place – also – at a short distance from large population centers. Also, in the (until now secret) 2030 [sic] National Energy Plan –which also shows a total lack of citizen participation- nuclear energy would be established with a strong growth and a great presence in the energy matrix in the next 20 years. From FARN we consider that it is essential to open the analysis and citizen participation in order to reopen the discussion on the relevance of the program and the national nuclear policy… “.” Readers must note the significance that Duverges gives to citizens’ involvement. Now, when citizens do participate, when the instrument of the public hearing is activated, as is the case with the dams, and when legal and planning objectives are successfully complied with, the Planning secretariat and other officials of the Ministry of Environment say nothing and dismiss the environmental approval of the dams by the Argentine people and the competent regulatory framework.
According to the aforementioned Clarín article, Mauricio Macri said at his meeting with Tompkins: “we carried out a study and saw that the dams are ranked 20th among the best ways to get energy, i.e., there are 19 more viable, clean and economic options first.” And he finished off saying: “Let’s try to stop them”. With all due respect, Mr. President, could you please provide us with the list of the 19 options you have mentioned above? Now we close with a brief political explanation of what is happening in the energy field, and which makes the Ministry of Environment a perfect complement for the scrapping of the nuclear and hydroelectric national sectors, thus benefiting the multinational and private oil industry, now actually conducting the Ministry of Energy, while at the same time converting Argentina in a prosperous market for the European and American companies engaged in solar and wind farm developments.
The strategy to fill the Ministry of Environment with former directors of Greenpeace (environmental fundamentalism) is but the other side of the coin of what is happening at the Ministry of Energy and Mining, although, of course, more insidiously. As we have already discussed, said ministry is more a business chamber with ministerial powers than a proper ministry. The local private and multinational oil industries run the energy policy of the country as of December 10th. But they are not alone. As the Clarín columnist rightly points out, in the Ministry presided by Bergman there is “… a team of environmentalists with whom the government will give battle, no doubt, on each environmental front that will be opening from now on”. In other words, environmental fundamentalism –funded, as it is well known, by the oil industry among others – will be the environmental tool to give battle and freeze the Nuclear Plan and to reduce to zero the construction of new dams (at least the large and medium ones). The Argentine market will be opened to a flood of technologies such as wind and solar, benefiting overseas suppliers.
Environmental fundamentalism believes that fossil fuels, nuclear power and hydropower can be replaced by the power of wind and sun. This has proved to be absolutely wrong. Indeed, there is not a single country in the world that has succeeded doing it. Rather, it so happens that behind the Ministry of the Environment officials, Greenpeace (strongly linked to Shell, among others), the Word Wildlife Fund (financed by the British-Dutch royalty), the international group Allianz, and the food businesses Danone and Ferrero (Italy) are operating. In other words, the oil industry (with Shell in front), one of the world’s largest financial companies and two food companies, with a strong and progressive participation in the energy sector (for example Energhe, a company of the Ferrero group) and renewables (between 2005 and 2014, Allianz invested more than 2,000 million euros in wind-power developments in Germany, France, Italy and Sweden are in charge.
In sum, both the environmental-fundamentalism in the Ministry of Environment and the petroleum industry at the Ministry of Energy, Macri’s administration has everything needed to turn the energy sector into another commodity. Supported by environmental arguments that will sprout from the government –which, according to their concepts and reasoning should rather be called “medieval” – the cultural advance to denationalization and re-privatization of energy is in process. The freezing of the Nuclear Plan, a stay in the construction of new dams and the invasion of renewables will be justified appealing to the climate change, Fukushima and Chernobyl, because today there are more efficient arguments than the historical nonsense of a state as a poor administrator and ineffectual agent, especially after the especially after the last twelve years of remarkable and undeniable public management. All this will curb the increasing upward trend (since 2003) of the installed power of the generator park as well as the diversification of the energy matrix (of which renewables were protagonists, but with a progressive incorporation and according to the Argentine interests). The energy will be more expensive and scarcer; consumption will plummet, as Aranguren is seeking through the super dollar rate hike and the removal of subsidies in public services. Dependence of the country on hydrocarbons will push skyward again –together with exports of crude oil and natural gas – and the companies that handle the energy policy from the business chamber with ministerial powers (read, Ministry of Energy) will see fulfilled its goals of maximizing profits at the expense of the Argentine people.
The attack on the dams cleverly executed by the neo-liberalism in power cannot do without the context described here. Genuine federalism, industries, local and national employers, workers and the energy security of the country –in a few words, the interests of Argentine people- must rise up in defense of this project that far from being damaging to the environment and society means an unprecedented contribution to the social, economic and productive development of the country.
Guess who: who bothers about the comprehensive alliance between Argentina and China?
It is known the large and growing income of China to Latin America. However, the amounts of the investments committed in our country and the work involved (energetic, nuclear, earth stations, etc.) are higher than in the other countries of the region. As mentioned before, the China-Argentina alliance must come to an end, or at least change the way it was going on. The turn of political and geopolitical -regional and international- Macri’s administration is 180°.
The Belgrano Plan and the government’s negotiations with the EU, the Pacific Alliance and the members of the TPP aims to reintegrate us in the “world” again as an eternal raw material suppliers, reprimarising our exports. In this regional and global geopolitical strategy, the President of Argentina and the President of the Rural Society have no clout. It is the US directing the baton, enforcing the current administration to turn back to the old little country, and international relations that made so much damage to our people, our provinces, the industrial sector, the domestic market, the regional economies, and sovereing and people-centered science and technology.
La Nación, faithful exponent of domestic conservatism, shoots against an emblematic work of the strategic alliance between our country and the Asian world power. They are aware that if the first one falls, the second will fall too. They don’t mind lying, distorting or looking foolish as far as they fulfill the supreme commandment. Electroingeniería and the Chinese make an injury and a national disgrace but the company Impregilo was not treated equally regarding the works of Yacyretá, or Siemens which stood us up in Atucha II because of the German government’s decision to close its nuclear program. In fact, reading La Nación gave the impression that it was worse to finish the work and launch our third nuclear power station than the incredible behavior of the German firm and its legal uncertainty.
The problem is China, the RMB, their investments, their win-win and the fact that they displaced European and American industrial and financial companies. But neither Europe nor the United States can afford to lose South America again. To undermine the main support and remove China’s qualitatively most important ally ever achieved in this part of the world –the bicentennial Argentina- are determining objectives of the imperial and neo-colonialist strategy in this XXI century that just stands out.