Friday, April 3, 2020

The end of oil Venezuela

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Two processes are occurring, simultaneously, in relation to Venezuela’s status as an oil nation. One, of a conjunctural order, consisting of the grotesque and resounding drop in production in our country, the result of corruption and the systematic destruction to which Chávez and Maduro have subjected Petróleos de Venezuela -PDVSA- and the industry as a whole . Another, of a structural nature, derived from the exhaustion, on a planetary scale, of the energy model based on fossil fuels.

A first expression of this trend is the boom in renewable energy that is taking place in more than 90 countries: engineers, researchers and scientific centers are looking for the solution to the question, perhaps the most pressing for the future of Earth and the future. human species: how to produce the energy that civilization requires, in the large volumes required, minimizing or, even more, eliminating the use of oil, gas and coal forever, and relying exclusively on renewable energy.

Although spokesmen for the world oil industry – also their lobbyists and communicators – often disqualify the potential of renewable energies to meet the enormity of demand, the truth is that there is a search that does not stop, that the emergence of new lines of research and that, in many parts of the world, still on a small scale, solutions of different kinds are being tested.

The switch from fuel-powered vehicles to electric vehicles is only one, the most visible and immediate, of the current developments. Technologies are already in operation that make use of sunlight, store it and have the capacity to serve thousands of homes simultaneously. Every time they are more frequent the announcements that speak of investments and public works in fields such as wind energy; energies from the sun, in its different variants: thermal, photovoltaic and concentrated; hydroelectric energy; those of biofuel origin; those coming from the movement of the waters of the sea – they call it ‘tidal energy’; geothermal; biofuels; those that come from the capture of ambient heat; those that originate in pas passive technologies ’, for example, caused by the footsteps of users in subway stations and cars.

Research on batteries capable of storing and distributing energy has become an unusually inhabited field: dozens of groups are working to improve their storage capacity, reduce losses and increase their durability. The questions that technologists are trying to answer are this caliber: batteries so that a plane with 500 passengers can fly for fifteen or sixteen hours, or so that a cargo ship can sail ten thousand kilometers with thousands of tons of weight on it, or to propel a rocket to orbit a satellite around the moon, or even more significantly, so that a battery system that stores solar energy during the summer can respond to the demand, during the winter months, of cities in two and three million inhabitants.

To these factors, we must add three very prominent ones. The first of these, the agreements on a global scale (the one in Paris in 2015 and the various environmental protocols that have been approved): although their effectiveness has not been as expected, they aim at objectives that are classified as indisputable and necessary. The second is the increase in regulations (such as the decisions that the European Union has taken to decarbonise energy generation, industrial production and locomotion). And the third, which has special political and social relevance, the expansion, in public opinion and the world’s social leaders, of concern about the climate crisis.

Until about five years ago, the forecasts of experts and futurologists were frequent to read or listen to: they estimated that the oil age, which began in 1859, when Edwin Drake drilled the first well in Pennsylvania, would decline around 2050. The realities have been narrowing these forecasts: there are already those who speak of 2030. More immediately still, in the oil industry itself, estimates have been generated that maintain that, between 2024 and 2025, the maximum point of world demand will occur and that, from from that moment, a gradual decline will begin to occur.

As civilization advances without hesitation towards the digital and renewable energy era, Venezuela has not advanced a millimeter, in the last two decades, in the diversification of its economy. We have lost fundamental years, which will have a disastrous cost, incalculable right now, in the lives of the next generations. Not only did it not diversify, but what there was of industry and export potential was destroyed. What was a prosperous oil nation is now an impoverished country, whose existence depends on remittances, the pseudo-legality of the mining arch, the smuggling of gold and other minerals, and the benefits generated by the regime’s alliance with drug trafficking.

The end of oil Venezuela is getting closer. From this emerges an urgency: we must design a new country, a different way of producing and generating wealth. This cannot wait. Venezuela has no time. Both must be done immediately: recover the oil industry and reach a quick and lasting political, social and economic agreement on what the foundations of the post-oil nation could be.

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