Big Announcements Shadowed by Al Gore's Presence in the First Biofuels Congress of the Americas
In times were the biofuels subject is hot in Latin America and particularly Argentina and Brazil, last Thursday and Friday took place the First Biofuels Congress of the Americas in Buenos Aires. In the context of the event, there were some big announcements and Repsol also launched the first biodiesel available in local gas stations (read our review tomorrow), but the excitement over the United States ex vice-president Al Gore visit and his presentation (which was the well known 'An Inconvenient Truth' speech) shadowed the focus and happenings of the event. For example, the announcement by Inter-American Development Bank's executive director, Hector Morales, that the institution would destine three billion dollars to finance private projects associated with biofuels. Or the one by Dominican businessman Cesar Antonio Baez, partner and president, Centinela Capital Partners, who communicated the creation of the first agricultural investment fund, along with Julio Cesar Gutierrez (organizer of the Congress and who financed Gore's visit) and other Argentine partners who wanted to remain anonymous. This fund would count with 500 million dollars for agro-industrial projects in the region (70% of them in Argentina), which would basically involve the buying of lands to produce biodiesel. If Baez name sounds familiar to you, it's maybe because he was with Deutsche Bank Asset Management and is former head of alternative investments for the State of New Jersey Division of Investments.Another sign from the congress was a presentation by Miguel Peirano, industry Secretary, who highlighted the importance of biofuels for the country and their positive effect in the industry, exports and regional economies, according to La Nacion newspaper. With those words, the government stated its position in the region, divided between Brazil's support to biofuels and Venezuela's refuse to them (with the alleged reason that biofuels production will increase food prices). "The oil production in Argentina is 22 tons: 10 million is destined to internal consume and 16 million to exportation. Nothing prevents the last ones are used for biofuels production", said Peirano, informed La Nacion.
Going back to Al Gore, when it was his turn to speak in front of an audience filled with agricultural producers, bankers, and investment executives, he said, "biofuels could be one of the solutions to climate crisis", but that they have to be handled with care. "Dangers of biofuels can be the unnecessary destruction of valuable forests, a raise in food prices or that the United States consumes most of what's produced", he commented. "Science and technology are coming up with new more efficient ways to produce ethanol. Biofuels second generation will be available in three to five years", he added. Then he gave his traditional speech featured in An Inconvenient Truth.
The politician spent only a few hours in the country and was pretty inaccessible, even though several politic national figures wanted to approach him. He only shared a lunch with the congress organizers and other 30 people, the governors of Santiago del Estero, Chubut and Santa Fe (one of the biggest agricultural centers in the country along with Buenos Aires) provinces, among them (informed Clarin). At the end, his presence in the congress felt forced, as if the organizers wanted to legitimate their credentials with the politician's participation. He then continued his trip to Chile, where he met president Michelle Bachelet and former president Ricardo Lagos.
As usual when a representative of the United States comes to Argentina, there were some protests in the streets. Outside the Alvear Hotel, where the congress was taking place, there was a demonstration by Quebracho group: they claimed that in Bill Clinton's administration, when Gore was vice-president, the USA refused to sign the Kyoto protocol. They also protested against fumigations in Columbia and vindicated Fidel Castro and Hugo Chavez in the cause that corn and soy should be destined to food and not fuels.