Monday, February 05, 2007

Venezuela's Chávez starts talking green

Yesterday Hugo Chavez announced a series of measures aimed at taking Venezuela to the "vanguard" of environmentalism. What should tell everyone he is serious is the plan to increase gas prices at the pump from their absurdly low prices. Chavez once vowed to keep it low, but has now taken the politically unpopular step of raising it. This is necessary to cut pollution, promote alternative energy and remove subsidies for the well-off.

This piece does well to mention the lead Fidel has taken in green issues. Beyond being recognized as the only sustainable county in the world, Cuba recently replaced most of its old lightbulbs and appliances with free or subsidized energy efficient versions. Chavez is following the lightbulb thing and more. Check the details from the AP:

...He (Chavez) wants to use some oil revenues in a venture to manufacture solar panels and has begun doling out millions of energy-saving fluorescent light bulbs to homes nationwide.
But Chávez says Venezuela can be an example, and he has begun exhorting his followers to drive less and take public transportation. His government plans a windmill farm to generate electricity on the Caribbean coast and is exploring more uses for cleaner-burning natural gas.

``Venezuela is one of the countries that least contaminates the environment, but nevertheless we want to give an example and be at the vanguard,'' Chávez said at a news conference Thursday.

He called U.S. oil consumption -- which handsomely funds his government -- a leading cause of the world's environmental troubles.

``They're destroying the world,'' Chávez said, citing melting glaciers in the Andes and predictions of rising sea levels. ``The human race will be finished if we don't change the world capitalist system.''

Leftist ideology colors Chávez's views, and he has spent time discussing the dilemma of climate change with Cuban leader Fidel Castro, his friend and mentor.

Castro's obsession with energy saving has been caused in part by Cuba's dependence on oil imports. Before he underwent intestinal surgery in the summer, Castro was in the midst of an energy-saving crusade in which he distributed pressure cookers and offered household tips on TV.
Taking Cuba's lead, Venezuela has distributed millions of fluorescent bulbs in recent months, giving a blue-gray glow at nighttime to slums that used to be swathed in common yellow incandescent light.

'We see the savings,'' said Francis Izquierdo, a single mother in Caracas who said her power bill is about half what it was before the bulbs were replaced in her barrio.

Chávez also said recently that he will raise gasoline prices to encourage Venezuelans to drive less, although he has not said by how much.

The country's heavily subsidized gasoline price has not been changed for years and is among the cheapest in the world, encouraging strong sales of fuel-burning sport-utility vehicles. Filling up a sport-utility vehicle's tank takes roughly $3 -- less than the cost of two jugs of drinking water.



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