ENERGY: Brazil and the Geopolitics of Energy in the Americas

November 2, 2007 - 4:00 pm


This seminar explores the changing policies, dynamics, strategies and opportunities in the energy sector in the Western Hemisphere, with a particular focus on Ethanol. In recent years ethanol has emerged as an important alternative or complement to oil. The United States and most of the countries in the hemisphere rely on regional sources of energy, while the US is developing a major ethanol program. These developments affect all countries in the region. While some countries rely on energy production and revenues to drive investments and economic growth, most find themselves pressed by volatile conditions in the world market and supply sources. How to address imbalances and tap opportunities is a top priority for countries, firms, and non-governmental organizations. Increasingly, such actors need to assess and design fresh strategies. The seminar looks to identify these new approaches, while paying attention to opportunities for collaboration.

Many countries of the Western Hemisphere are implementing or designing new mechanisms for cooperation to secure the kinds of technologies and investments required for large-scale energy projects. Cooperation can enhance the stability of hemispheric demand for producing countries and, further develop capabilities to meet rising demands — and thereby also satisfy social, political, and broader economic needs. The workshop considers these opportunities and prospects for cooperation, taking into account the factors that have impeded cooperation in the past.

The seminar draws heavily from distinguished experts from different countries in the region. Alberto Cisneros, Bildner specialists, and others will discuss energy-related programs under consideration and implementation in several parts of the hemisphere. These specialists recognize the need for an international political economic approach as well as a country-based analysis to address challenges and opportunities in the energy sector. Impediments to hemispheric agreement and the urgent need to better understand them receive attention. This event will be of particular interest to policymakers, business, NGOs, and academics.


Many experts forecast that rising consumption will bring about major energy shortages in the Western Hemisphere within 30 years. Faced with the prospects of shortages and the eventual depletion of oil sources, the rush is on to discover new hydrocarbon reserves and develop new energy technologies. Policymakers and investors are examining alternative sources of energy. Brazil’s leadership in deriving fuel ethanol from sugarcane and converting biomass into energy presents a noteworthy example of the development of an alternative source of energy. Brazil appears to have arrived at a successful formula for stabilizing its energy supply and promoting an environmentally conscious source of fuel – while also creating a substantial number of jobs (approximately 700,000 jobs with its large-scale production of fuel ethanol from sugar cane).

Energy resources are viewed as the patrimony of national governments and are hence subject to political as well as market forces. What are regional implications of the moves to redesign energy sectors in Brazil and the United States, as well as other countries? How will they affect broad policy investment patterns? What is the role of cooperation and integration? Ethanol, a fast growing energy source in the Latin America and the United States, presents an opportunity for regional energy integration. Regional integration may provide protection against dependency risks. But, are the countries of the Americas really ready to participate in transnational energy projects? What risks and dynamics do these projects pose?