By Mario Osava
SÃO PAULO, 18 May 2012 - Energy integration in South America will be a reality "in the medium to long term," driven by hydropower and drawing on Brazil’s experience, predicts Altino Ventura Filho, secretary of planning in this country’s Ministry of Mines and Energy.
Promoting the development of an integrated regional energy system, which will be "an example for the world," is a policy focus in Brazil, Ventura Filho said at the second Latin American hydropower summit, organised May 9-10 in the southern city of São Paulo by Business News Americas, an online business information service based in Santiago, Chile.
The process has already begun among the Mercosur (Southern Common Market) countries - Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay – with binational projects and interconnections that "avert conflicts," promote energy security, and bring down costs because they more than compensate for investment in power lines and plants, Ventura Filho said.
And integration with Argentina will be given an enormous boost with the construction of two binational hydroelectric plants, Garabí and Panambí, on the Uruguay River, which forms part of the border between Brazil and Argentina and between Argentina and Uruguay. The plants will have a combined capacity of 2,200 MW by the end of the decade.
Uruguay will be ready for full energy integration with Brazil’s national grid in November 2013, said Gonzalo Casaravilla, president of UTE, Uruguay’s state electric utility.
For the complete article, please see IPS.
By Adam Morrow and Khaled Moussa Al-Omrani
CAIRO, 9 May 2012 — The two weeks since Egypt's abrupt cancellation of a Mubarak-era gas-export deal with Israel have seen an exchange of indirect threats and warnings between the two countries, culminating in an apparent Israeli military build-up on the border of Egypt's Sinai Peninsula.
"In recent days, Israel appears to have begun preparing for military deployments on its southern border," Tarek Fahmi, head of the Israel desk at the Cairo-based National Centre for Middle East Studies, told IPS.
On Apr. 22, Egypt unilaterally cancelled a 2005 export agreement for the sale of natural gas to Israel, which for the past five years had ensured a steady supply of Egyptian gas from the northern Sinai Peninsula to Israel. Egyptian energy officials attributed the move to Israel's failure to meet payment deadlines, stressing that the decision was "not politically motivated."
Israel, which is said to depend on Egyptian gas for some 40 percent of its electricity needs, was quick to register its opposition.
Several Israeli officials warned of the move's dire implications for the Camp David peace agreement, signed between Egypt and Israel in 1979. Israeli opposition leader Shaul Mofaz called on his country's chief patron, the United States, to intervene on Israel's behalf.
The Israeli Finance Ministry went so far as to describe the move as "a dangerous precedent that casts clouds over the peace agreements and the atmosphere of peace between Egypt and Israel."
While Israeli officials have vowed to take legal action to ensure the supply of Egyptian gas, local energy analysts say Egypt was well within its legal rights to opt out of the deal.
"The Israeli purchasers failed to pay their bills to the tune of some 100 million dollars," Ibrahim Zahran, Egyptian petroleum expert, told IPS. "The contract clearly states that if either party fails to live up to its obligations, the other has the right to terminate the agreement."
Egypt first began pumping natural gas to Israel in 2008, based on a deal hammered out three years earlier that allowed Egypt-Israel joint venture East Mediterranean Gas (EMG) to sell Egyptian natural gas to Israeli buyers, including the government-run Israel Electric Corporation.
Given Israel's broad unpopularity on the Egyptian street, the gas-export deal has met with widespread public opposition since its inception. Critics note that, by providing Israel with Egyptian gas at far below international prices (while Egypt itself suffers from chronic energy shortages), the deal effectively supports - albeit indirectly - Israel's ongoing occupation and annexation of Palestinian land.
Notably, the pipeline that carries the gas across the northern Sinai Peninsula to Israel has been subject to 14 attacks of varying severity - all by as-yet-unidentified culprits - since Egypt's revolution early last year, often resulting in lengthy supply stoppages. As a result, electricity prices in Israel have reportedly increased by over 20 percent since the beginning of 2011.
Given the export deal's broad unpopularity, the decision to scrap it was welcomed by Egyptian public figures and groups across the political spectrum.
Mahmoud Ghozlan, spokesman for Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood (which now controls almost half of the seats in parliament), called the decision "excellent," noting that Egypt "badly needs all of its natural gas to meet its own domestic consumption needs." The liberal Egyptian Social Democratic Party described the move as "the inevitable fruit of Egypt's January 25 Revolution."
For the complete article, please see allAfrica.
By Khalid Abdelaziz and Ulf Laessing
KHARTOUM/JUBA, Apr 19, 2012 - Sudan's President Omar Hassan al-Bashir all but declared war against his newly independent neighbor on Thursday, vowing to teach South Sudan a "final lesson by force" after it occupied a disputed oil field.
South Sudan accused Bashir of planning "genocide" and said it would fight to protect its people.
Mounting violence since Sudan split into two countries last year has raised the prospect of two sovereign African states waging war against each other openly for the first time since Ethiopia fought newly-independent Eritrea in 1998-2000.
Both are poor countries - South Sudan is one of the poorest in the world - and the dispute between them has already halted nearly all the oil production that underpins both economies.
Appearing in medal-spangled military uniform at a large rally, Bashir danced side-to-side, waved his walking stick in the air and made blistering threats against the leadership of the South, which seceded last year after decades of civil war.
"These people don't understand, and we will give them the final lesson by force," the burly military ruler told the rally in El-Obeid, capital of the North Kordofan state. "We will not give them an inch of our country, and whoever extends his hand on Sudan, we will cut it off."
China, a major investor in the oil industry in both countries, expressed "serious concern" about the increase of tensions and called on both sides to stop fighting, "maintain calm and exercise maximum restraint".
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said South Sudan's seizure of the oil field was an "illegal act" and called on both countries to stop fighting.
South Sudan separated from the rest of Sudan with Bashir's blessing last July under the terms of a 2005 peace deal. But since then violence has steadily escalated, fuelled by territorial disputes, ethnic animosity and quarrels over oil.
Last week, South Sudan seized Heglig, a disputed oilfield near the border between the two countries, claiming it as its rightful territory and saying it would only withdraw if the United Nations deployed a neutral force there.
For the complete article, please see Reuters.