Defending the government’s decision to auction parcels of Amazonian jungle for oil exploration, President Rafael Correa said that country must use its national resources to advance education, health care and infrastructure projects. Several indigenous tribes have protested the auction.
“Our way of life is unsustainable if we don’t use our oil and minerals in the next 10 or 15 years while we develop alternative energy sources,” Correa said during his weekly televsion program on Saturday. “Those who say we should not exploit our resources would jeaparize the programs we are advancing to put Ecuador among the first rank of Latin American nations. They would return us the the status of being a poor nation without a future.”
He added that he understood the position of Amazonian indigenous but said any drilling would be done using strict environmental safeguards. "We also have to understand that we must consider the needs of the entire country."
Correa also crticized the media for reporting that Chinese companies would be the ones involved in oil exploration. “This is an auction and we have talked to representatives of oil companies all over the world. We don’t know yet who will win the right to explore.”
Correa said that major projects are underway to develop sun and wind power in Ecuador and that hydro electric projects currently underway will make the country a net exporter of electricity within five years. “We are on the right path but we cannot abandon the plan before it is completed.”
According the government’s energy ministry, opening up the southeastern oil blocks (known as the 11th Round Oil Auction) in the Amazon rainforest for bidding could satisty the country’s need for oil for both internal transportation and export need through 2030. Experts estímate that there are 1.6 billion barrels of oil in the southeastern oil blocks. Other areas that have not been opened for exploration may have as much as 10 billion additional barrels.
Bids will be accepted until May 30, and the first contracts signed by November.
In the meantime, the president said, new energy sources will continue to be developed.
Ecuador will farm fish in open ocean cages
The government says it is creating concessions for fish and crustacean farming in the open Pacific Ocean.
The Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries says that Ecuador boasts excellent conditions for creating a marine aquaculture industry, or mariculture. A ministry spokesman says he hopes that private companies will develop the industry over the next decade.
Ecuador developed a set of policies for mariculture in 2010. The species which can be raised commercially in in Ecuador’s ocean areas include snapper, mullet, Pacific yellowtail, cobia, white shrimp, among others. The National Fishing Institute plans to expand the list of acceptable mariculture species.
The ministry says it has awarded its first mariculture concession to Oceanfarms S.A., a company based in Manta.
Ecuador is one of the world’s leading exporters of shrimp but there has been pressure to diversify seafood varieties due to pollution caused by shrimp farming.
China to finance hydro project south of Cuenca
Ecuador's public financing secretary Wiliam Vásconez and the Export-Import Bank of China have signed a contract to help finance the Minas-San Francisco hydroelectric project.
The bank will loan US$313mn for the US$477mn, 270MW plant, the strategic sectors ministry said in a statement.
State power generation holding company Celec and Harbin Electric International in December 2011 signed the contract to build Minas due to begin operations in late 2015. Investment to date reaches US$90 million.
The project in provinces Azuay and El Oro will connect to the national grid via a 45km line and generate 1.29TWh/year. Components also include a 78m-high dam and three Pelton-type turbines.
Minas-San Francisco is one Ecuador's flagship generation projects comprised of eight hydros and one wind, the latter of which, Villonaco (16.5MW), began operations in January.
Photo caption: President Rafael Correa