Brazil’s Oil Rush

Brazil is poised to take its place among the world’s petro-powers, with modest estimates putting oil reserves in its coastal waters at 30 billion barrels. The government is determined to prevent Brazil from falling victim to the "resource curse" that afflicts other oil-rich countries, but meeting the social and environmental demands implied by oil wealth will pose a serious challenge.

SÃO PAULO – Brazil is poised to take its place among the world’s petro-powers. Estimates of its newfound oil reserves place it in eighth place among oil-producing nations, ahead of Nigeria as well as Brazil’s rival for influence in Latin America,Venezuela. Such newfound wealth is normally a source of celebration. But Brazil’s President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, perhaps fearing the infamous “resource curse” that has blighted the development of so many countries blessed with mineral wealth, is determined that the new oil wealth not be turned into “nonsense.”

In 2007, huge oil deposits were discovered off Brazil’s coast. Modest estimates put these reserves at around 30 billion barrels. Crédit Suisse and other investment banks say that 50 billion barrels are available.

The discovery is the result of a strategic policy maintained through successive Brazilian administrations, something unusual in Latin America. In 1989, when the Iraq-Iran war sent shivers among oil-consuming nations, Brazil began to explore for energy both within and beyond its 200-nautical-mile protected zone. The size of the oceanic areas involved was enormous, thus earning the term “Blue Amazonia.”

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