American Elephants

A Trip to Latin America. Odd Timing and Odd Goals. by The Elephant's Child

President Obama is off on a five-day visit to Latin America. He made a speech in Brasilia, and is off to Rio.  Critics suggest that he’s getting out-of-town while his unpopularity is high, but that’s not fair. These tours are long-planned and there are many meetings in advance so that agreements can be signed and public appearances will be fortuitous. So let’s assume that he’s just following his schedule.  Brazil is one country that has prospered during the financial crisis in the rest of the world.

President Obama and President Rousseff  ‘have completed an agreement for a new Economic and Financial Dialogue.”  Sounds good.  They agreed to talk.

President Rousseff and I also agreed to launch a Strategic Energy Dialogue.  By some estimates, the oil you recently discovered off the shores of Brazil could amount to twice the reserves we have in the United States.  We want to work with you.  We want to help with technology and support to develop these oil reserves safely, and when you’re ready to start selling, we want to be one of your best customers.  At a time when we’ve been reminded how easily instability in other parts of the world can affect the price of oil, the United States could not be happier with the potential for a new, stable source of energy.

President Obama seems to be offering the help of America’s private oil business, since they are the ones with the technology and know-how. Since Obama is opposed to drilling for our own oil and gas reserves, it’s interesting that he is anxious to buy Brazil’s. Then he was back to his standard pitch for “clean energy technology.” His ideas are indeed, as we have been told, set in concrete. He is impervious to evidence, and he does not change his mind.

Now, even as we focus on oil in the near term, we shouldn’t lose sight of the fact that the only long-term solution to the world’s dependence on fossil fuels is clean energy technology.  And that’s why the United States and Brazil are deepening our cooperation on biofuels — (applause) — and why we’re launching a U.S.-Brazil Green Economy Partnership, because we know that the development of clean energy is one of the best ways to create new jobs and industries in both our nations.

Already, more than half of the vehicles in Brazil run on biofuels.  Nearly 80 percent of your electricity comes from hydropower.  In the United States, we’ve jumpstarted a clean energy industry and we’ll soon have the capacity to produce 40 percent of the world’s advanced batteries.  If we can start sharing these new technologies, and leverage private investment from businesses like the ones in this room, we can grow our economies and clean our environment by making, using, trading, selling clean energy products all over the world.  That is a win for both our nations.

According to his Press Secretary, the big interest in Brazil is biofuels, and the “biofuel relationship,”which seems to be why EPA Chief Lisa Jackson is along.  The press asked about Brazil’s interest in reducing or eliminating our high tariffs on sugar and sugar-based ethanol, but that question was brushed aside to return to the “biofuel relationship.”

The president will also visit Chile and El Salvador.  This is a trip with the campaign in mind.  The president hopes to bring home future trade agreements for the unemployed and the unions; and favorable impression from Latin America for the Hispanic voting block.  He will not be visiting Colombia or Panama, whose trade deals he has refused to sign since taking office.  Trade deals don’t always set well with labor unions.

Once again, Obama is counting on long-range ‘hope’ to create the jobs that are so needed at home. It looks like he’s still trying to find those “green jobs.” It will be nice if we have increased trade with Brazil, but these things take time, usually quite a long time, to work out.  This has been characteristic of the president.  He puts his faith in the hope of trade in the future to create jobs—someday.


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