Feature

Venezuela: The true cost of energy shortages

For all of its vast oil reserves, Venezuela relies for 75 percent of its electricity on the hydroelectric dam at Guri, where, thanks to a prolonged drought, the turbines are barely turning, said Maye Primera in El País.

Maye PrimeraEl País (Spain)

If you want to see what happens when a country runs short of energy, just look at Venezuela, said Maye Primera. For all of its vast oil reserves, the country relies for 75 percent of its electricity on the huge hydroelectric dam at Guri, where, thanks to a prolonged drought, the turbines are barely turning.

President Hugo Chávez’s response has been typically fatuous: putting Venezuela’s clocks back half an hour to extend morning daylight in the hope of cutting electricity consumption. That doesn’t begin to address the problem, so Chávez is ensuring that what little electricity there is goes to his supporters in Caracas. The brunt of the pain is being borne by smaller cities, which are plunged into darkness for hours at a time. Housewives are learning to salt their meat to preserve it; restaurants are serving just one dish a day; traffic lights don’t work, causing mayhem; burglars are having a field day.

But all of this could easily have been avoided with a bit of planning and foresight. It’s a grim reminder of what awaits the rest of us if we don’t come to grips with our energy future now.

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