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How Venezuela is Using Renewable Energy to Help Reduce Fossil Fuel Consumption

written by: Shane Burley•edited by: Lamar Stonecypher•updated: 10/20/2009

Venezuela is a country known by many for its politics, but its fossil fuel reserves and possibility for renewable energy development is an important global issue. Here we look at how much oil and natural gas Venezuela actually has and consumes, and what is is doing to reduce its consumption rates.

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    Necessity of Importing and Exporting

    A nation state tends to take its autonomy as a single entity very seriously. This means that it attempts to stand on its own as a country independent from others in both authority and aid. These nations would, on an idealistic level, even want to be completely self sufficient in areas like energy and defense. The reality is that no country has ever been completely self-reliant on every field, even those amongst the wealthiest super powers of the globe. No piece of land produces all the raw materials the occupants of that land would need to have all their wants met. Where there is more oil there is less vegetation. Where there is more gold there is less educated engineers. So in this way all nations must involve in trade and assistance as it truly must be a global community to satisfy all Earthly parties. The same goes not just in the broad markets, but also specific ones like national energy needs.

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    Venezuela's Fossil Fuel Resources

    oil-rig Each country has its own resources for which energy can be tapped, but some are much richer in conventional and cutting-edge energy sources and are therefore ahead of the pack. Middle-eastern nations are overflowing with petroleum, while wealthy nations such as the U.S. and Britain have the capital and educated populations to produce alternative energy feasibilities. For each nation to survive and know exactly what they can export and contribute to the global market they must do an assessment of what they have to offer their population, as well as that of the rest of the world.

    Out of South America Venezuela has the largest natural gas reserves and marketplace. In 1999 estimates stated that the country controlled 36% of the regions market production, with over 90% of these reserves existing in correlation with crude oil. Their production levels are marked at 26.9 billion cubic meters, as of 1999, which is shown to be on a constant upward slope.

    Though oil is a huge energy market that Venezuela is controlling it does not even compare to their contribution to the petroleum game. Their recoverable reserves produce around 162.1 million tons annually leaving Venezuela as owner of the largest reserves in the western world. The first year of the state’s oil production was in 1917, which was only established after the four major oil basins were discovered in 1910. They have established themselves as Mavericks by offering low domestic prices to their citizens, and also recently attempting to cut off sales to the disastrous Exxon Mobile all together. Today Venezuela is the fourth largest seller of oil to the U.S.

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    Venezuela Under Fire

    Venezuela, one of the three countries that emerged from the collapse of Gran Columbia in 1830, is a democratically controlled country housed between Columbia and Brazil. As of 1998 Hugo Chavez has been the elected president of the nation under the socially positive ideology of “democratic socialism.” Because of its socialist agenda the capitalist imperial powers around the western hemisphere have been nervous about Venezuela’s new agenda and Chavez himself.

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    Achieving The Goal of Energy Sustainability

    Their large reserves give them a certain amount of petroleum power, but this is actually putting them on a slower trail to energy sustainability. As of 1999 fossil fuels made up over two-thirds of the total energy, with hydroelectric being the main focal point of their renewable energy possibility. Though hydroelectric power has been an obvious failure when compared to success of energy sources like solar and wind power, it is probably the most viable option for Venezuela because of the development it has in this infrastructure.

    The country’s energy consumption has begun to rise exponentially, and with oil becoming a government subsidized commodity and the fact that industrial manufacturing take the majority of energy consumption the country itself could become an overwhelming source of toxic pollution. If Venezuela is to survive and assist the global community in creating a sustainable planet they need to take the federal revenue from its socialized oil sales and pump it directly into its hydroelectric system. This does not mean that a certain amount of money should not be invested in solar power, as well as other renewable energy technologies, but the first thought should be to get the country shifted from fossil fuels to hydroelectric. According to the Energy Information Administration of the United States, as of 2005 oil and natural gas were matched with being each 38% of the total energy source, which together takes up 76%. Hydroelectric rounds out most of the rest, but its space in the total electrical use of the country is growing.

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    Generating Hydroelectric Power

    Sayano Hydroelectric Dam  Image Source: Wikipedia In the mid-1960s the Guri hydroelectric dam was built in the Caronii River in Venezuela, and as of 2002 is the only the second largest hydroelectric generator on earth. The total amount of power, who power is estimated at 10,000 MW, is supposed to have another 8,000 added to it by the Venezuelan government. This is a step in the right direction, and the plan is to continue upgrading this renewable power plant for the next thirty years. More recently the Caruachi dam was installed, but has a much smaller energy capacity than its predecessor.

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    The Future of Utilizing Renewable Sources

    This should not be the end of renewable development for the country itself. Its socialized system can help create a government mandate for the integration of personal solar panels for commercial operations, lowering the countries total energy costs and helping to reduce overall carbon emissions. It’s large natural gas reserves are hard to ignore, and because they are cleaner its use should not be reduced as quickly as the oil. The renewable energy sources should gradually edge out the use of the oil first, then the natural gas once the alternative sources become the primary ones.