Saturday, July 3, 2010

A Fundamental Change in U.S.-Latin American Relations? It is About Time

There are many reasons that the United States and its neighbors in Latin America should work closely together. Not least of these is the abundance of national resources in Latin America. But over the course of time, the relationship between the U.S. and many Latin American countries has not been an easy one. There are many reasons for this that go way beyond the scope of this blog.

However, is the sometimes "chilly" relationship set to change? It is hard to say with certainty. But recently U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton spoke to Latin American leaders assembled in Ecuador, and her words seemed more aligned with a U.S. commitment to partner with its Latin neighbors rather than hector them with oftentimes unwanted (and not entirely useful) advice.

Secretary Clinton's speech, entitled "Opportunities in the Americas," was short on advice and long on establishing a basis for partnership. In fact at one point Secretary Clinton admitted that "We have had -- the United States and Latin America -- at times a contentious relationship. I would never deny that."

However, from there she pointed to the future:
"[T]his is more than, at any time, a moment of opportunity for the Americas. But it is up to us to decide whether this moment will be seized or allowed to disappear. We have this moment of opportunity to consolidate democracy and economic growth, to play a role in solving regional and even global problems together, to deepen our progress and enhance our values, and to recognize that we are interdependent and to use that interdependence to improve the future for our peoples."
Among the opportunities that the western hemisphere has relates to energy issues and natural resources. Latin America enjoys vast amounts of the type of resources that all areas of the world will need to move global economies forward as well as populations that are anxious and ready to expand their own economies. On the other hand, the U.S. is a center of world finance and infrastructure expertise (although one wonders about this latter one when pondering what is going on right now in the Gulf). Both northerners and southerners in this hemisphere have to recognize the interdepence of each and the fact that a strong and vibrant western hemisphere brings security and prosperity to all. Of course, there are different views of the future of the hemisphere. But mutual respect and a willingness to address differences can set the foundation for a hemispheric partnership that should pay huge future dividends.

A column in the Financial Times ("U.S. Fine Words Replace Lack of Interest in Latin America," June 17, 2010) underscored the potential importance of this seemingly new approach from Washington:
"The change in the U.S. tone, emphasizing co-operation rather than a more traditional 'drugs and thugs,' was potentially significant. It was also realistic: U.S. regional influence is much diminished. Long gone are the years of the 'Washington consensus' when the U.S. exercised much of its power through multilateral proxies such as the International Monetary Fund."
Will things really change? Maybe. Maybe not. But what is for sure is that while the good and the great in Washington and Latin American capitals think about such things, China, India, and other expanding economies are on the move to cement their own relationships with Latin American countries.

Better for the western hemisphere to get its house in order, one would think, than complain 10 years from now when interests outside the hemisphere have locked up their own strategic interests.

--Don Smith

Friday, July 2, 2010

Major Western Hemisphere Roundtable of Experts Comes to Denver in July: "Designing Answers for Today's Challenges" is Topic of Discussion

Political and business leaders from around the Western Hemisphere will gather in Denver in late July to discuss energy production issues. The gathering, which will be part of the month-long 2010 Biennial of the Americas, will feature Colombian Ambassador to the U.S. Carolina Barco Vice President of Ecuador Lenin Voltaire Moreno Garces, Secretary of the U.S. Department of Transportation Ray LaHood, and former U.S. Secretray of Energy Federico Pena among others.

According to the organizers of the roundtable:
Of the many ties that could bind the Western Hemisphere together more closely, energy production surely is one of them. The Hemisphere has tremendous resources. Canada, Mexico, and Venezuela supply the U.S. with more than 40% of its crude oil. The U.S. and Colombia are among the top coal producers in the world, and Brazil is the world leader in producing and using ethanol as a transportation fuel. In the context of energy, however, the link between fossil fuel use and CO2 levels in the atmosphere is unquestionable. With little dispute, scientists believe that CO2 and other heat-trapping gases are influencing the climate. How might design be used to address the energy and climate change problems facing us therefore? Design levers likely include energy efficiency, renewable energy technology, markets, the use of natural gas, and reforestation, among others.
More information about the Energy Roundtable, including how to order tickets, is available by clicking here.

Denver is a center for energy development in the western U.S., and the Sturm College of Law has one of the nation's most complete energy law programs.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

LLM Alumnus Manuel Fumagalli of Gold Mining Firm Barrick South America Talks About His Position as Regional Counsel

Assistant Director Lucy Daberkow recently had the opportunity to meet with Manuel Fumagalli, one of the Environmental and Naturals Resources Law & Policy Graduate Program's most distinguished alumni, while he was attending a Rocky Mountain Mineral Law Foundation conference in Boulder, Colorado.

Mr. Fumagalli, who is originally from Peru, is the Regional Counsel for Barrick South America. He was named "Outstanding LLM Student of the Year" at the Sturm College of Law in 2002.

He shared his thoughts with Ms. Daberkow about his role at Barrick:
"I started working for Barrick in 2003 developing the Alto Chicama Lagunas Norte project in Peru, and later after the South America regional business unit was created, I was appointed as Regional Counsel back in 2007. The South America region (SARBU) consists today of the Pierina and Lagunas Norte gold mines in Peru; the Veladero gold mine in Argentina; the Zaldívar copper mine in Chile; the Cerro Casale project in Chile; and the Pascua-Lama project straddling the Argentina-Chile border.

"My role as SARBU Regional Counsel requires me to provide legal advice and support to the senior management for the accomplishment of our regional business goals, participating in the definition of strategic regional priorities and corresponding action plans aligned with Corporate mandates and applicable regulations. Thus, I keep a close contact with the Office of the General Counsel, as well as with the operations and projects, travelling to the sites periodically and working along with the country legal managers and counsels as a team.

"‘Responsible Mining’ defines how we do business; we have a responsibility to protect the environment, to conduct our business in a safe way and based on the highest ethical standards, and to contribute to the welfare of the communities and countries in which we operate. Thus, I really enjoy my work.”
Ms. Daberkow said, "It was truly a pleasure to have the opportunity to visit with Manuel. His professional accomplishments as an LLM in Environmental and Natural Resources Law graduate are truly remarkable. Enhorabuena, Manuel!"

(Pictured above are from left to right, Emma Daberkow, Lucy Daberkow, Amelie Daberkow, Viviana Rodriguez, Manuel Fumagalli.)

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Natural Resources Development and Communities Where it Takes Place: A Story from the Peruvian Amazon

There is a direct relationship between natural resources extraction efforts and the communities in which the extraction takes place. As a world economy hungry for resources expands, there will no doubt be hundreds and even thousands of individual stories about the relationship between extraction efforts and the people who live in close proximity to these efforts.

National Public Radio's Morning Edition recently considered the case of the Peruvian Amazon, a region rich in oil and gas. But the region is also home to communities who worry about the impacts of such extraction efforts. In "Toll of Oil Drilling Felt in Peru's Amazon Basin," (Morning Edition, June 22, 2010), the relationship is put in more context.

To be sure, there are complicated and interdependent issues related to the "when, where, and how" questions of natural resources extraction. In response, the Sturm College of Law has introduced a first-of-its-kind set of courses, "Sustainable Development of Natural Resources Series," led by internationally-recognized experts Luke Danielson and Cecilia Dalupan. The aim of the series is to consider these issues carefully and in a broader context.

The next course in the series, "Sustainable Natural Resources Development: Community Expectations" will take place in Denver Aug. 9-13. The three credit course is intense -- class sessions run from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. each day of the week and students can expect assignments both before and after the conclusion of the class sessions. However, students who took the course in August 2009 (the first time it was offered) were nearly unanimous in their praise for course content and coverage.

Consequently, if this is a subject that is of interest to you, consider registering for the course. The issue of natural resources extraction and how it can be undertaken in a sustainable manner is one of the key issues today's world faces. For more information, contact Don Smith at

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Shale Gas and Europe: The Answer to Europe's Energy Security Issues?

Europe faces a very uncertain future when it comes to energy security. This state of affairs is underscored by the fact that much natural gas that is burned in Europe to power electricity generation currently comes from Russia.

This hardly thrills the European Union's policy makers in Brussels (although it probably does thrill officials at Gazprom in Moscow).

A new policy briefing by the influential Centre for European Reform (CER) provides a timely look at whether unconventional gas (UC) -- shale gas as it is often referred to in North America -- located in Europe offers a bit of a solution. In "Shale Gas and EU Energy Security" (June 11, 2010), the London-based CER considers the issue and provides an excellent overview of the differences between potential unconventional gas development in Europe and what is currently going on in the U.S.

However, the briefing concludes with a cautionary comment about the potential for UC in Europe:
"'In Europe, unconventional gas is not a game changer,' concludes one executive of a big EU gas company. UG will most likely develop in Europe, but a repeat of the US shale gas boom is doubtful."

Monday, June 28, 2010

Energy and Mining Prof. K.K. DuVivier's Carbon-Neutral House Featured in Sunday Denver Post Business Section

Law Professor K.K. DuVivier and her husband Lance Wright's carbon-neutral house was featured in a story in yesterday's Denver Post, proving once again that students who are part of the Environmental and Natural Resources Law & Policy program at the Sturm College of Law will learn from professors who "practice what they teach."

In Professor DuVivier's situation, this is particularly the case since she teaches Energy Law and is currently working on The Renewable Energy Reader, a book that will address legal issues related to renewable energy (the Reader is expected to be published by Carolina Academic Press in late 2011).

In "Couple Keeps Cool With Simple Steps" Professor DuVivier said that energy conservation is "almost a moral imperative."
Mr. Wright, who runs Green Energy Man Inc., specializes in energy efficiency and is one of only three certified Passive House consultants in the state of Colorado. Mr. Wright designed the home and served as general contractor taking into consideration all types of energy efficiency measures in both the planning and building phases so that the house requires neither an air conditioner in the summer nor a furnace in the winter.
Yesterday's story was not the first time the couple's house has drawn wider attention. The innovative house was featured as part of the Colorado Renewable Energy Society Solar Home Tour last fall. Click here to see a posting on that event.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Proposed "Supertax" on Mining Profits in Australia Effectively Dead

The "supertax" on mining company profits proposed by former Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has resulted in his departure from the top political position in his country.

This spring Mr. Rudd proposed that large mining firms pay up to 50 percent in their profits to the Australian tax collectors. Reaction from the mining industry was fast and sharp: They were uniformly against it. But what was much more surprising was the negative reaction among Australian voters.

Midway through his first term as prime minister, Mr. Rudd was quite popular until this year. First he back tracked on his campaign pledge to address climate change. Then he proposed the ill-fated supertax without consulting with the target of the tax -- the companies themselves.

The Financial Times ("Rudderless Labor," June 24, 2010) has opined, "A more flexible prime minister might have deflected [mining companies'] assault by agreeing to consult with them. But Mr. Rudd was no such leader."

Late last week his Liberal party had had enough. He was sacked and has been replaced by Julia Gillard. One of her first items of business has been to call a cease fire with the big mining firms.

In a June 16 posting, I asked whether the proposed supertax "portend[ed] a more difficult investment environment for mining companies? One way to look at it is that if Australia can do this, then anyone can (and may)." Well, we have the answer now. The supertax is effectively dead in Australia, mostly likely along with Mr. Rudd's political future.