High Energy

Trip Start Jan 15, 2006
Trip End Sep 05, 2006

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Flag of Brazil  ,
Friday, March 10, 2006

I have been impressed that each of the countries we have visited to date seems to have developed an aggressive energy policy to reduce imported oil. Brazil, Chile and Uruguay each have gasoline taxes such that the pump price is north of $5 a gallon. It makes a difference. The Jeep has the aerodynamic characteristics of a refrigerator, so high speed drastically cuts gas mileage. I have been improving efficiency by about 20% by driving at 65 versus 75.

I was amused by the recent poll in the NY Times about US receptivity to a gas tax. (We are reduced to reading the NYT online for our connection to home.) My understanding is that the respondents were willing to accept a modest increase in the gas tax if the proceeds were used to fund R&D or some such thing. This misses the point. The objective of a high gas tax is to make it painful to fill up the tank of your giant SUV. If Brazilians (with 20% of our per capita income) can afford $5 a gallon, why can't we?

Brazil also has developed an engine technology that uses a high percentage of ethanol. They make their ethanol from sugar (which they have lots of) and have a much lower tax on 'alcool' than on gasoline. The net price is about 20% lower. Argentina has developed a network of service stations that sell compressed natural gas, which burns cleaner than gasoline. Brazil has been aggressively pursuing hydroelectric and nuclear power (I guess NIMBY is not rampant in Brazil). They have reduced their percentage of imported oil from 70% of consumption to 33% over the last decade.

As a followup to my comments on diet a few entries back, Brazilians seem to eat much healthier foods than in Chileans and Argentines. Fresh fruit is abundant. Their salads are excellent relative to Argentina where they just put a salad on the menu in case a veggie gringo walks in. On the other hand, there is much more obesity and just plain old chubbiness in Brazil.

The Brazilian weight problem seems to be caused by portion size. I am a pretty big guy, but I usually can't finish the average restaurant meal. Kia and I actually split a single dinner last night. Many restaurants aggressively push customers to their all you can eat buffet, called 'rodizio'. I guess it is not what you eat but how much.

We spent a beautiful day at a beach in Praia de Rosa and another in an ecolodge near the 'Brazilian Grand Canyon'. The beach was gorgeous and was serviced by large numbers of small pousadas and tiny restaurants. It was quite nice but it had a bit of a scruffy backpacker feel to it. We had been told that this was one of the most upscale beach resorts. My sense is that Brazilians are comfortable with development,pretty unconcerned with zoning but don't like larger resorts and/or foreign investment. The canyon was pretty, but Arizona doesn't need to worry about the competition.

Tomorrow we head to Sao Paolo for two days of city living. We have been driving pretty much every day and could use a day of rest. On this trip to date, we have always felt quite safe from violence and theft. Sao Paolo and Rio are the two places that seem a bit intimidating to me. We keep hearing stories of tourists that make one wrong turn, end up in a favela and are skinned alive. Hopefully this also falls under my 'Here be Dragons' theory.
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