Energy wasters: Venezuela has them.

Chavecito has something very important to say, so listen up, kiddies. For those who can’t understand Spanish, here’s a partial translation (by me):

President Hugo Chávez, in a nationwide broadcast, discussed the first week of the electrical rationing plan for high-level residential, industrial and official consumers.

He announced that 63% of the highest consumers did not comply with the measure, which was established in a decree for the highest consumers. Chávez added that there would need to be a follow-up to determine that this group was in compliance.

He also emphasized that 37% of the highest industrial energy consumers lowered their consumption and saved 30.5%.


Among the most non-compliant users was CCCT, who increased their consumption nearly 28%. Other non-compliants were Industrias BioPapel, Terminal La Bandera, Plásticos Hércules, CC Galerías Prado del Este, Restaurant Hereford, Molinos Hidalgo, and Centro Plaza.

“We need to investigate those companies who increased their consumption nearly 100%. That’s a grave matter, and could be related to sabotage.”

Chávez also pointed out those official organisms who were not complying, among them the mayoralties of Sucre, Bandes, the municipal council of Baruta, the mayoralties of Zamora and Hatillo, and the Ministry of Basic Industries.

President Chávez also referred to the water levels at the Guri Dam, and emphasized that they are still dropping at the rate of 14 cm a day, and that there is only enough water in the reservoir to last another 3 to 4 months.

The national electrical system could suffer a collapse if the level of the Guri drops to 240 metres. As of today, it is at 14.45 metres above that level, according to the data presented by the president.

“You have to realize that the water levels at the Guri are still dropping. They dropped 14 cm yesterday, but we still have enough water for three or four months before a collapse, as long as the levels keep falling at the current rate, we have enough water for all of March, April, May, and the middle of June,” said Chávez.

So. Now we can see a bit about what the real sources of Venezuela’s electrical shortages are.

One, El Niño and low rainfall, 60% less than normal this year, means that the Guri Dam reservoir is very low. But since there’s still enough for three months at this rate, and the summer rains are due to start in May, that problem could sort itself out in a matter of weeks. Only a climatologist could say for certain when the Southern Oscillation will normalize and normal rainfall levels will return. So that much is not in Chávez’s hands or anyone else’s, unless we all pitch in to stop global warming, and do it in a major way, yesterday. Global warming means more frequent and violent Niño phenomena, which wreak havoc on rain levels, among other things. But this is not Chávez’s problem to solve. It is for all of us, collectively, as a planet, to deal with and stop denying that there is such a thing as man-made global warming.

What IS in human hands and readily controllable is reason number two. Energy consumption UP in a time of shortages? By certain private industries and opposition mayoral offices, no less? That reeks of sabotage, as the ‘Cito says. They couldn’t possibly NEED to use that much extra energy, and to do so at this time, when saving and conserving is of the essence, is unconscionable.

And indeed, there IS sabotage going on. Noticiero Digital, the infamous opposition web forum, is actively encouraging its denizens to “traffic” their electrical and water meters. Meaning, waste water and energy, and then turn the meters back to an artificially low level, so that they don’t have to pay for the wastage.

One wonders why they’re doing this, no doubt. One can only conclude that they are doing it to sabotage the government, since there are parliamentary elections scheduled for September. The opposition is hoping to make inroads in the congress (currently they are shut out), and this is their main strategy: Discrediting the PSUV, the overwhelming majority winner, by any means possible. Since electricity is short due to El Niño, no doubt they figure that way is the best. It speaks to their lack of real solutions, however, that they are reduced to sabotage–destructive measures, in other words–because they have nothing constructive to offer.

But then, what did we expect? These are the old Adecos and Copeyanos we’re talking about. The Puntofijistas, fragmented and repackaged under “new” names, are in fact the same old incompetents that ran the country into the ground from 1958 to 1998. They mismanaged the electrical grid in the 1990s, when there were also shortages, but fewer consumers owing to the fact that the poorer neighborhoods were not on line. Chávez has changed all that, but he’s had to do it with the same old crappy system, and the same old crappy bureaucrats, which he inherited from the ancien régime.

Building new infrastructure takes time, and happily, he’s doing it. He’s well aware of what the problems are, and addressing them as best he can, although no doubt a certain troll here who’s been criticizing and blaming him for those problems doesn’t want to believe it. (Tough shit, Mikey.)

Another innovative solution is to get rid of the bureaucrats (who are often old Adecos and Copeyanos themselves, accustomed to an easy, lazy lifestyle as a result of decades of patronage) and let the workers run the show. This “autogestion” was proposed by the members of the Venezuelan electrical workers’ union, FETRAELEC, and is well in line with the socialist principles of co-operative industry espoused by Chávez and the PSUV. Who knows better how to run a utility than its own workers? Certainly not a bunch of paper-pushers who know that their days in the sinecure are numbered, thanks to a socialist leader who has them on the radar. And indeed, there is evidence to indicate that this electrical bureaucracy was also involved in the sabotage of the grid in recent times…as well as incompetence, another reason to get rid of bad managers. (But not the president, who is actually taking measures to address that problem, as the video should make abundantly clear.)

Meanwhile, the electrical workers of FETRAELEC also endorse the president’s electricity conservation plan, understanding the need to save in times of shortage. Like I said: Who knows better than the workers? They have seen from up close what the levels at the Guri Dam look like.

My little troll, however, has not.

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