Energy and Environmental Issues: The Real Challenges in Brazil


As the Rio Olympics come to a close. The USA is currently leading the medal count amongst all competing nations. From the surface things appear to be going smooth, besides this Lochte issue. However, the preparation to the games was and still remains questionable at best.

Concerns about Brazil’s preparedness to host these Olympics have been rampant in the media. The concerns have centered around the Zika virus, dirty waters, unfinished arenas and living quarters, and dangerous corruption throughout the country. So how did Brazil win the bid back in 2009?

When Rio won the bid national growth was strong and Brazil was in good standing. Under those circumstances it made sense, but things have changed with government corruption and an economic slump causing hardship across the country. One of the more recent tragedies occurred with the collapse of the Tim Maia bike path, which was a legacy project of the Olympics. The $12.6 million path came crashing down killing two people. Engineers concluded that poor engineering was to blame and rushed work throughout the country.

A key factor of the economic hardship is the change in natural resource extraction. Brazil’s economic boom prior to the games was driven by industries like mining. However, mining is proving to be an ecological problem which has stopped much of the work throughout the country. The Bento Rodrigues mine tailings dam burst near the city of Mariana in November 2015 and alerted many to the severe risks.  The incident was Brazil’s biggest ecological disaster, and the responsible companies are facing a $44 billion civil lawsuit, in addition to criminal charges.

Brazil could focus on dams for energy but Brazil also experiences droughts and transmission problems, risking the likelihood of rolling blackouts as reservoirs dry up. Additionally, many of the bids for these projects are corrupt. Belo Monte is a project that was supposed to be a flagship for Brazil’s “green development” agenda. Current investigations have made clear that the bid for the project involved corruption in everything from the construction bidding process to the purchase of equipment, including around $45 million in campaign donations to Brazil’s major political parties

As we watch these games Brazil is in the world’s view. They face a crisis in re-evaluating their development trajectory. What will they do to change the economic development, their energy sources, and their environmental issues?

Only time will tell…


Energy and Environmental Issues: The Real Challenges in Brazil