Science, Tech & Environment

Brazil drills for oil in the rainforest

When you first arrive in Urucu, you watch a video: no smoking and no cell phones, it tells you. Urucu is a pinprick in the Amazon. Finally we're driving to wear pipes show starkly against the green, and a flame rises high above the treetops. Urucu is run by Brazil's state energy producer. Brazil wants to be completely energy independent, and discoveries of substantial oil and gas fields have made that a possibility. One place they've found those resources is in the Amazon rainforest. My guide says Urucu doesn't produce that much oil or gas. He tells me what's significant about Urucu is how it operates in this sensitive environment and that they're trying to keep the forest exactly as it is. the operation in Urucu is an attempt to both find resources and keep the rainforest undisturbed. Inside this greenhouse there's row upon rows of plants. This engineer says we collect everything we can. The idea is that when a new site is marked for research, samples are collected of the species growing there. This worker says when we finish production on a well, we seal the top and then reforest it with the species that were there before they mined for resources. This worker says this is a good business. Some in the Brazilian government believe allowing the state resource company to operate in the rainforest protects the environment. This energy analyst says the main problem facing the rainforest is the lack of state protection, and illegal occupation of land is what wastes the forest. So he says to have the state presence and big company presence, it protects against illegal occupation. Not everyone agrees with that, because big business presence also attracts the presence of other companies. Some believe the rainforest should just be off limits. The natural resources of the Amazon are very promising, but there's speculation about how much resources could be find in deep ocean atmospheres as well. Those resources could eventually make Brazil an energy exporter.

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