Hugo's Humongous Carbon Footprint

We each have one. Unless you’re signed up to the Cult of Hugo, you probably do, too. You know: that one topic he drives you craziest on.

For me, it’s climate change. Hands down. On no other issue is the gap between the guy’s vainglorious BS and cold hard reality more grotesque. Today, being Earth Day, he’s at it again, getting under my skin.

Chávez needs to keep his environmental rhetoric as abstract as possible, because any concrete look at his government’s actual policies with regard to the environment reads like a horror story.

Leading a country that earns basically all its foreign currency selling oil and has made subsidizing fossil fuels the cornerstone of both its foreign and domestic policies, Chávez has a rabo’e’dióxido’e’carbono that’s simply massive.

Chronic improvisation and absolute disregard for the environmental consequences of policy decisions have been the mainstays of Chávez’s climate-relevant decision-making. Time and again, policies have been adopted that not only fail to curb but that actually subsidize waste and render conservation economically senseless. 

Take, for instance, the current electric crisis. Coming to office over a decade ago, Chávez specifically shelved – on environmental grounds! – plans to build additional hydroelectric generating capacity in the Upper Caroní. This is a policy that – idiotically – the guy keeps bragging about even in the context of a mounting electric crisis.

Not content with vetoing the one viable source of zero-emissions generating capacity at his disposal, Chávez went on to keep electric charges fixed, in nominal terms, for eight years beginning in March 2002. Since then, the general price level has risen a cool 542%. In relative terms, then, the guy made electricity 82% cheaper than it was just 8 years ago…and didn’t build any generating capacity (renewable or otherwise). 

When, predictably, this made consumption rise fast and, inevitably, shortages followed, his government found itself in crisis management mode, running around like a chicken without a head, paying far-over-the-odds to install new generating capacity that, of course, will burn CO2 emitting fossil fuels in vast quantities.

Do this in a mad rush, at the last minute, with people getting angrier and angrier at rolling blackouts and prospects of a second-year-in-a-row of widespread outages looming next year, and who’s going to ask questions about carbon?!

I can understand, just barely, the confluence of forces that pushed the government into this corner. I can’t excuse it – anybody with two or more properly firing neurons should’ve been able to see that holding power prices constant while inflation spirals out of control and building no new generating capacity was going to yield a power crisis. I can just about understand how hiking utility charges is politically hard and things just happened quicker than the government could plan for.

What I can’t begin to accept is the lectures. Having badly mangled his energy policy, the guy’s holier than thou tone on the issue is just too much. 

Sorry, Hugo, but no. Not even close. "Capitalism" doesn’t cause global warming: greenhouse gas emissions do. The right to be taken even a little bit seriously on this topic is one you have to earn. Make one decision – just one! – that helps in some way abate climate changing emissions and you just about earn the right to rant about it with a modicum of credibility.

But with your record!?

No joda, chico!