Corrugated City

Friday 27 July 2007

The weather and a day trip

Something's gone wrong with the weather. England's having the most miserable summer in 200 years and we're having one of the coldest and driest winters in recent years. This is causing problems. Polar air has caused two major cold-snaps in the Southern Cone. It even snowed in Buenos Aires a couple of weeks ago. Chile's problem is that it doesn't have any natural energy resources. It has to import all its oil and gas. Most of the gas for the country's Central Region comes from Argentina. Big problem. When it's cold in Argentina, they understandably use more gas. Due to the present Argentine administration's stifling of investment in the energy sector (freezing tariffs at absurdly low prices means no one wants to invest in resource exploration, cutting the country's proven supplies in half), there's not enough gas for Argentina to meet its contractual obligations to Chile. This causes friction between the 2 countries, friction that could have been avoided.

Both countries are at fault. Argentina for discouraging energy investment with GCSE Economics thinking. And Chile for putting almost its entire energy policy in the hands of a notoriously unreliable neighbour.

Couple all this with the complete lack of rainfall (hydro-electric reservoirs are reaching emergency levels) and you've got a bit of an energy crisis. Industry doesn't stop in Chile due to a lack of gas but it has to run on expensive diesel fuel, increasing costs by up to 50% (and thus reducing profits).

The upside of this slightly crazy weather is that we've had loads more sunny days than usual so far this winter. Yesterday and today have been 2 such days. And it's been almost hot. It was 21C yesterday and 20C today.

So yesterday we decided to take a trip up to Zapallar for lunch and an afternoon stroll. Zapallar is Chile's most exclusive beach town. It's a beautiful place with some amazing (and obscenely expensive) houses, overlooking the horse-shoe bay. Physically, it's my favourite small beach town in the country.

We had lunch at one of the 2 restaurants on the shore. We prefer the slightly fancier one by the caleta as the one on the beach is pretty much the same price but a bit grotty. After lunch, we walked all the way along the beach and around the headland on the perfectly maintained pathway (unusually well-maintained for a public pathway in Chile).

As i said, Zapallar is a rich little town. Rich in Chile usually means white-skin. Due to the unusual mid-winter temperatures there were people sunbathing. it was like a beach in Finland. The dazzle from the pasty white Chileans was almost blinding. The only dark skin we saw was the maids carrying shopping bags and pushing babies around (both activities far too strenuous for the rich). I think Zapallar is probably the only town where the oft-heard claim of Chile being a 'white' country could be true.

If you're in the Central Region, Zapallar is more than worth a day trip. It's about an hour and a half north of Valpo.

Maitencillo, one of my fave beach towns just south of Zapallar



Rootless said...

I think you mean Chile has no natural energy sources, rather than no natural resources.

Matt said...

Hi Christian,

Yep, that's right. I'll go back and add that to avoid any confusion. Chile, of course, has abundant natural resources and pretty much the entire economy is based on the exploitation of them. The biggest challenge to all of these sectors is the lack of natural energy resources. The reliance on Argentine gas should, supposedly, be broken when the new LNG plants are finished-there's one planned for the south and one for Quintero just up the road from Valpo that is projected to meet 40% of demand.

Of course, Chile could just make friends with Bolivia and, hey presto!, gas needs are met. Never going to happen though...