Luís Euxebio Irías Calderón is the operator of a small hydroelectric power plant in the mountainous coffee country of northern Nicaragua, and he’s singing a song he wrote about turbines and transformers, to celebrate the arrival of electricity here in his remote corner of the country.
Nicaragua has great expectations for the Grand Canal, a US$50-billion, 5-year project to link its Caribbean and Pacific coasts with a 280-kilometre waterway. President Daniel Ortega and other supporters of the canal, who celebrated the start of construction on 22 December, say that it will generate much-needed income for residents of the second-poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. Continue reading
On a steep road on the outskirts of Oaxaca de Juárez, Mexico, a low buzz and plastic fumes emanate from a white house. A ribbed white paper tube snakes out of a window on the building, exhaling a light smoke which mixes with fumes from nearby open-air cooks and the sooty exhaust of rumbling, unmuffled bus engines. Inside, the tube is attached to a machine that’s gobbling plastic flakes—which can come from used drink bottles—through a funnel also made from a plastic drink bottle. At the other end of the machine, a spinning wheel draws out the fresh-melted polymer into a black filament just three millimeters wide and value hundreds of times what it was worth in in bottle form.
Men died in gun battles over the installation of windmills in the state of Oaxaca, Mexico, three years ago. Opponents argued that energy companies misled them and that community leaders rented out collective lands without consulting everyone they should have. Today, protests continue, but the growth of wind farms and other renewables seems assured: Mexico boasts almost 2 gigawatts of installed wind power capacity and plans to install perhaps another 12 GW by 2022. All that clean energy is a big change for this country, which is the world’s ninth-biggest oil producer and perhaps the 11th-biggest emitter of carbon dioxide. Continue reading