drowsy syrups of the world

How South America works (or doesn’t)

This week brings a typical little tale of the exasperating side of life in South America. In Lima Peru at the moment, there is an acute shortage of LNG (natgas for retail consumption) which is affecting the daily life of citizens. For the last couple of years (largely due to the Camisea project and the new supply of the stuff) Limeños have been encouraged to switch their cars to LNG fuel, as it’s cheaper and as most of Lima is pretty flat the resulting power loss (about 15% compared to normal fuels, i’m lead to believe) doesn’t make much of a performance difference in urban areas. Result; many cars and vehicles now run on LNG fuel. Normal.

It should have been a great plan and so far it’s been working, but this week the supply line has been cut. The reason is that the gas isn’t piped anywhere close to Lima, but is moved to the coast at Pisco (250km South of Lima), loaded onto cargo ships and then shipped to the Callao port just North of Lima for distribution. As the last week or so has seen rougher seas than normal, the upshot is that a single large cargo ship hasn’t been able to hook up to the supply pipes and then steam up North.

I mean…WTF!!! It’s suddenly occurred to Peruvians that……that…..The Pacific Ocean has big waves every now and again! And because of that, the limited amount of LNG in Lima right now is being dedicated to home and building use, so all the taxis in a city of eight million people that have converted to LNG (and that’s a solid percentage of the cars, people) are sitting at home, doing nothing. Meanwhile, people who need those taxis to do their normal daily doings are fighting for normally fueled cars that have hiked their prices.

This kind of shit is so typical of South America (not just Peru). A plan is put together, no risk analysis is ever performed, no weak links in the chain ever identified and when the obvious thing goes wrong the whole shebang just grinds to a halt. Remember earlier this year when half of Cuzco’s hotels were emptied because Macchu Pichu was off limits because of a landslide that affected a bit of railtrack? Same thing.

  • Nobody thought of a separate pipeline to directly supply the country’s capital.
  • Nobody ever took into account possible rough seas and built loading facilities to take care of that eventuality.
  • Nobody….ever….thinks.
It happens a lot. Build a house in this continent and you get to see, close up and personal, just how improvised things are. Yer man will do about his work, build in a problem without ever telling you, then suddenly when the problem is discovered you hear the famous “And now what can we do?” while he looks at you directly in the eye, as if the blame is shared between him and you. Damn, it’s at moments like those I’m fully reminded that I’m a gringo and always will be. It’s also a moment when I’m happy not to have too many sharp knives laying around the place.

Rant over. Thank you for your patience.

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