The fight had begun 500 years ago. When the Spanish ruled the seas and had visions of dynasty dancing in their heads. They landed ashore in the Caribbean, ran into foreign plants like sugarcane and tobacco, and were semi-disappointed they had not reached the Spice Islands where explorer Marco Polo had brought back from China plenty of wondrous things just two centuries earlier.
As the curious Conquistadors when forward into the continent searching for treasure and immortality, they found the Aztecs, Mayans, Incas and a few other worthy cultures of note. Is wasn’t long before they were fighting them for their treasures and plundering their great civilizations for booty. Their greatest weapon in this cause was their biology. Bringing foreign diseases from Europe, the Native Americans were soon dropping like flies and made it so much easier to conquer them. In a century, the once great societies of the Central & South America were decimated and offered little future resistance.
But the Spanish gradually lost their mistaken empire as the British, French and Dutch came on short word that plentiful booty, warm climate and enormous natural resources existed just across the Atlantic. After the British defeated the Spanish Armada in 1588, the scales of power tipped to Britain. Leaving the Spanish to scramble to South America to retain the most influence until Simon Bolivar brought about independence.
Portugal had its foray into the area. Pedro Álvares Cabral explored the New World, founding Brazil. Unlike the rest of South America, Portuguese is the main language, but that is of little consequence.
But once the exploration phase of the New World petered out, and the founding of the most powerful nation in the world history took place, the cards were reshuffled yet again. World Wars, Civil Rights, The Industrial Revolution and The Information Age brought them to the present.
Those abundant natural resources had rapidly dwindled, pollution increased and economics of the world lay in the hands of those that still had resources and nerve to use them.
Currently, that did not seem possible. The United States placed $.50 per gallon tariffs on Brazilian ethanol because the sugarcane processing in Brazil was cheaper by $.25 US, not counting the substantially subsidized part of the U.S. corn ethanol market. Worse was the inefficient nature of corn produced only produces 1.3 parts of energy for each one used, whereas, Sugarcane produced ethanol produced 8.3 units of energy to one.
This was completely due to the byproducts of sugarcane-to-ethanol process being bagasse, vinasse, and carbon dioxide. In modern sugarcane ethanol plants, bagasse is used for production of steam and electricity. Vinasse is the left over liquid after alcohol is removed (stillage). Vinasse contains nutrients such as nitrogen, potash, phosphate, sucrose, and yeast which could be applied to cropland as a fertilizer. Carbon dioxide could be collected for sale to beverage companies.
Bagasse is the real mover. The amount of electricity produced is then sold off to utilities. A very profitable residual benefit.
Petrobras currently produced 4.5 Billions gallons of ethanol. It provided 40% of the Brazilian motorist fuel in their endeavors. This though could be ramped up to 30 Billion gallons in five years, under the right market conditions and proper investment from outside.
Currently, the United States, as Juan Pablo saw it, was facing a two-fold dilemma: 25% of the worlds oil was being used by the U.S. but the production from non-OPEC countries would not increase in the future. OPEC had power because it was sitting on huge oil reserves the United States needed to get at. So now the United States would go on its exploration into the Middle East for oil (and war) – and the Middle East knew that. The Middle Eastern countries suspiciously eyed any U.S. involvement in their affairs, since the only substantial difference from them and African states was the oil in the ground. To get at the oil, ‘wars of economics’ were being fought. The terrorist attacks in 2001 were likely motivated by a fearful concern over the U.S. encroachment on sacred lands that just so happen to contain oil.
The nation founded by accident, abundant in a wide array of materials, was now out on the prowl for replacement resources.
The second dilemma was tied to the Heartland of America. Corn was abundant there; and could be converted to ethanol, as 15% all ready was, but only provided 2% of the gas needed. The input costs were going up and the crop yields at 130 bushels/acre were driven by over fertilizing, and thus not providing the environmental benefit the watchdog groups supported and were gaining traction in enforcing. Immigration workers were soon going to be hauled back in greater amounts, as the population was growing increasingly worrisome over people that don’t speak English thanks to the terrorism scare.
The U.S. Sugarcane crop is produced in Texas, Louisiana, Florida and Hawaii. Climatologists predict more hurricanes hitting the Gulf regions where the sugarcane was produced, reducing yields, and nixing the benefit. On top of that, the operating cycle of Gulf sugarcane is only 3 to 6 months compared to 9 months for the tropical Brazil. Hawaii’s climate would be optimal; but for the land acquisition price that has shattered that market option.
So, the United States could not produced more bioethanol without significant cost barriers, and Brazil still had one more ace-in-the-hole: The Amazon Rainforest.
Juan Pablo Calderone had convinced the recent advisory board of Petrobras that expanding operations into the Cerrado portion of the Amazon made sense. That the new deal with Nippon Alcohol Hanbai, the Japanese supplier of ethanol to all of Japan, the ability to supply them long term would require it. He smoothed over the environmental concerns with a wit and charm only a former street person could muster. Living in a Favela, he survived outside overcrowded Sao Paulo in his formative years and made his way out through the grace of God, prayers to Maria and killing when necessary.
Now at age 44, twenty years removed from that fray, Pablo could envision gas prices in the United States of $5.75-$6.50 a gallon, forcing them to take on 10 Billion gallons of Brazilian ethanol, if only they reached the tipping point quickly.
Waiting for the come on the river was not Pablo’s style. He’d rather fix the game and get the money and leave.
He did not care if the reports showed the Amazon was a key component to water vapor cycle in the world, and thus attached to all Global Warming projections. Or that the damage could tip the world’s climate so drastically that people in the freezing cold would be too warm and people in comfortable climates would face starvation. To him it was all too scientific and too much conjecture. By the time anyone really knows for sure, he’ll be somewhere else and rich enough not to give a damn.
Bobby was silently considering just how it had all went so wrong. At that moment, the years behind him came rushing back to the present. It didn’t matter that a naked woman with perky ice cream cone pre-fabricated boobs was gyrating to ‘Fergalicious’ just 3 yards away. Or that Manny kept on asking him about Veronica, the new girl, as if he could give a damn about another lost soul at the moment.
No, Bobby had been doing fine until two hours ago. Now, he suspected it would be all about just how far he was willing to take his life of immorality and leeching off the shattered, confused and stupid. The money was there, all ready $250,000 placed in the bank, with $1 million upon successful completion of kidnapping. Kidnapping. That was the flaw to him.
He had never killed or directly robbed anyone. Assaulted and threaten, sure, that came with the territory. He’d made a living off of weaker people since he was 12 years old. He’d been an imposing kid and used his fists and tone of voice to get people to do things early on. Now 6’5” 245 lbs with old Hollywood looks, and considerable reputation, Bobby could just suggest things and people would dance. Being nice, initially, worked. There was an art form to getting your way.
Bobby could remember a more innocent time. He had loved art and could paint a passable copy of Renoir’s Mme. Charpentier and Her Children by age 16. He spent his “off hours” cultivating that knack for painting and found the innocence of it refreshing from the bullying of weak people. If only that had been his path, but artists did not get paid in accolades until after their death.
“Hey Bobby! How’s this one?” Manny, a low-level mob thug, was pointing out the strawberry blonde next to him. She had a nice face if the makeup wasn’t so damn hideous.
“Manny, whatever. I’m busy.” Bobby replied annoyed.
“Sorry Bobby. You letting that broad get to you?”
Bobby bolts up, and in a fraction of second is in Manny’s face, “What the fuck do you know? What the fuck?”
Now petrified, “Nothing Bobby! Just that call and your mood, that’s all.”
“What it is… is none of your concern.” Bobby breaths heavily on Manny, then backs away. The strippers are standing as far back as their other customers will allow. “Get me a fucking drink.” Bobby turns away and plops down again, as the song switches to Akon’s ‘I Wanna Fuck You.’ As the base kicks in, Manny heads up to the bar for Bobby’s vodka concoction.
Bobby is now determined to do it.