Last week we linked to a story about how DOE deputy secretary Daniel Poneman was leading interagency delegation to Brasília to launch the US-Brazil strategic energy dialogue. One of the reasons we thought that announcement was important (and good news) is because there seems to be general agreement in the ceramics and glass community that too little attention is paid to the materials R&D efforts in Brazil.
Although these talks are wrapping up, spadework had been done by binational technical committees on four areas: biofuels; renewable energy and energy efficiency; oil and natural gas; and nuclear energy and nuclear security.
On the US side, besides the DOE, the discussions involved the State and Commerce Departments, the White House National Security Staff, the United States Trade and Development Agency and the Overseas Private Investment Corporation. Brazil worked through its Ministry of Mines and Energy and Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Poneman and his counterpart, Márcio Zimmermann, executive secretary of the MME, today announced an agreement on several joint efforts. The list is fairly long, but here are few highlights:
• A “Green Export” trade mission to Brazil Aug. 27–Sept. 2, 2011, to promote U.S. green technologies and services in the Brazilian market.
• A workshop on Nov. 1, 2011, to share information on test methods and labeling systems to rate the energy-efficient performance for building products and materials such as windows, insulation and cool roofs.
• A workshop within the next year to assess opportunities for increased development and deployment of mid-size wind energy technologies.
• Nuclear cooperation in the areas of new technology and post-Fukushima lessons learned on nuclear safety.
• Forging an international framework for civil nuclear cooperation that will provide the benefits of low-carbon electricity while minimizing the threat of nuclear proliferation.
I think this is extremely smart. Like China, Brazil is a rapidly developing nation with excellent resources (see the special issue of the Bulletin “Ceramics in South America“). It also has advanced nuclear technical capacity. It also has its problems, but it has rapidly improving education institutions, national labs, manufacturing and technical capabilities and infrastructure. It is also highly influential in the affairs of South America, Central America and the Caribbean region. Oddly, despite its relative proximity to the rest of the Americas, the strategic awareness and respect for Brazil in the US seems to be equivalent to how the nation lazily viewed China two decades ago. Yes, it lags today’s China in many science and technology measurements, but it strides can’t be ignored. (Actually it seems joint US–Brazil science/technology research and publishing has been one of the bright spots for relations between the two countries.)
Unfortunately, much of the rest of the world has been making overtures to Brazil for many years. Now is a good time for the US to be trying to initiate some catching-up on the diplomatic front, and to be supporting the existing efforts in the sci-tech community.