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Venezuela Rations Electricity, Blames Climate Change

The Venezuelan government will begin rationing electrical supplies this week in response to high demand triggered by heat. Public employees will only have to work six hours a day until further notice, and police units will be sent to inspect private businesses to ensure they only use their allotted amounts. Venezuelan Vice President Jorge Arreaza blamed the measures on climate change.

El Universal reports that the rationing was described by Arreaza as a “preventive action” to avoid blackouts. The Venezuelan government is responsible for providing electricity in the socialist nation, and concerns that power is running out in the OPEC nation have triggered alarm that power may be next on a list of basic scarcities in Venezuela that include milk, laundry detergent, and vegetable oil.

Minister of Energy Jesse Chacón added that the limited hours on public sector jobs would not apply to necessary arms of the government, such as education, health, security, and garbage collection. Private industries are obligated to use 10% less energy across the board until further notice, without any exceptions mentioned in the original announcement. The new regulation permits government inspection of businesses specifically to monitor energy use, though the government has not specified what punishments await a business that defies the call.

Vice President Arreaza also made a bizarre call for the use of “autogenerated” electricity to reduce demand on the government’s plants. “Both the public sector as well as large [private] consumers should opt for autogeneration,” he said in the statement announcing the new plan. “That is to say, that they use their own equipment and plants to generate electricity, especially in peak hours, and not use the National System.”

The Wall Street Journal suggests that the call for self-generated electricity is an attempt to raise the demand for petroleum in the nation, as the price of that commodity has dropped significantly in the past year in Venezuela and worldwide. “During power shortages in the past, Venezuelans as well as businesses and industry have turned to fossil fuel-burning generators, causing a surge in demand for the country’s cheap gasoline,” the newspaper explains, adding that one American dollar can currently buy more than 500 gallons of gasoline in Venezuela. The government caused alarm in January by publicly considering raising the price of oil, which was at the time $0.002 a gallon. Oil prices in Venezuela dropped from $99 a barrel in June 2015 to $38 a barrel in January.

Arreaza blamed capitalism and climate change for the growing energy crisis. “This is, of course, linked to global warming and the excessive industrialization of capitalism, which never stops, nor has ever stopped, for the effects that it can have on the climate, on society and on Mother Earth,” Mr. Arreaza said in public statements quoted by The Wall Street Journal.

The Venezuelan government has blamed capitalism almost without fault in response to all the nation’s scarcities, though opponents of the socialist state suggest that government mismanagement is a far more significant factor in their economic decline. Venezuela boasts some of the largest oil reserves in the world, much of which is used to curry favor with Caribbean nations in exchange for public support. The result is a significant loss in resources that could have been sold at market prices or traded for the basic goods for which Venezuela installed ration cards in March 2014: cooking oil, flour, milk, and other household objects. At one point in the summer of 2014, the Venezuelan government was forced to begin rationing water. Supermarket lines to buy household items routinely last up to six hours as demand for products has failed to meet supply.

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