An Ecological Perspective of the Energy Basis of Sustainable Bolivian Natural Resources: Forests and Natural Gas

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Bolivia, traditionally known for being a country rich in natural resources, has suffered from a constant exploitation of its natural resources benefiting only small groups in and outside the country. The devastation of natural resources that occurred for many years was of concern to the latest government, rural communities and indigenous groups. As a result, Bolivia has a more sustainability-oriented forest law that has a strong orientation towards the utilization of natural resources at a national level and encompasses a fast-growing forestry industry than in previous years.

In this dissertation, the wealth of Bolivia's national system was evaluated using solar emergy. Emergy (spelled with "m") is the sum of all energy of one form needed to develop a flow of energy of another form, over a period of time. The basic idea is that solar energy is our ultimate energy source and by expressing the value of products in solar emergy units, it becomes possible to compare different kinds of energy, allowing to express the value for the natural resources in Emergy Dollars. It was found out that Bolivia relies heavily in its natural resources and that its emergy exchange ratio with its international trading partners changed from 12.2 to 1 in 2001 to 6.2 to 1 in 2005. This means that Bolivia went from export 12.2 emdollars of goods for each $1 it received in 2001 to export 6.2 emdollars of products for each $1 it received in 2005. The study also showed that under forest certification practices less emergy is removed from forests (1.49E+19 sej/yr) compared to the amount of emergy removed (2.36E+19 sej/yr) under traditional uncertified practices, reflecting that forest ecology does better under certification.

The "Ecologically-based Development for the Bolivian Industrial Forestry System" (DEBBIF) simulation model constructed during this study, compared four different scenarios: the Reference Scenario, the Increased Export Scenario, the Increased Domestic Use Scenario and the National Industrialization Scenario. Using two different levels of increment for each scenario, the outcomes of six variables were analyzed: soil, wood, natural gas, assets, money and debt. It was found that if the country doubles its use of natural resources to generate finished products, this will build more assets for Bolivia, and represent more income for the country and a better rate of emergy per person.