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The Hill - Obama Administration to Launch Brazil Energy Partnership Next Week

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By Andrew Restuccia

Excerpt: A top Energy Department official will travel to Brazil next week to launch a high-level partnership aimed at developing the South American country's oil-and-gas resources….

"It's ridiculous to ignore our own resources and continue going hat-in-hand to countries like Saudi Arabia and Brazil to beg them to produce more oil," Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) said in a statement shortly after Obama announced the partnership. "We need to get serious about developing our resources here at home and working toward lower gas prices and long-term energy independence."

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A top Energy Department official will travel to Brazil next week to launch a high-level partnership aimed at developing the South American country's oil-and-gas resources.

The administration could be wading into politically thorny territory with the partnership. Republicans have pounced on President Obama's plans to work with Brazil on energy issues, arguing that the administration should be spending more time developing U.S. oil resources.

Obama announced his intentions to launch the partnership in May while visiting Brazil. He said at the time that he hopes to invest in Brazil's oil-and-gas resources because the country is more stable than the Middle East and has vast fossil fuel reserves.

"We want to work with you. We want to help with technology and support to develop these oil reserves safely, and when you're ready to start selling, we want to be one of your best customers," Obama told a group of Brazilian business leaders in May

"At a time when we've been reminded how easily instability in other parts of the world can affect the price of oil, the United States could not be happier with the potential for a new, stable source of energy."

Republicans quickly blasted Obama's comments.

"It's ridiculous to ignore our own resources and continue going hat-in-hand to countries like Saudi Arabia and Brazil to beg them to produce more oil," Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) said in a statement shortly after Obama announced the partnership. "We need to get serious about developing our resources here at home and working toward lower gas prices and long-term energy independence."

The White House said Friday that DOE Deputy Secretary Daniel Poneman will unveil the "U.S.-Brazil Strategic Energy Dialogue" in Brasília, Brazil, on Aug. 17. A number of Obama administration officials will join Poneman on the trip, including officials from the State Department, Commerce Department and the U.S. Trade and Development Agency.

Before officially launching the partnership, Poneman will meet with Brazilian officials and stakeholders in Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, according to the White House.

The White House said Friday the energy dialogue "will address our mutual interest in the development of safe, secure and affordable energy in an environmentally sound way, including oil, natural gas, biofuels, clean energy, and civilian nuclear energy."

It's not the first time Republicans have criticized the administration for its oil dealings with Brazil. Republicans railed against a 2009 proposed $2 billion commitment from the U.S. Export-Import Bank to the Brazilian oil company Petrobras to ensure the purchase of U.S. goods as the company explores for oil.

But the Export-Import Bank said the Petrobras proposal could result in 16,000 U.S. jobs.

"With emerging markets in many areas of the globe, including Latin America, efforts by other nations to help their companies obtain export financing is growing," the agency says on its website. "Therefore, when companies, like Petrobras, are in need of high-quality products and services, Ex-Im Bank increases the opportunities for U.S. businesses to win the contracts instead of their competitors around the world."


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