Brazil Oil Auction

A man protests Thursday in Rio de Janeiro against the Brazilian government’s attempt to auction off four oil fields located near one of the nation’s biggest coral reef systems.

RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — The Brazilian government has failed to auction four oil fields located near one of the nation’s biggest coral reef systems.

Seventeen companies participated in the 36-block auction held Thursday by the Brazilian Petroleum Agency, which auctioned off a third of the areas for more than $2 billion.

But after possible exploration caused worry among some environmental authorities and organizations, none of the companies submitted offers for the four fields off the coast of the northeastern state of Bahia.

The fields lie some 81 miles from the Abrolhos Marine National Park, which is home to rare coral formations.

Adriano Pires, an oil industry analyst, told The Associated Press that companies refrained from bidding for the fields because they “didn’t want to get themselves in the middle of an environmental mess.”

In a report last March, Brazil’s environmental regulator warned an accidental oil spill could “in a short period of time reach areas with endemic and threatened species, as well as sites where turtles and marine mammals reproduce.”

On Thursday, a small group of activists gathered outside the hotel where the auction was being held and staged a performance highlighting the impact of an oil spill on marine life. Some carried a banner that said, “Oceans without oil.”

Concern about the direction of environmental policy under Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro has increased this year as large fires raged in the Amazon. Bolsonaro has often said that environmental protections should not block business, and before taking office Jan. 1, he suggested pulling Brazil from the Paris agreement on climate change. He has since backpedaled and kept Brazil in the accord.

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