There is no good side in any war. This should be very clear on the first page of the book. In the second, we can discuss the details. One of them is the fact that the Russian invasion of Ukraine gave the world a certain incentive to look for other types of energy besides oil. That was going to happen anyway, according to many analysts. But now to get rid of Russia, we see ourselves speeding up the processes of replacing oil.
It will be, in a way, like the pandemic, which pushed a process that was already happening: the construction of more adapted and flexible forms of work relationships, such as the Home Office, for example. Today, the new labor relations have proved to be irreversible not only in the United States – where the process took place in a more radical way and there are already well-articulated resistance movements on the part of workers who, in many cases, refuse to go back to forms of pre-pandemic work – but also in Brazil. With the whole world accelerating the modernization process for electric cars, or things like that, we are left with the question that has been troubling us for a while: what will become of Petrobras?
At least since the Temer government, we have been unsure which path Petrobras is going to take and how this affects the price of gasoline. Economists point to a distinction: on one side you have Petrobras, a large national company with its own technology, which values it in the eyes of investors around the world. What to do with her? Nationalize or privatize? On the other hand, in a more conjunctural way, and according to the heat of the moment, we have the price of gasoline and diesel.
The price of a barrel of oil explored by Petrobras – one of the very few companies in the world that has enough technology to extract oil from the high seas, by the way – is quoted in dollars. This means that, even though Brazil has the Pre-Salt, and even though the construction of refineries to achieve self-sufficiency not only in oil, but in gasoline and diesel, it is not a great difficulty for us, even so, according to the current paradigm, the price we are going to pay for fuel is also linked to the dollar. The company fixed this in order to attract investments more quickly, increasing shareholders who buy shares immediately, because the peg to the dollar allows for short-term profits.
In other words, if the company maximizes profits because it starts selling barrels of oil at the dollar rate, it will attract these shareholders, and thus increase the company’s capital. It turns out that, in this way, the company actually increases its capital and becomes the most competitive in the market, but it does not care about the Brazilian people, which is why it was created in the past by Vargas. It is worth remembering the slogan: “the oil is ours!”. Today, it is no more.
It is a fact that a good part of the shares belong to the Union. The problem is that, even if the Union’s profits are also maximized, which represent almost 40% of the company’s shares, when the dollar is high, because of reasons such as the war in Ukraine, for example, gasoline and diesel also get on the bombs. As our transport of goods is entirely based on diesel, the result is inflation, because this increase is built into the products by companies. It is the poorest population who pays the bill, and consequently faces more difficulties. There are currently several projects to temporarily solve this problem. The most evident are those of the Bolsonaro government and the PT’s.
The project of the current administration is simply to eliminate the tax on gasoline and diesel. It is a crude solution, considering that the tax on gasoline and diesel represents a good part of the revenue of the States that, at least theoretically, would revert this money to public policies. With this money, state governments build schools, hospitals and, in general, invest in improving the quality of life for their populations. Apparently the price of gasoline and diesel are actually cheaper at the pump, but the citizen is left without a place for his child at school, without assistance in hospitals, anyway… would be able to implement the policies they should.
The PT’s proposal, by the party’s congressmen, seems somewhat unofficial. It foresees the momentary creation of a fund, which would come from Petrobras itself. The company would have to save money and, having that money saved, subsidize the prices of gasoline and diesel at the pump for the people, but it would leave the dollar price of a barrel of oil, to continue attracting investors. This, if well explained to shareholders, can lead them to understand that, in this way, Petrobras remains a company that grows, beyond the discussions of nationalizing or privatizing that always arise when gasoline becomes expensive. But whether the PT would put this into practice, nobody knows…
What we do know is that we need, as a society, to debate this issue in a more complex way. It is no longer possible to pay the high price of gasoline, while Petrobras proposes to pay more than R$27 million in salaries and bonuses to the board.