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Published: November 19, 2007 

RIO DE JANEIRO, Nov. 17 — With the price of oil hovering near $100 a barrel, the discovery of the biggest deep-water oil field off the southeastern coast has the potential to transform Brazil into a global energy powerhouse and to reshape the politics of this energy-starved continent.

While Brazil's state oil company, Petrobras, has known of the field for more than a year, it only finished assessing its full potential in recent months. It announced on Nov. 8 that the field held some five billion to eight billion barrels of crude oil and natural gas.

The announcement has everyone in the region, and beyond, taking notice. A field that size — the biggest in the world since a discovery in Kazakhstan in 2000 — is a potential political game-changer for Brazil.


Mr. da Silva basked in the sudden possibilities, declaring that "Brazil would obviously participate in OPEC," the global oil cartel, and already felt free enough to weigh in on its politics, saying that the organization should reduce oil prices.

He also insisted that Brazil would not "pull back even one millimeter" from its push into biofuels. Brazil is sitting on the most abundant farmland in the world, which it has been using a part of to produce sugar cane for ethanol.