Tags: Latin | America | Eyes | U.S. | Energy | Market

Latin America Eyes U.S. Energy Market

Tuesday, 22 May 2001 12:00 AM

At a time when most Latin American nations are seeking to expand their energy infrastructures as a means of supporting overall economic development at home, the long-standing idea of forging a regional market for power and natural gas among the hemisphere's Spanish-speaking nations may now include the cutting in of U.S. consumers.

"We have plenty of gas that we need to find a home for," offered Bolivian Energy Minister Carlos Alberto Contreras Monday as he outlined his country's ambitious plans to exploit plentiful gas reserves and a limited amount of demand.

Bolivia and its next-door neighbor, Peru, have visions of becoming the major suppliers of gas to all of South America, although the current U.S. supply squeeze now has Latin America seeing green pastures to the north as well.

Mexico's energy minister, Ernesto Martens, said his country was capable of selling additional volumes of power generated in Baja California into the burgeoning California market, but a lack of transmission capacity is the major stumbling block limiting the opportunity.

"The ability to ship more is limited," Martens lamented to an audience of government and industry officials at the annual Institute of the Americas Latin America energy conference. "But the problem is not on the Mexican side, but in California."

California's electricity squeeze has been largely fueled by higher prices for the natural gas used to run most of the state's power plants. U.S. energy companies have already been racing ahead with plans, however, to expand pipelines linking California to the gas reserves of New Mexico and Texas.

Bolivia, also looking into getting in on the market, is looking into entering the lucrative California territory from the sea in the form of developing a liquefied natural gas trade in which some of the plentiful Bolivian reserves are cooled to liquid form, shipped by tanker to a proposed plant to be built somewhere on the Baja coast where it would then be turned back to a gaseous state and piped across the border into energy-hungry Southern California.

Although the expense of shipping liquefied gas all the way from South America would appear to be too high to compete with domestic gas, Contreras assured the audience that the numbers, although unspecified in typical oil industry fashion, would work.

"We can reach these (U.S.) markets with a good price value," Contreras said. "It can come into the California market very competitively."

Bolivia is one of several Latin American nations with much riding on its energy reserves as it seeks to parlay natural resources into future economic development.

"If we don't do something with those resources, we won't have the (financial) resources to develop our infrastructure," said Contreras. "Our motto is to do anything we need to do to get there."

Copyright 2001 by United Press International. All rights reserved.

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At a time when most Latin American nations are seeking to expand their energy infrastructures as a means of supporting overall economic development at home, the long-standing idea of forging a regional market for power and natural gas among the hemisphere's...
Latin,America,Eyes,U.S.,Energy,Market
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2001-00-22
Tuesday, 22 May 2001 12:00 AM
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