Friday, June 17, 2005

Mexico eager to beat US in LNG race

Scared off by NIMBY homeowners and vocal environmentalists, many companies looking to import liquefied natural gas to the West Coast are bypassing California and making a run for the border. And Mexico seems willing to take them:

The same week of the Long Beach vote, Mexico's energy ministry disclosed that Spanish energy giant Repsol YPF had proposed building a natural-gas terminal in the port city of Lazaro Cardenas — one of half a dozen such projects moving forward along Mexico's Pacific and Gulf coasts.

"Assuring a sufficient supply of energy with international standards of quality and competitive prices is the first strategic objective of the Mexican government's energy sector," said Carlos Garza Ibarra, Mexico's energy undersecretary.

Coastal natural-gas terminals, he said, are a key to the country's efforts to guarantee future supply "without pressuring the North American market, which is already at a deficit."

The public opposition that has stopped several California projects is present to some degree in Mexico, with many Baja Californians having raised concerns that echo those being heard in Long Beach.

But such protests have generally been trumped by a judicial system deferential to federal authorities, who are pushing imports of natural gas in liquefied form as an answer to the country's pressing need for the fuel.

What local opponents of LNG do not realize is that by delaying or blocking projects in California--where tough safety and environmental regulations and enforcement will guarantee clean and safe projects--they are pushing the development to Mexico, where environmental standards are lower and the risks of an environmental catastophe will be greater. But heck, it won't be in their back yards!