LA JOLLA – Thirty speakers representing US and Latin American governments, international financial institutions, international corporations, national oil companies, think tanks and consultants highlighted the 20th Annual La Jolla Latin American Energy Conference on May 16-18.
In opening the conference, Institute President Jeffrey Davidow noted that the energy scene in this hemisphere has been marked in recent years by the emergence of new issues which have led to a constantly changing dynamic.
The impact of China’s need for energy resources, the potential for Cuban oil and gas, Brazil’s energy self-sufficiency and coming role as an oil exporter, and the impact of unconventional methods for exploiting the region’s natural gas reserves — all topics barely acknowledged just a few years ago — were featured at the center of this year’s conference.
As always, a hallmark of the La Jolla event was the easy exchange of views in question and answer sessions, in corridor discussions and in networking appointments which the Institute assisted in organizing. Peruvian Minister of Energy and Mines Pedro Sanchez; President and CEO of the Banco de Desarollo de America Latina (CAF) Enrique Garcia; U.S. Assistant Secretary of Energy David Sandalow; Senior Advisor to the President of Petrobras Andre Ghirardi; President of Basic Energy Rolando Gonzalez-Bunster; Mexican Vice Minister ofEnergy Sergio Alcocer; and the Chief of the IDB’s Energy Division Leandro Alves were among the featured speakers.
The increasing importance of Latin America and the Caribbean as both a producer and user of energy and the implications for world markets were central to nearly all of the presentations. This year’s conference dedicated an afternoon to China’s involvement with a panel chaired by Enrique Garcia which included Wu Guoping and Zhang Fan of the Institute of Latin America Studies of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, Zhang Binquan of China’s Guodian Corporation — one of China’s five largest electricity producers — who expressed interest in joint enterprises in the Western Hemisphere; and Erik Bethel, an expert on China-Latin American investment, of SinoLatin Capital. The evolution and success of fracking – a method for prying hitherto hard to obtain gas reserves from the ground – was noted by many speakers as offering important new energy possibilities for South America, particularly Argentina. If Argentina were able to harness this potential appropriately, the impact on its own economy and those of its neighbors, notably Chile, Brazil, and Bolivia could be significant.