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Mar para Bolivia, gas para Chile (en The Economist) mayo 17, 2007

Posted by surcos in Opiniones.
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De The Economist de mañana viernes. A propósito de propuestas simples, directas y que requieran imaginación política.: Gas por mar.

Si hoy en Europa la UE es capaz de unir a países que estuvieron en guerra hasta hace 20 años (la guerra fría), me parece francamente cobarde y narrow-minded sugerir que Chile y Bolivia no pueden superar sus problemas. Gas por mar de una vez y de ahí a pensar en como hacer de Chile un país desarrollado (donde funcionen las micros, donde no se envenen los habitantes de Santiago, donde los niños aprendan en las escuelas, donde los adultos adquieran herramientas para ser mas productivos, donde los viejos tengan una vida digna, donde todos vivamos más y mejor). It’s not that difficult. However, it does take some imagination, and guts. Gas por mar de una buena vez.

Pato Navia
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Energy policy in Chile
Praying for rain
May 17th 2007 | SANTIAGO
From The Economist print edition

A dash for gas gives way to a proposed return to big dams

Pristine Aysén awaits the pylonsFOR much of the past two decades, Chile’s economy has been the most successful in Latin America. But it has an Achilles heel: energy. Apart from some coal and abundant hydroelectricity, Chile has almost no conventional energy sources. Its neighbours have not proved to be reliable suppliers. The upshot is that, unless the country enjoys a wet southern-hemisphere winter, by next year it could face energy shortages.

A decade ago Chileans thought they had found the solution: import natural gas from Argentina (see chart). But in the wake of a devaluation in 2002, Argentina’s government imposed price controls on gas suppliers. Demand soared, supply fell and two years later the government cut exports to Chile. Further cuts have followed.

According to Marcelo Tokman, Chile’s energy minister, Argentina has promised to maintain exports at a level sufficient to cover household use of natural gas in Chile’s main cities. If it doesn’t, residents may be facing cold showers; plans for a third propane plant in Santiago risk being held up by planning objections.

There is no such promise for industrial users and the electricity industry. What worries officials is what might happen in 2008 if Argentina were to make further cuts in gas exports and if lack of rain cut hydroelectric output. The government is making it easier to install small-scale diesel generators as a stop-gap.

Some of the worries should ease by 2009. By then a terminal for the import of liquefied natural gas (LNG), being built by a consortium headed by Britain’s BG Group, is due to start up. But this may not be the answer for the 7,000MW of new generating capacity that Chile needs to keep pace with the estimated growth of demand over the next decade. At current LNG prices, new gas plants would not be profitable unless they were part of a co-generation project that could also sell steam to an industrial client, says Bernardo Larraín of Colbún, an electricity generator.

There is plenty of natural gas in neighbouring Bolivia. That would be especially handy for the big copper mines in Chile’s north. But Bolivians still resent Chile’s seizure of its coastline in a 19th-century war. Their government refuses to contemplate exporting gas to Chile (though a planned new pipeline from Bolivia to Buenos Aires might allow Argentina to increase exports in the future). So managers at the mines, whose energy costs have risen by up to 50% in two years, are studying coal-fired power plants.

Many energy experts say that more investment in hydroelectricity is the only way to meet future demand. Colbún, in association with Spain’s Endesa, is promoting a $2.4 billion project to build four hydroelectric dams, with a total capacity of 2,430MW, in the Aysén region in the far south where rainfall is abundant.

But Aysén is a still-pristine area of fjord and forest. Environmentalists are gearing up to oppose the project. “We can’t afford to rule it out without having alternatives,” says Mr Tokman. Rising energy costs shaved at least 0.2 percentage points from economic growth last year, according to the Central Bank. Chile will soon face a conflict between promoting economic growth and protecting the environment.

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