S.D. may turn into a mecca for energy
3 major conferences scheduled here in May
Wednesday, February 16, 2000
By Dean Calbreath, Staff Writer
San Diego is preparing to host a pair of major international conferences aimed at expediting trade in the energy sector throughout the Pacific Rim and Latin America.
From May 10-12, U.S. Energy Secretary Bill Richardson announced yesterday, San Diego will host the energy ministers of the Asian-Pacific Economic Cooperation, or APEC — a group of 21 countries throughout the Pacific Rim.
From May 15.16, La Jolla's Institute of the Americas will host Energy 2000, bringing together energy officials from throughout Central and South America.
Together with the U.S. Department of Energy's Clean Cities Conference, scheduled to take place here May 7-10, the conferences should briefly turn San Diego into a mecca for policy wonks, utility moguls and environmentalists — and a forum for the U.S. government, which wants more access to foreign energy.
The APEC meeting in particular is designed to "break down barriers to trade and development," said Richardson, who joined Mayor Susan Golding by phone to make the announcement.
The controversy over high oil prices may come up at the meeting. Even though that's not the focus, APEC's members include Russia, the world's second-largest producer after Saudi Arabia; Mexico, among the top five; and China, which estimates that there could be as much as 105 billion barrels of oil in one of its untapped fields.
In addition, the close proximity of dates between the APEC meeting and the Institute of the Americas conference — which has taken place in La Jolla annually for the past nine years — will allow Clinton administration officials and congressional representatives to hang out for a while and talk to energy ministers of such oil-rich, cash-poor economies as Guatemala and Trinidad & Tobago.
Although the APEC meeting will broach the need for clean energy, a major thrust for the Clinton administration will be trying to open up foreign markets to U.S. investment.
"This meeting will be in line with our trying to expand liberalization, privatization, transparency and regional integration of trade," Richardson said.
Besides drawing bureaucrats from APEC's member nations, the conference will also draw hundreds of executives from energy production, service and supply companies, bringing the estimated crowd to around 500 attendees.
Sempra Energy, which was in on the ground floor of the city's lobbying efforts to attract the conference, is particularly pleased, since the conference will give it a home-court advantage. "We're delighted," said spokesman Ed Van Herik, who added that Sempra will be "helping the city host the conference" — although details are still being worked out.
This is the first time an APEC energy conference has been held in the United States. The last time such a free-trade oriented conference made its debut on U.S. soil was the World Trade Organization meeting in Seattle last November, which sparked massive street protests that shut down the city. San Diego had been in the running to host that conference.
Mayor Golding, who witnessed the Seattle riots first-hand, doubts that APEC will create a similar stir.
"There haven't been any problems at previous APEC meetings," she said.
Besides, she insisted, San Diego — which stands to generate an estimated $1.3 million in revenues because of the conference — is better prepared than Seattle was.
"Our Police Department learns constantly by watching what happens in other cities," she said.
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Source: The San Diego Union-Tribune