PREPARED REMARKS FOR
U.S. SECRETARY OF ENERGY BILL RICHARDSON
HEMISPHERIC ENERGY MINISTERlAL CONFERENCE
OPENING PLENARY
JULY 29,1999
NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA

Thank you, and welcome to this historic conference we're holding here in New Orleans. Today we will have an unprecedented level of public - private dialogue on hemispheric energy issues. Ministers and high level representatives from across the hemisphere are here. Scores of the Hemisphere's top companies are with us and nearly 500 representatives of the international community. We are privileged to have President Menem of Argentina and Vice President Quiroga of Bolivia as honored guests and speakers. Tomorrow, we will hold the fourth meeting of energy ministers since the Miami Summit in 1994 and we have a memorable program of hospitality and entertainment provided by Mayor Marc Morial and the city of New Orleans. Let me welcome you all.

I also want to welcome the "E-diplomats, who are accessing the conference electronically via the World Wide Web. The Department of Energy is working with Florida International University to, broadcast the proceedings to countless viewers over the internet --live.

We have a great opportunity this week to increase investment, introduce advanced technologies throughout the Hemisphere, and address our concerns about the environment - including Global Climate Change.

Since being named Secretary of Energy, I have focused on these and other critical issues that face the Hemisphere. I have found that opportunities abound -- but we must forge the collaborations necessary to bring these opportunities to fruition.

As Energy Secretary, I have worked personally on many of these collaborations as I've traveled throughout the Hemisphere: to Mexico, Guatemala, and Venezuela. I went to Colombia to talk about the huge opportunities for new investment there; and I joined President Clinton in a Central American tour to examine the damage from Hurricane Mitch. During that trip, we identified areas of cooperation to help repair the damage the hurricane had wrought, and ways to he1p create a sustainable energy future.

And I have some good news that just emerged late last week. The World Bank has just approved a project between the Department of Energy and an alliance of electricity producers in ten South American countries.

This project - slated to begin in September - will promote expanded cross-border electricity connections and will help to dramatically expand our work in bringing the power to the people.

Today's conference will be all about our cooperative work, and opportunities like the one I just mentioned. We're going to go sector by sector to look closely for the most sensible approaches to promoting energy development in the hemisphere for all the countries involved.

After all, as the nations of the Hemisphere, we have similar goals: promoting the prosperity of our nations, ensuring that our economies have plentiful, reliable sources of energy and power, and accelerating economic development through investment. We have similar views on the path to get there. We are also all looking to promote energy security, system reliability, and energy efficiency. And -- as the theme of this plenary reflects -- how we can attract investment for a clean energy future.

To these common ends, we should pool our knowledge to find the solutions that benefit all of us.

Now, one of our top priorities should be to get the private sector more involved in the Hemispheric Energy Initiative process. I know that some of our greatest private sector allies from across the hemisphere are here this week, so I think that we have a landmark opportunity here.

It's obvious that we need each other. The corporate sector has the capital, technology and innovation we need to develop the energy sector. Conversely, the countries of the Hemisphere have enormous opportunity here to attract that capital and that technology -- and there is a great opportunity for companies in the region to export both.

Now, I have some very special guests to introduce.

During his tenure I have gotten to know our next speaker very well. He's a man of great integrity and intelligence. I have been impressed over the last few years by Venezuela's ambitious plans to open its oil sector to international investment - the "Apertura" I know my friend Ali Rodriguez is committed to expanding opportunities in other sectors as well.

I have the great distinction of introducing my counterpart from that great nation, the current co-chair of the Hemispheric Energy Initiative - Minister Ali Rodriguez Araque. Minister Rodríguez?

Thank you, Minister Rodriguez.

Also since starting my job as Secretary, I've been to Mexico -- my old home -- several times. Luis Tellez has become a close friend. I know him to be a man of integrity and courage. His commitment to moving Mexico in the right direction in electricity, natural gas and energy efficiency makes him an energy leader for the 21st Century.

And now, I have the further pleasure in introducing my colleague, Secretary Luis Tellez Kuenzler of Mexico. Secretary Tellez, I trust that you will excuse me as I need to step away to greet President Menem. Secretary Tellez?

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