1 PUBLIC POLICY PERSPECTIVE No Houston, July 23, 2012 PUBLIC POLICY PERSPECTIVES are issued periodically, in English or in Spanish, as a public service with the aim of inviting fresh discussion of matters of politics, law, policy, regulation and corporate governance. This document was prepared to provide background on the murky role in Mexican national and local elections of LPG interests. LPG INTERESTS AND THE ELECTIONS Notes on Mexican Presidential Cycles T HE LPG LOBBY has long been seen as one of the major sources of campaign financing for all major political parties. Because the LPG business model is based on cash transactions, in recent years suspicions of money laundering have been voiced, but not yet documented in the courts or in press reports. The blood relationship, close or distant, between the contested winner of the 2012 presidential election and the Nieto family based LPG conglomerate based in Querétaro has not been established in the public record. What is known is that Atlacomulco, the birth place of the PRI candidate, is associated with the political dynasty of the late Carlos Hank González, who in decades of public service, made his fortune with Pemex by means of trucking contracts for the delivery of petroleum products, principally gasoline and LPG. The present document reissues our earlier report of 2005 (No. 694), which examined the shadowy market structure of LPG distribution in Mexico. That report argues that the full cycle economics of natural gas are much more competitive than those of LPG; but concludes that the LPG enclave will not soon be challenged by elected public officials whose campaigns were financed with funds from LPG lobbyists and affiliated laundromats. MEXICO ENERGY INTELLIGENCE (MEI) is a commercial and policy advisory service offered by BAKER & ASSOCIATES, ENERGY CONSULTANTS, a management consultancy based in Houston. MEI reports facilitate two way communication between Mexican public and private institutions and the global environment. Our reports examine policy, institutional and cultural issues as they affect the operating environment, energy regulation, and government and private investment in Mexico s energy sector. Reports are distributed principally on a subscription basis. P.O. Box ~ Houston, TX (713)
2 APPENDICES Document A. Introduction to family-held LPG business practices Table 1. LPG market statistics (bilingual) Table 2. Controversial LPG business practices (press titles) Table 3. LPG and natural gas safety concerns (press titles) Table 4. Gas LDC concerns (press titles) Table 5 LPG federal standards (list) Table 6 LPG websites Table 7 Costos y riesgos del servicio de gas natural Table 8 Costos y riesgos del servicio de gas LP Fig. 1 Residential natural gas service: diagram of cost elements Fig. 2 Componentes del costo del servicio doméstico de gas natural Fig. 3 Residential LPG service: diagram of cost elements Fig. 4 Componentes del costo del servicio doméstico de gas LP Related reports Product notes and disclaimer
3 Mexico Energy Intelligence Analyst Report p. 2 Jun 23, 2005 This report inquires into the total cost of service of LPG and natural gas for residential and commercial customers in Mexico, t aking into account cost s and risks for the customers and communities beyond those of the regulated prices for each product. Example: consumer fraud in LPG cylinder service has been estimated at US$500 million annually. This report identifies components of costs and risk for both LPG and natural gas service. Translated titles from the Mexican press provide a glimp se into developments in the Fox administration. INTRODUCTION Any comparative discussion of the business models and operations of LPG distributors and local natural gas companies (gas LDCs) in Mexico must begin with an examination of the LPG business in most of Mexico as if it existed without competition from natural gas. In 2002 LPG distributors handled upwards of 27 million metric tons annually, equivalent to about 330,000 b/d of product. In 2005 industry estimates put the LPG market value at US$7.1 billion (Table 1). But the LPG market in some of it s dimensions is tightly controlled by the government: foreign investment is not allowed; imports and wholesale transactions are managed by Pemex; and ret ail prices and sales commissions--af ter a brief, but unsuccessful, experiment with liberalization--are administered by public of ficials. LPG trade associations Little systematic knowledge exist s in the public domain, but in a country that prides itself on umbrella organizations it is an arresting fact that there are two trade associations of LPG distributors: one is the "National" (Asocigas), composed of the major companies, the other is the "Mexican" (Asocimex), composed of smaller and medium-sized companies. The leader of the first is Francisco Aparicio Varela, and the second Enrique Arizmendi. Both organizations have elegant websites (Asocimex has harp music on its homepage) and each is said to have a history that goes back fif ty years. Neither site provides a list of its members, but the "National" does give the names of it s board of directors as of May Estimates by Asocigas put the top 10 LPG conglomerates as controlling 75% of the national market. MEI (713) Baker & Associates, Energy Consultants. All rights reserved.
4 Mexico Energy Intelligence Analyst Report p. 3 Jun 23, 2005 A review of the Mexican press since 2001 hint s at points of difference: The "Mexican" complains that in some market s in the country the "National" is trying to drive it s members out of business by unfair competition. There are also points of similarity: both organizations want the government to decontrol the pricing of LPG, especially, they say, if the government is serious about it s plans to replace all 24 million port able cylinders in the country by the end of Natural gas trade association As late as 1991 in Mexico a dat abase search of the term "gas" in all of federal jurisprudence, as published in the Federal Registry (DOF), the few result s pertained only to LPG. There were no regulations whatsoever relating to natural gas, even though natural gas distribution systems existed in Mexico, all of which, but a few, were run by the State, either by Pemex or CFE. Two examples of natural gas distribution systems of those years were Diganamex and Diganaqro, corresponding to the est ablished market pockets in Mexico City (the famed Tlaltelolco housing complex was one) and Querétaro. Pemex really controlled the business, but it s day-to-day operations were, in practice, in private hands. Jorge Rebolledo, Sr., was the director general of both of these natural gas distribution comp anies (LDCs). His son, Jorge Rebolledo, Jr., is president of the Mexican Natural Gas Association (AMGN), an organization founded in the mid-1990s that has it s offices in the corporate headquarters of Grupo Diavaz on Ave. Revolución in Mexico City. In 1996 the government began a vigorous effort, led by Héctor Olea, then president of the CRE, to attract private investors to government auctions of natural gas distribution franchises. In the next five years some 15 franchises were awarded: the leading international companies were Sempra, Rep sol, GDF, Tractebel, representing American, Spanish, French and Belgian interest s. (Another American company, Kinder-Morgan, would come to have a small gas LDC in Hermosillo.) But things did not go as well as expected from the perspective of the gas LDCs: where the federal government supported investment by international comp anies in local infrastructure, local city government s often opposed it. (The PRD-controlled Mexico City government has been critical of the operations of natural gas distributors in the city, and especially so of Gas Natural México.) Neither the government nor the companies apparently expected the fierce competition from the LPG distributors. A sharp, private exchange of views took place in the energy ministry in mid-july 2004, with representatives of the natural gas, LPG and electric industries; but the point s of discussion made public were limited government pricing policies, whereas the point s MEI (713) Baker & Associates, Energy Consultants. All rights reserved.
5 Mexico Energy Intelligence Analyst Report p. 4 Jun 23, 2005 of disagreement extend far beyond pricing issues. Cultural and political importance of LPG market in Mexico In the United States, the word "gas" in ordinary conversation is universally understood to refer to gasoline. In Mexico, in contrast, the term "gas" almost universally refers LPG, where it is the fuel of choice in nine out of ten homes (estimated at 89.5 million in 2004). Where, in the United States, LPG usage is mainly associated with rural areas that do not have access to natural gas service. In Mexico, in contrast, out side of a few urban pockets where there fewer than two dozen natural gas franchises operate, LPG operators control the market. The AMGN in 2004 estimated that there were 1.6 million natural gas residential customers. In the early 1990s Jorge Rebolledo, Sr., observed wryly that few of his natural gas customers realized that they were receiving natural gas service. "They think we have a huge LPG storage t ank somewhere--underground, I suppose," he would say with a twinkle in his eye. Where, since 1995, the limited opening of the natural gas market- -in storage, transportation, distribution and trade --has been the object of federal energy policy; in relation to LPG, the market is closed except to Mexicans. A few voices in Mexico from time to time speak out in favor of market liberalization, but without ef fect. The general sensation is that the LPG market in Mexico, it s structure, principal actors and real economics, are topics that are not on the t able for inquiry by journalist s or industry analysts. (Document A provides a sep arate introduction to this littleunderstood subject.) Purpose and expectations of this study The general question that we are trying to frame in this report is this: Which costs more for residential and commercial service, LPG or natural gas? (In this report we are not examining the economics or politics of these two product s in the transport ation or industrial sectors, nor are we examining progress in special topics like price controls, subsidies, policy liberalization or cylinder replacement.) In exploring the question we shall want to consider the fully burdened cost of each product, not only to the consumer but also to the neighborhood, municip ality and federal government. MEI (713) Baker & Associates, Energy Consultants. All rights reserved.
6 Mexico Energy Intelligence Analyst Report p. 5 Jun 23, 2005 Our expectation (or research hypothesis) is that LPG service cost s consumers, neighborhoods and municip alities more than natural gas service; but that, in the present configuration of public policy, the political controversies surrounding natural gas pricing and service end up costing the country more than would have been the case with LPG. In other words, we expect that, if indirect costs and risks are taken into account, several unexpected outcomes will emerge: LPG service will be more expensive than natural gas service, both for the consumer, the neighborhood and the municipality. The structure and dynamics of the LPG market in Mexico obey archaic models of crony capitalism and the informal market and are inconsistent with the modern, formal market of natural gas distribution that the federal government has--with only limited dedication and success--promoted since The perseverance of these archaic business models in federal policy put s at risk present and future investments in natural gas distribution by international comp anies. BACKGROUND Market, pricing and regulatory controversies LPG LPG distributors in 2001 saw the government t ake control of retail prices; their efforts to date to have the prices liberalized have come to naught. Distributors say that without higher commissions they will be unable to replace the 24 million port able cylinders currently in use throughout the country. Early in the Fox administration there was an attempt to t ax LPG for vehicle use, to make it roughly equivalent to gasoline; LPG distributors complained loudly about this idea. Gasoline distributors, understandably, make the opposite argument, saying that LPG is being given a subsidy. LPG distributors have also had to face complaint s from federal authorities about allegations of consumer fraud, safety and environment al issues (T ables 2 and 3 provide glimpses into the coverage of these topics in the Mexican press: Spanish titles are translated into English; the original titles are available on request.) MEI (713) Baker & Associates, Energy Consultants. All rights reserved.
7 Mexico Energy Intelligence Analyst Report p. 6 Jun 23, 2005 When in the spring of 2005 the uproar took place in Monterrey and other cities about the high price of natural gas, LPG distributors and even lawmakers tried various means to convince the public to return to LPG service. Natural gas The fundamental problem that natural gas distributors have had to face is the lack of coordination between federal and municip al authorities in relation to natural gas franchises and permits. It is the federal government that provides the franchise, but all of the dirty work (literally) of digging trenches, tearing up sidewalks and laying pipe requires permits of local authorities. In some cases, prompted by LPG distributors (or so gas LDCs suspect), local authorities have been quick--too quick--to apply sanctions against the gas LDCs for real and imagined violations of safety codes and commercial practices. The circus of popular protest s that took place in Monterrey in the spring of 2005 that resulted in higher consumer prices was an opportunity for everyone af fected by the price increases to convert a regulatory issue into a populist cause. Table 4 gives only a hint of the frustration that gas LDCs have experienced by what they regard as unfair competition by LPG distributors and the indif ference of federal authorities. Regulation Any commercial activity in Mexico will be regulated by a dozen or more federal agencies, especially so in the case of a ubiquitous product like LPG. There are, for example, laws and regulations concerning the manufacturing and testing of LPG containers (Table 5 lists federal standards relating to LPG.) We mention only a few of the regulators and agencies responsible for policy and public oversight. Energy Ministry (SENER) There is a General Office of LPG Affairs in the Energy Ministry. One of the topics taken up by this of fice during the Fox administration is a program to replace used (and possibly) leaking LPG cylinders throughout the country. There is an Inter-ministerial Committee on LPG on which there are represent atives of the energy, economy and finance ministries, also representatives from the Office of the President, that monitors pricing policies. On March 13, 2001 (four months after the Fox term began) the government put in place price controls for LPG. A program was created in that year to replace all of the 23.5 MEI (713) Baker & Associates, Energy Consultants. All rights reserved.
8 Mexico Energy Intelligence Analyst Report p. 7 Jun 23, 2005 million portable LPG cylinders (20 and 40 kg.) in Mexico by Dec CRE The primary responsibility of the Energy Regulatory Commission is the regulation of natural gas prices and the administration of tenders for new distribution franchises. The Commission has also been tasked for developing a methodology for LPG pricing. Profeco The Consumer Protection Agency has taken a proactive role in investigating incident s of consumer fraud in LPG distribution. Its website also posts a discussion of differences of LPG and natural gas, including a table related to health and safety (Table 2 gives the safety comparisons.) CFC The Federal Competition Commission reportedly has opened a half-dozen investigations about alleged market abuses in LPG market s. The website post s a number of routine documents having to do with mergers of LPG comp anies. Trade Organizations As mentioned, there are two main trade organizations for LPG distributors, the "National" association (ASOCIAGAS) and the "Mexican" association (ASOCIMEX). The history of these two organizations is not public information, nor are the bases for the choice of membership in the one or the other. ASOCIGAS, better financed, is a member of the World LP Gas Association (WORLDLPGAS.COM). In addition, there is an association of truckers (CANCAR). (Table 6 lists websites relating to LPG in Mexico.) In addition there is an association of manufacturers of LPG cylinders (Asociación Mexicana de Fabricantes de Recipientes de Gas). Reportedly (but without a website) there is a regional association of LPG distributors (Cámara Regional de Gas LP), to which Miguel Zaragoza and six other comp anies belong. Market size and segments TOTAL SALES IN LPG Mexico in 2003 was ranked highest in LPG consumption per capita, with 83 kilograms. In 1995 the residential sector represented 78% of the tot al LPG market, but, in 2003, this sector had shrunk to 64%. Vehicle use in the first year was only 2% but by 2003 it had grown to 13%. LPG sales are concentrated in the central st ates, where, in 2003, nearly 40% of the national demand was found; the growth rate here has been observed MEI (713) Baker & Associates, Energy Consultants. All rights reserved.
9 Mexico Energy Intelligence Analyst Report p. 8 Jun 23, 2005 at 3.6%, while, in the northeast, where there is a strong natural gas culture, the demand for LPG has grown at 1.8%, about half. Every day there are some 800,000 deliveries of LPG port able cylinders and resupply to 200,000 st ationary tanks. The industry has a vehicle fleet of nearly 30,000 ret ail (local) and long-haul trucks. Private LPG companies operate 1,200 storage facilities. The industry generates some 60,000 direct jobs (Table 1 provides industry statistics.) RESIDENTIAL AND COMMERCIAL SECTOR Some 80% of Mexican homes and businesses rely on LPG service for heating. Statistics on the distribution of regional market s are provided in the 10-year forecast published by the Energy Ministry. TRANSPORTATION USE In 2001 there were some 700,000 LPG vehicles, with 1,800 service st ations. In the Mexico City some 37,000 service vehicles use LPG in a market area where there are 11 service stations in the S tate of Mexico and 4 in the Federal District. In July 2001 there were 40 members of ASOCIMEX who were ready to invest a tot al of US$120 million adding new distribution centers in the DF. There is also an association of truckers and haulers (www.cancanar.com). Stakeholders The stakeholders in the Mexican LPG market are Pemex Refining, Pemex Gas, a halfdozen distribution conglomerates located princip ally in western, northern and northwestern states, plus several hundred small distribution comp anies in the central, eastern and southern states. In addition, there are transportation companies that serve as contractors to Pemex who deliver product from refineries to distribution terminals around the country. Pemex's PMI is the only importer of LPG. Foreign investment in LPG is tightly restricted and policy liberalization is opposed by Mexican distributors. REPORT DISCUSSION In mid-2003 a technical advisor to the two major LPG distributors told the newsp aper Reforma that consumers should consider the full range of cost s and risks associated MEI (713) Baker & Associates, Energy Consultants. All rights reserved.
10 Mexico Energy Intelligence Analyst Report p. 9 Jun 23, 2005 with natural gas before deciding to switch from LPG (July 2, 2003). Antonio Rodríguez Gaytán explained that in the case of natural gas the customer p aid an additional 0.92 pesos/m3 as a distribution cost and 55 pesos for the service. "In contrast, for more than 60 years, since the beginnings of the LPG distribution business, there is no additional cost in the sale of our product," he was quoted as having said. The expert noted that Mexico has st andards for LPG that are sometimes more strict than those found in other countries. To drive home the point he cited the situation of a hypothetical family of four in Mexico City whose home has a stove and a water heater: the family will require two refills of 30 kilograms of LPG every two months at a cost of 381 pesos. "The same family using natural gas would require 136 M3 bimonthly--plus a charge for distribution, plus a charge for the service, plus the VAT (value-added tax)--which would result in a cost of 491 pesos, that is, 28.8% higher than the family would p ay for LPG." Bravo! While the logic and the numbers might be questioned, the analytical direction is correct, and, for the purposes of comp aring the cost of LPG and natural gas, the article subtitle provides an import ant piece of information which is not provided by Pemex: the heat content of LPG: 19,026 calories. The unit of weight or volume, however, is not specified in the article, nor is it an equivalence provided by any conversion factor provided by Pemex or the Energy Ministry. There is no way to verify the comparison without, also, a value for the heat content of natural gas per cubic meter. The Ministry in its 10-year forecast for the LPG market provides a table of volumetric equivalences, with a footnote that the average density of LPG in Mexico is 0.54 kg/liter. In the Ministry's annual energy balance, the heat content of LPG (gas licuado) is given as 3,812 MJ/bbl for 2003, a value that convert s to MJ/kg and 10, kcal/kg. (In prior years, Pemex analysts have questioned the accuracy of the Ministry's estimate of the average heat content, without, however, providing one of their own.) The analysis that we wish to pursue concerns not just pricing issues, however, but broader concepts of cost and risk that lie beyond government pricing formulas. W e illustrate the idea by reference to the economics of automobile ownership. Concept of total cost of ownership In the showrooms of agencies where luxury cars are sold a commonly heard concept is "total cost of ownership." The idea is that it p ays to look not only at the purchase price of the car but to also look, comp aratively, at the sum of estimated cost s and estimated residual values in comparing vehicles for purchase. During the ownership period the cost s of maintenance, license, insurance and body MEI (713) Baker & Associates, Energy Consultants. All rights reserved.
11 Mexico Energy Intelligence Analyst Report p. 10 Jun 23, 2005 work will be higher for, say, a Mercedes SUV than for a model made by Chevrolet. At the end of the ownership period, however, it would be expected that the residual value of the Mercedes would be higher than that of the Chevrolet. Example: If the first cost $60,000 but retained 75% of its value after 5 years, the ownership cost would be the same as for a $30,000 vehicle that ret ained 50% of its value. While the cost of maintenance, insurance and the rest would be higher for the Mercedes, these costs would be counterbalanced by the value given to what dealers call "exclusivity" and what p assengers would regard as added safety and highway comfort. It is this line of reasoning that in this report we wish to apply to residential and commercial fuel options in Mexico. The idea is to examine analogous concepts to see if there is any basis for concluding that there is a greater cost of service associated with LPG or with natural gas. A second goal is to identify those cost s and risks borne by three other actors beyond the consumer, namely, the neighborhood, municipality and Mexican economy. The point, then, is that measured by the pocketbook expense of the customer, it may (or may not) be true that natural gas costs 28% more than LPG; but the costs and risks do not stop with the amount of the outlays in cash. It may be true that although in terms of cash outlays natural gas is 28% more expensive than LPG, it may also be true that when all cost and risk component s of the two services are comp ared, natural gas is 50% cheaper than LPG. Natural gas service, like the Mercedes, may be cheaper in the long run and big picture. Costs and risks of natural gas service This discussion is presented in compressed from in Fig. 1 in English and in Table 7 and Fig. 2 in Spanish. Apparent costs The consumer p ays for the cost of the methane molecule, which is valued by a methodology that makes use of reference prices in relevant markets, taken to mean the U.S. Gulf Coast (and typically Houston). There have been proposals to use a basket of natural gas prices that are enjoyed by Mexico's competitors, with the idea that such a change would lower gas prices significantly. Energy Ministry Fernando Elizondo warned in the spring of 2005 that changes in price methodology should not be expected in any time soon. MEI (713) Baker & Associates, Energy Consultants. All rights reserved.
12 Mexico Energy Intelligence Analyst Report p. 11 Jun 30, 2005 Additional costs and risks ASSUMED BY THE CUSTOMER The consumer has to assume the cost of converting household appliances like water heaters and stoves (and, in a few areas, air conditioners) from LPG to natural gas. In addition, he has to assume the cost, measured in temporary inconvenience of having his house or apartment refitted to natural gas service. There is also a risk of explosion were leaked gas to accumulate in closed sp aces. The neighborhood also assumes the cost s and temporary inconvenience associated with the tearing up of streets and sidewalks to install natural gas pipelines. ASSUMED BY THE NATURAL GAS DISTRIBUTOR Normal Costs Around-the-clock service to respond to reports of leaks, line ruptures, etc. Pipeline ruptures caused inadvertently by public works or private construction activities Atypical costs seen in Mexico Hostility of city officials, local lawmakers and the press Excessive delays in granting permits and in making inspections Harassment of company employees by paid agitators Damage to corporate image caused by negative publicity ASSUMED BY THE MUNICIPALITY Normal costs and risks In being the host to a natural gas franchise, the municipal government bears the direct costs of administering construction permits, carrying our inspections and, occasionally, hearing complaints from residents. There is also a risk of pipeline leaks and ruptures, some of which are caused inadvertently when operators of unrelated public works project s damage an underground pipeline. (Risks of ruptures from earthquakes are now low.) MEI (713) Baker & Associates, Energy Consultants. All rights reserved.
13 Mexico Energy Intelligence Analyst Report p. 12 Jun 23, 2005 Municipalities in which there are large LPG t ank farms there is the risk of a major accident, such as the explosion on Nov. 19, 1984, in a suburb of Mexico City where, as a result, there were 500 fatalities. Atypical costs seen in Mexican cities There are cost s arising from the fear and confusion in neighborhoods where the installation of natural gas service is being disputed by existing LPG distributors. There are costs arising from the delayed or canceled expansion of natural gas service in neighborhoods where resistance--and sometimes outright opposition-- to natural gas service in the community and local government has been worked up by LPG promoters. Costs generated by the effort to (false) alarms of gas leaks, when, in reality, only the gas odorizing agent (mercaptan) had been maliciously spilled into local sewers. Costs also arise from the absence in Mexico of a single governmental authority that is responsible for LPG and natural gas rules and pricing. Hence, disputes about franchises and rights are not easily resolved. Costs spring out of social agitation, when, as in the case of the mobilized natural gas customers in Monterrey in May 2005, there were marches and protest s of all kinds, which required the reassignment of police of ficers and other public officials. ASSUMED BY THE MEXICAN GOVERNMENT AND ECONOMY There are several cost categories: first, the foregone benefit s of natural gas service in communities (and entire cities) where international investors have decided that the risk/reward ratio was unfavorable to them. A related category is the discouragement of natural gas LDCs, who see in the Mexican government of ficials either an inability or unwillingness to take measures to discourage unfair practices by LPG distributors and, simultaneously, to uphold the rights of franchise-holders in their distribution areas. There is also the risk of a spill-over perception that the government cannot be trusted to provide fair investment opportunities in any area of the energy sector. The distrust of public policy in relation to investment s in natural gas service in governmentauctioned natural gas distribution franchises parallels the distrust of government policy in relation to Pemex's Multiple Service Contract s ( ), where, also, there were public tenders that received no bidders. In relation to the MSCs, Pemex gave assurances that the contract s were legal, but in one case, Rep sol, a federal court agreed in 2004 to review the legality of the basic contract; so far, only a few isolated voices have called for a review of the franchises of gas LDCs. MEI (713) Baker & Associates, Energy Consultants. All rights reserved.
14 Mexico Energy Intelligence Analyst Report p. 13 Jul 30, 2005 Costs and risks of LPG service This discussion is presented in compressed form in Fig. 3 in English and in Table 5 and Fig. 4 in Spanish. Apparent costs The official price of LPG service p aid by the customer includes at least five element s: the molecule, processing, transport ation, storage and distribution, only the first and fourth have a transp arent cost mechanism. The molecule price is determined by a methodology that links it to the Mount Belvieu market, while the distributor is given a straight sales commission (currently 5%). The cost of processing LPG in Pemex's gas plant s is not public, nor is the bidding process, identities or prices paid to jobbers or haulers who deliver product from the gas plants to distribution points. The cost of storage of LPG Pemex's distribution point s is also not public information. Additional costs and risks The tabulation of costs and risks is more complex for LPG than for natural gas. ASSUMED BY THE CUSTOMER COSTS The LPG residential or commercial customer pays in cash for the replacement cylinder or the filling of his st ationary tanks (he also p ays for the t anks and their inst allation), plus tips to the delivery men. The customer p ays in the value of the inconvenience of having to arrange for someone to be on his premises to receive the delivery of LPG. (Most single people in Mexico live in ap artments, as the building assumes responsibility for the delivery of LPG.) ASSUMED RISKS The customer assumes the risks of defective cylinders, which may result in leaks and environmental contamination. He assumes the risk of consumer fraud in the form of under-weight cylinders. He assumes the risk of the interruption of his service for not having p aid attention to MEI (713) Baker & Associates, Energy Consultants. All rights reserved.
15 Mexico Energy Intelligence Analyst Report p. 14 Jun 30, 2005 the volume of remaining gas in the cylinders or t anks. One restaurant in Mexico City p aid dearly for this oversight: On June 27, 2004, the rest aurant, Las Fuentes, which had been struggling to attract customers for months, was filled with customers who had arrived early for the protest march that would begin at 10 a.m. at the Angel Monument. The customers wanted hot coffee and breakfast, but, only at this moment, did the manager discover that the restaurant's LPG tanks were empty. Emergency service was called, but it did not arrive before dozens of unhappy customers had lef t the rest aurant, which, the following year, closed it s doors, af ter thirty years of operation. Had it had uninterrupted service that day, a new customer based might have been created. Risk of explosions in cases of leaks in sp aces without adequate ventilation. The security of the property is compromised by the entry of strangers on the premises. ASSUMED BY THE MUNICIPALITY Normal Costs As normal costs and risks, the neighborhood and municip ality assume the cost s of noise pollution and environmental contamination from two sources: cylinder leaks and vehicle emissions from delivery trucks. There is extra road use and traffic congestion associated with LPG cylinder deliveries in trucks. In allowing natural gas franchise operators to begin marketing and infrastructure operations within city limits, some city government have assumed the cost s and risks associated with the inevitable competition by LPG distributors. Atypical costs seen in Mexico Local officials receive intense lobbying from LPG agent s, and are pressured to obstruct the operations of the natural gas LDCs, by delaying city permits, for example. In late June 2005 flyers were distributed in Guadalajara neighborhoods wrongly asserting that PROFECO had declared that it was not obligatory to accept natural gas service. ASSUMED BY THE MEXICAN GOVERNMENT AND ECONOMY NORMAL RISKS Explosions in centers of LPG storage (as in "San Juanico" in 1984 in Mexico City). In some cities, such as Reynosa, the government is trying to remove Pemex's LPG storage facilities to locations outside of city limits. MEI (713) Baker & Associates, Energy Consultants. All rights reserved.
16 Mexico Energy Intelligence Analyst Report p. 15 Jun 23, 2005 Environmental contamination from the leaks of LPG cylinders. (A study a few years ago attributed a significant share of air pollution in Mexico City to this cause.) Risk of highway accidents involving LPG haulers. ATYPICAL RISKS OBSERVED IN MEXICO Resistance to a change in public policy that creates legal and commercial sp natural gas LDCs. ace for Mistrust of local and state authorities of the correctness of public policy in the areas of energy and private investment. (The social protest marches in Monterrey in May of 2005 had distinctly anti-spanish--and, by extension, anti-foreign messages.) Questions and policy choices ahead This report has mainly considered questions without answers: How much, for example, in $/BTU equivalent, did it cost Monterrey in May to have police monitor the thousands of marchers in the streets who were protesting the high cost of natural gas service? In this section we shall consider briefly several policy opportunities that could address some of these questions. Publishing the $/BTU cost-conversion factors It is unexpected that in the Energy Ministry's ten-year forecast of LPG supply and demand, there is not a heat-content conversion factor. A simple conversion engine could be posted on the SENER website. It is equally unexpected that in the Ministry's annual national energy balance the only mention in any government document of the heat content of LPG is in the unit of MJ/barrel, when commerce is conducted in BTUs, not megajoules, and when Mexican residential customers are familiar only with calories (or Kcal) as measures of heat. Restructuring Pemex Gas One of the policy questions asked throughout the Zedillo and Fox administrations has been this: How to lower the out-of-pocket expense of delivered natural gas for residential, commercial and industrial customers? Approaches to answering this question have varied wildly and there is no sp ace in this report to consider more than one. During , when the CFE's gas utility in Monterrey was put up for privatization, the industrial lobby there successfully convinced the government to instruct the CRE MEI (713) Baker & Associates, Energy Consultants. All rights reserved.
17 Mexico Energy Intelligence Analyst Report p. 16 Jun 23, 2005 to exclude their account s from the gas load to be privatized. The choice was not between natural gas and LPG, but between having, as a service provider, either Pemex Gas or the future winner of the CFE auction for the Monterrey gas distribution franchise. It was clear then, as it is now, that a gas LDC without large-volume customers has to charge more for it s service than would otherwise be the case. Part of the responsibility for the high prices of Monterrey residential customers, therefore, lies in the decision taken by the big companies not to participate in the cost-of-service structure of the private LDC gas franchise. One measure, long discussed in private, but not yet voiced as a policy option by public authorities, would be to restructure Pemex Gas in such as way as to eliminate it s role as a gas marketer entirely. In that way, all natural gas customers in a gas franchise area--including those in the so-called "self-supply" associations--would be required to buy their gas either from the local distributor or contract for their own gas from foreign suppliers. No customer or self-supply association would be allowed to buy gas from Pemex directly. Evaluate the real economics of LPG service Critics would say that the LPG distribution value chain, as an activity that is regulated and protected by the government, is a model of non-transp arency. An analysis of the opportunity costs associated with this value chain is long overdue. What benefit s do customers, neighborhoods and the national economy forego to have 80% of homes supplied with LPG service? The political and policy protection of fered by the government to the current market giants--the Zaragoza's and their friends--must come at a price, a quid pro quo: A cambio de qué? Whatever the coin of payment may be, Mexico is foregoing the investment s in storage, transport ation and distribution that international companies like Penn Octane are ready to make. LPG service by defective portable cylinders has had a cost in air quality deterioration; hopefully, the cylinderreplacement program will significantly improve, if not eliminate, this source of air pollution. Redefine federal-state-municipal authority During the Middle Ages in the Iberian Peninsula, the ayunt amientos, or city councils, had a measure of independence in relation to the Crown. In matters of LNG and natural gas permits, the Fox administration has learned that this tradition lives on. The CRE, representing federal authority, issued Marathon Oil a permit for an LNG terminal in Baja California, but in 2004 the st ate government expropriated the land considered as the best site for the terminal, thereby spiking the project. In Jalisco and the Federal District, among other areas, municipal authorities have gone MEI (713) Baker & Associates, Energy Consultants. All rights reserved.
18 Mexico Energy Intelligence Analyst Report p. 17 Jun 30, 2005 out of their way to block gas LDCs from carrying out their exp ansion plans to which they legally committed themselves in their original offer to the CRE. While jurisdictional gaps and conflicts between federal and local authorities are by no means unique to Mexico (there is one going on, for example, between the S tate of California and the U.S. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission over a proposed LNG site in Long Beach), the current culture of defiance in st ate and municip al capitals in relation to federal energy policy and it s regulatory institutions bodes well neither for the federal government nor for private investors, Mexican or otherwise. OBSERVATIONS During all of the Fox administration there have been no successful tenders of natural gas distribution franchises. Why? As troublesome, some natural gas franchises have all but given up in their attempt to penetrate the LPG market zones in their franchise areas. Why? Independently of the participation of natural gas LDCs in the residential and commercial fuels market, it would seem that the present organization and policy framework of the LPG business in Mexico is costing the country money measured as a) the foregone investment s that international comp anies would make in LPG infrastructure, b) the cost of the continuation of abusive, oligopolistic practices that questionably serve the development of modern, competitive markets, and c) the effect that the negative public image of the integrity of the industry has on investor and consumer confidence in the economy and public policies. The federal government is vulnerable to pressure from the LPG lobby, but the reasons for its power are unclear. The families who control the LPG business in Mexico are from the North (princip ally Chihuahua and Nuevo León), and the Fox team is st affed with northerners for whom the policy and market st atus quo needs few adjustments. No one wants to talk much about the dysfunctionalities in public policy relating to LPG as an object of energy policy. The Federal Competition Commission (CFC) opened investigations into oligopolistic practices of some LPG distributors, but the problems and issues go far beyond those of market presence and control. Public authorities have given attention to LPG cylinders as a risk to public safety and air quality. Mexico's Consumer Protection Agency (PROFECO) has publicized cases of the systematic under-filling of LPG cylinders. The agency would like to do more, but has limited budgets and staff. PROFECO executives were not amused by the distribution of flyers in Guadalajara with bogus information and warnings to LPG customers that they "should not be deceived" by natural gas distributors. Consumers need to be protected also from intentionally misleading information about their right s as consumers, a senior official told MEI.
19 Mexico Energy Intelligence Analyst Report p. 18 Jun 30, 2005 CONCLUSIONS A one-on-one comparison of the ret ail price of LPG and natural gas scaled to heat content ($/BTU) fails to capture the true economics of the service provided. In comparing costs and risks assumed both by the user, the neighborhood and the municipality, the analysis suggests (but does not establish) that natural gas service costs much less than does LPG service. The LPG market operates as a pre-nafta island of privilege for established conglomerates without much public oversight. The topic has not been the object of any investigative journalism or academic study of which we are aware. When the energy ministry says that for the next ten years it will reserve LPG storage, transportation and distribution to "Mexicans," the ministry doesn't mean that the industry will be open to just any Mexican business entrepreneur who want s to get to the business. What the ministry really means is that the existing oligopolistic structures will continue to receive political protection from the government in its policy framework in relation to LPG. If successful, the new programs proposed by the Fox administration regarding training, safety and infrastructure will help modernize the LPG business in Mexico. The analysis further suggests that under the current regulatory and policy framework, the combination of (1) the harassment of natural gas distribution companies by municipal authorities (abetted by LPG interests) coupled with (2) the native-son favoritism shown by the federal government toward LPG distributors has compromised the initial international perception that natural gas LDCs represented a sound business opportunity. "We did not come to Mexico just to wait," complained the director of one international company with gas LDCs in Mexico. It's a complaint worth heeding GB MEI (713) wh_y
20 Document A Public information on the LPG business in Mexico Regular, if scattered, information about the LPG business in Mexico comes princip ally from four sources: the Office of LPG Affairs in the Energy Ministry (SENER), the Mexican associations of LPG distributors and truckers, the press--and the "street," meaning popular and business folklore and impressions. Information on LPG business practices is occasionally made available also by the Federal Competition Commission (CFC) and the Consumer Protection Agency (PROFECO). Information seldom comes from competitors to LPG distributors, namely, the old and new natural gas distribution franchises. Nor does it come from international comp anies who are ready and willing to invest in LPG infrastructure and commerce if given the chance by a liberalization of law and policy (Penn Octane Corporation is, perhaps, the best-positioned example of a company in this group: see The word on the street is that the LPG business is, first of all, a family business controlled by the fabled Five Families. All of the estimated 400 LPG distribution companies are privately held, so there is no financial information available to the public. One study by Ariel Yépez, a Pemex analyst, in 2004 found that in14 of 30 local market s in Mexico were was little competition, and that there were monopoly conditions in the states of Colima and Quintana Roo. The study concluded that almost 70% of LPG sales in Mexico are carried out by only 12 conglomerates, but that four of these alone account for 40% of national sales. Inthe states of Baja California, Baja California Sur, Campeche, Nayarit, Oaxaca, Sinaloa, Tabasco, Yucatán, Durango and Jalisco the largest distributor of LPG had over 50% of the market (Reforma, June 28, 2004). Conglomerates typically establish separate companies for each market area. The pattern is seen in the information on the CFC website regarding the merger of Grupo Fuentes with 9 other companies. The data show that Fuentes was buying these companies to expand its activities into new markets of Coahuila, Guanajuato and Jalisco. The merger was approved on April 11, 2002 by the CFC (Exhibit A).. Exhibit A Extract from a CFC protocol approving the merger of Grupo Fuentes and Gas But ano del Bajío, S.A. de CV (File CNT ) 1. The Parties Grupo Fuentes. Made up of several comp anies, among them Servi-Gas del Norte, SA; Gas Supremo Juárez, SA; Distribuidora Fuva del Parral, SA de CV; Gas Comercial de Chihuahua, SA; Gas Comercial de Cuauhtémoc, SA and Gas Comercial Delicias, SA. Grupo Fuentes provides the distribution service for liquefied petroleum gas (LP gas) in the geographical areas of Northern Chihuahua and Southern Chihuahua. Gas Butano del Bajío; Gas de Romit a; Gas de Lagos; Surtigas; Gas Real; Gas Doméstico; Gas y Combustibles; Guanagas and Gas de Ojuelos. These companies provide LP gas distribution service in the
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