Argentina is facing a severe energy shortage that many experts blame on the lack of investments since the 2001-2002 economy crisis and despite GDP has grown at about nine percent over the last four years.
The crisis caused a diplomatic row with Chile linked to Argentine gas supplies shortages and forced Argentina to import energy from Venezuela and Bolivia. López Anadón also said that the 2001-2002 crisis led to widespread breach of contracts in the energy sector, changes of regulations, new taxes on exports, a strong devaluation of the peso and a distortion of relative prices of different fuels. This has been compounded by high-international crude prices that spilled over other energy sources and led to pressures on prices "which should have been aligned with export-import levels." In its Outlook 2030 the International Energy Agency envisages no major changes in oil prices, he added. Argentine oil production has been declining to September, "a logical" consequence of the "exhaustion of fields," he said, adding that no major increase in production is foreseen in the near future. Natural gas output continues relatively steady as a fall in the Neuquén basin was offset by increases in the Austral and San Jorge Gulf basins. As a result of a favourable tax policy the domestic consumption of diesel oil has trebled that of gasoline, forcing companies to import diesel to cope with a growing demand. So far, López Anadón said, the lower oil production has not affected domestic refining activity, but export surpluses have declined. As exportable crude surpluses declined, domestic refining activity increased to face a domestic consumption that has been growing at a higher pace than GDP. In the face of Argentina's economic recovery and relatively cheaper energy prices the per capita energy consumption rose to its highest levels in 30 years, López Anadón said. Guillermo Háskel ÃÂ¢€" MercoPress ÃÂ¢€" Buenos Aires