Lee: Methanol plant closure signals trouble in energy sector

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

UNC deputy political leader and Pointe-a-Pierre MP, David Lee. – File photo by Ayanna Kinsale

OPPOSITION MP David Lee is of the opinion that the energy sector is still in trouble contrary to the optimistic picture being painted by Government.

In a statement on Wednesday, Lee used the last September decision by Methanex to idle its Atlas Methanol Plant to illustrate his point.

“Reducing this country’s methanol production by at least one million tonnes per year, threatening national revenue, is confirmation that our energy sector is still in trouble and collapsing despite all the ‘old talk’ by the Government that they have stabilised the energy sector.”

Lee said the move, “by the world’s largest producer and supplier of methanol to shut down one of the region’s largest plants which provides millions in revenue, forex (foreign exchange), and employment for TT is not just a massive blow for our economy but is a dilemma that has been totally manufactured by this Government’s persistent failure to address the gas shortage for the last eight years.”

He contended that government continued to use the “Dragon Gas coming” plaster for all the country’s gas-shortage problems.

“The reality is, had they placed equal emphasis on aggressively incentivising the production of gas and creating an attractive environment to produce gas within our border in the last eight years, we would have had enough gas to keep plants such as Atlas in operation.

“The shut-down of Atlas means that the government’s feeble excuse that their new pricing negotiations protected our revenue streams despite a fall in gas supply will be proven totally false as this country will lose out on millions of tax revenue during a time of high global prices as we reduce our sale of methanol to the international market by at least one million tonnes per year.”

Lee said the claim of Energy Minister Stuart Young, one month ago at the TT Energy Conference that the National Gas Company (NGC) has been meeting its mandate, is skewed.

“Not when major down streamers like Methanex have to face the dilemma of shutting down viable plants. There can be no stability, security, or sustainability in the energy sector when we lose productive capacity, when we witness the shut-down of major plants, and even worse, experience a loss of revenue contribution to the national economy.”

Lee noted that in the past, government had blamed plant closures on being them outdated and inefficient, but in this case, Atlas was one of the most modern, productive, and efficient plants.

“It has simply become a victim of a government that has failed to stimulate gas production throughout its entire tenure.

“As a concerned nation we have to ask, is this a sign of more plant closures, more loss of revenue, and an even greater contraction of the energy sector to come?”