Title: Political economy of natural gas in Trinidad and Tobago
Full Citation
Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/CA00400329/00001
 Material Information
Title: Political economy of natural gas in Trinidad and Tobago
Physical Description: Book
Language: English
Creator: Campbell, Jacob
Publisher: Jacob Campbell
Publication Date: 2007
Subject: Caribbean   ( lcsh )
Natural Gas
Trinidad and Tobago
Politics and government
Spatial Coverage: North America -- Trinidad and Tobago -- Caribbean
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Bibliographic ID: CA00400329
Volume ID: VID00001
Source Institution: Caribbean Studies Association
Holding Location: Caribbean Studies Association
Rights Management: All rights reserved. Used here with the permission of the author.


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The Political Economy of Natural Gas in Trinidad and Tobago

Jacob Campbell
University of Arizona

Global consumption of natural gas is projected to double by 2030, edging it past coal

to become the second most exploited source of energy in the world (EIA 2004). Gas has

gained popularity due to its relatively clean and efficient combustion when compared to

both coal and oil. Growth in demand is expected to be greatest in the United States,

Western Europe, China, Brazil and India, primarily for generation of electrical power to

be used by heavy industry and residences (Barnes et al 2006). As fate would have it, the

vast majority of natural gas reserves are located in areas distant from these purchasing

markets, and to further complicate matters, often in territories of states considered

politically unstable by Western standards. Therefore, the past several decades have born

witness to considerable technological and geopolitical acrobatics as multinational

corporations and state governments worked to provide or secure access to this

increasingly valuable resource.

Countries with gas fields are finding it more lucrative to extract and monetize their

reserves. One such state is Trinidad and Tobago (hereafter Trinidad), which has

succeeded in overhauling its economy largely around its gas sector in twenty years. The

boom in natural gas exploration and development has helped the twin-island nation

transform itself into a major player on the Western Hemisphere gas scene. A key factor

in Trinidad's recent economic growth has been revenue earned from the export of

liquefied natural gas (LNG).

Trinidad shifted the dynamics of the Atlantic Basin gas trade when the first carrier of

LNG left its Point Fortin production facility bound for Boston in April 1999. The

world's largest natural gas importer, the United States, was at that time seeking additional

feeds to supplement slumping domestic and Canadian pipeline supplies. Spain, being

peripheral to Europe's pipeline system, was also seeking to diversify its imports and

chose to support the Atlantic LNG venture. LNG projects in Algeria, Venezuela and

Nigeria were Trinidad's main competitors; however, political and technical challenges

had stalled their expansion processes (Shepard and Ball 2006). As a result, Trinidad

assumed a privileged position in an increasingly charged domain of Caribbean and

Atlantic energy geopolitics.

This paper will analyze the political and economic discourses that have emerged

with Trinidad's natural gas projects, both internationally and among Trinidadians. I

begin by reviewing the history of natural gas development on the island, with a particular

eye towards recent economic patterns and the significance of foreign direct investment

(FDI). Then I examine Trinidad's current petro-geopolitics, focusing specifically on

relations with the Venezuela, Jamaica and the United States. I conclude with some

questions on the local impacts of natural gas operations by discussing corporate social

responsibility and inspecting the success of industrial "local content requirements" in


History of an Industry

Trinidad's economy has been deeply reliant upon hydrocarbons for over a century.

Oil was first discovered on the island in 1886, and has been extracted since 1907

(Geological Society of Trinidad & Tobago 2005). Gas was either flared or used solely

for oil recovery until 1958, when Federation Chemicals engineered a process by which

gas could be employed for ammonia production (Shepherd and Ball 2006). In the 50's

and 60's, Trinidad, like many other non-Hispanic Caribbean nations, adopted the

strategies of the St. Lucian economist and Nobel Prize winner Arthur Lewis, who

stressed that industrialization and diversification were essential for economic

development. Lewis outlined a model for industry growth based on foreign capital

investment, meant explicitly as an alternative to dependence on agricultural exports. The

purpose of the strategy was to dismantle the plantation economy and alleviate the rising

unemployment it had generated by attracting foreign private investment to support an

export-focused manufacturing sector (Serbin 1990).

In Trinidad, this development process was highlighted as a key objective of Eric

Williams' People's National Movement (PNM) government by the mid 60's, particularly

in light of statements made by Britain in 1965 that they would give up the system of

Commonwealth preferential arrangements, by going into the European Common Market.

In other words, subsidies for agricultural products such as sugar, citrus and cacao would

be cut, resulting in devastation for these industries (Braveboy-Wagner 1989). In fact this

move did not occur for another several decades, yet Williams decided to take the juncture

as an opportunity to reduce Trinidad's dependence on Britain by aggressively

diversifying the economy. While this initiative had wide-ranging effects, it manifested

most significantly as an expansion of industries that could capitalize upon the island's oil

and natural gas reserves. A host of multinational corporations such as Alcoa and

Honeywell established large-scale industrial complexes that fed off natural gas to

produce aluminum, ammonia, methanol, iron and steel.

By the early 70's, it had become clear that passive reliance on outside investment

would not serve the country well economically. Much of the industry Trinidad had

attracted through tax breaks and other incentives was capital-intensive rather than labor-

intensive, resulting in minimal job-creation and monetary spillover. Unemployment

reached 17 percent in 1970, and the country bore a large fiscal deficit (Shepherd and Ball

2006). Barclay (2004) also notes, "the government made little attempt to augment the

modest managerial and technological capabilities of domestic firms". She argues that

Williams' administration neglected developing local institutions in its rush to create an

environment where foreign capital could flourish. With a well-organized, at times violent

Black Power movement added to this milieu, Trinidad found itself on the brink of a

socio-economic crisis of massive proportions.

The Arab oil embargo of 1973-74 could not have come at a more opportune time for

Trinidad. In 1972, the price of oil was roughly $3.00 per barrel, and by the end of 1974

its trading value had quadrupled to nearly $12.00 per barrel (Williams 2005). New

discoveries of crude off Trinidad's east coast paralleled the huge price spike, resulting in

substantial profits for the national coffers. Williams' government chose to roll this

windfall capital into large-scale social and economic infrastructural development

projects. One such venture was the construction of Point Lisas Industrial Estate, a 1000-

ha complex situated on a bay 25 miles south of Port of Spain. Point Lisas, with its deep-

water port and specialized machinery for bulk handling of methanol, ammonia, urea and

iron, was designed specifically to house industries dependent on natural gas (Barclay

2004). Also during this period, Trinidad's government adopted a more active managerial

stance over its oil and gas reserves, exemplified by its acquisition of Shell's operations in

1974 (Shepherd and Ball 2006). While it did not officially nationalize the industry, the

government established a clear agenda to ensure greater control over both oil and gas

production through increased administration vis a vis so-called "Third Way" policies,

which tacked between Trinidad's liberal economic platform and Cuba's communist

arrangement. Towards this end, the National Gas Company was established in 1975 and

given the charge of overseeing all aspects of gas trade within the country (Williams


Trinidad and Tobago rode the wave of surging oil prices through the 1970's to the

early 80's and experienced unprecedented economic growth, seeing its GDP rise from

US$1.3 billion in 1973 to US $8.1 billion in 1982 (World Bank 2003). However, the

global market could not then function with oil costs near $35.00 a barrel, and a

worldwide recession ensued. Government white papers from 1981 show that Trinidad,

concerned about signs that the oil sector was declining, began renewing their

commitment to favor natural gas "as a premium energy resource and as a potential

generator of foreign exchange"(Williams 2002:23). Nevertheless, they were not spared

the downturn, and entered a period of recession from 1983 to 1989. Part of Trinidad's

woes stemmed from the failure of its gas-based projects to realize their fiscal objectives.

According to Farrell (1987), the investment decisions in this sector had been based on

forecasts that proved naive. Ammonia and methanol prices had remained low, causing

these plants to fall well short of their financial expectations. The steel plant also stalled

during the early 80's, plagued by a host of problems including technical and managerial

ineptitude, gas supply breaks and anti-dumping fees imposed by U.S. importers.

Stumbling gas projects and the collapse of oil prices in 1985 undermined a Trinidadian

economy that saw unemployment rise from 9.9 percent in 1982 to 22 percent in 1990

(Shepherd and Ball 2006).

In 1989, with its external debt at US$2.5 billion, Trinidad and Tobago's government

was forced to seek aid from international lending agencies (Barclay 2004). The loan

conditions indicated that Trinidad must implement a series of stabilization and structural

adjustment programs. As a result, the government was compelled to shift radically away

from its Third Way policies of state economic involvement and towards the statutes of

the Washington Consensus, including liberalized trade and foreign exchange, divested

state assets and foreign investment incentives. The state in effect yielded the job of

economic development to the multinational private sector while it adopted a regulatory

capacity. This transition is outlined in a Green Paper on energy policy published by the

government in November 1992, with the key points summarized by Shepherd and Ball:

Shift to natural gas to monetize the island's most plentiful resource
Promote competition within the energy industry to maximize the government's take
and to attract new business to Trinidad and Tobago with the country's abundant
supplies of natural gas
Privatize local industry to promote efficiency and repay national debt (2006:275).

Multinational corporations responded to these favorable conditions immediately, and in

the early 1990's foreign direct investment jumped to nearly US billionn (Barclay 2004).

One of the initiatives through which Trinidad and foreign investors sought to

monetize gas reserves was a liquefaction facility. Three previous attempts at LNG

projects on the island had failed-one in the early 1970's with Amoco, another in the

early 80's with Tenneco and Amoco once again in 1990 (Shepherd and Ball 2006). A

relatively small Boston-based company named Cabot LNG approached the government

of Trinidad and Tobago in 1992 to renew the discussion on developing an LNG export

terminal. Cabot owned the Everett LNG receiving facility north of Boston, and was

eager to secure a new source of gas to supply the expanding New England market.

Pipelines into the northeastern U.S. were minimal, and the Algerians only shipped LNG

during peak winter months when prices spiked. The Trinidad and Tobago National Gas

Company chose to promote Cabot's project, and together with Amoco and British Gas,

they signed a memorandum of understanding in late 1992. By 1995, these partners, now

joined by the Spanish oil and gas firm Repsol, had formed ajoint venture company

named Atlantic LNG to operate the export project (Shepherd and Ball 2006).

Construction of train 1 began in the town of Point Fortin on Trinidad's southwest coast in

1996, and the first carrier vessel arrived in Boston late April of 1999. A two-train

expansion project began in 2000, with train 2 coming online in August 2002 and train 3

in May 2003. Construction of train 4 commenced in 2003 and it shipped its first load

January 2006. Train 4 is currently the world's largest operating liquefaction terminal,

with a capacity of 5.2 million metric tons per annum (Atlantic LNG 2007).

Trinidad and Tobago's Prime Minister, Patrick Manning, has been a vocal proponent

of LNG export throughout his tenure, dismissing critics who lobby for greater allocation

of gas reserves to domestic, employment-intensive projects. Perhaps in response to this

argument, Manning's administration created a host of incentives to attract chemical

producers to the island, and the effort has paid off-as of 2002, Trinidad and Tobago led

the world in exports of both ammonia and methanol (Williams 2002). Foreign

corporations are also utilizing natural gas feedstock to produce butane, propane, urea,

butyl ether, steel billets and direct reduced iron (Barclay 2004). This rapid development

of the gas-fired heavy industrial and petrochemical sector persists presently, and has

helped expand the national GDP by 20 percent since 2005 (James 2007). However,

Trinidad and Tobago's failure to diversify industrially and its dependence on foreign

earnings have raised pressing concerns among analysts over the nation's rising inflation

rates and its economic resilience.

Caribbean Basin Gas Geopolitics

As natural gas, and LNG in particular, gained market value these past fifteen years,

Trinidad and Tobago found itself enmeshed in a dynamic set of political and commercial

relations, both regionally and internationally. Its traditional wariness of imperialist

advances from neighboring Venezuela and the United States led to cautious diplomacy

with these governments over oil and gas projects. However, Trinidad's drive to monetize

its gas reserves all but required that it engage with the two biggest players in the Western

hemisphere energy game. Of no less importance to Trinidad is its association with

Jamaica and other fellow CARICOM member states, who account for roughly 40 percent

of Trinidad's total exports annually (Lewis 2002). These relations are also contested

around issues of oil and gas, as Trinidad and Tobago attempts to provide CARICOM

nations with preferential pricing agreements while also satisfying the production demands

of its multinational corporate partners. Venezuela is attempting to undermine Trinidad

and Tobago's privileged economic role in the Caribbean through its PetroCaribe

initiative, which allows its participants to pay 60 percent of costs upfront for petroleum

products while financing the rest with long term, low interest loans. Currently most

CARICOM countries, with the notable exception of Trinidad and Barbados, have signed

on to PetroCaribe.


Relations between Trinidad and Venezuela are deeply nuanced, and framed by a

checkered history. The two nations, separated only by seven miles across the Columbus

Channel, have alternately abetted and destabilized each other's energy projects since

Trinidad's independence in 1962. Their diplomatic affairs have also been influenced by

long-standing differences and tensions between Latin American and English-speaking

Caribbean countries. Trinidad and Jamaica's request to join the Organization of

American States (OAS) was not met favorably by the Latin American members, who

openly distrusted the former colonies' continued ties to Great Britain (Serbin 1990).

After four years of debate and deliberation, Trinidad was granted accession in 1967.

Rather than easing sensitivities between Latin and Anglophone Caribbean states, the

OAS may have further differentiated them, particularly when blocs formed as other

newly independent nations joined. The line was drawn even more clearly in 1973 when

the English-speaking Caribbean states created CARICOM and excluded the Latin

American islands.

Jacqueline Braveboy-Wagner (1989:48) characterizes Venezuela's policies towards

the Anglophone Caribbean during the 1960's and 70's as a "manifest destiny" initiative.

Venezuela envisioned the decline of British colonialism as creating a power vacuum in

the region, and it was their intention to counteract both Cuban and American influence

through attractive commercial and financing programs. After the 1973 oil crisis, the

Carlos Andres Perez government intensified their regional involvement by directing

substantial economic assistance to the Caribbean through the Venezuelan Investment

Fund. Beneficiary countries had contingencies placed on loans requiring that they

participate in a series of development and energy cooperation projects, and use funds to

purchase Venezuelan goods (Serbin 1990). In 1975, Trinidadian Prime Minister Eric

Williams "sounded the alarm of Venezuelan economic and territorial imperialism, only to

see his warnings dismissed by Caribbean leaders anxious to profit from Venezuelan

largesse" (Braveboy-Wagner 1989:48). It is worth noting the remarkable parallels

between this conflict and the current tensions, more than thirty years later, surrounding

Hugo Chavez's PetroCaribe initiative, on which Trinidadian Prime Minister Patrick

Manning recently cautioned fellow CARICOM member states by saying, "It is a question

of cutting your own throat if you are not careful" (Observer 2006).

Despite these sensitivities, the neighboring countries have been flirting with a natural

gas partnership since the late 1990's. Venezuela has been unsuccessfully attempting to

build an LNG facility for over fifteen years, and while President Chavez remains

confident that a functioning Guiria LNG plant is imminent, he has expressed interest in

monetizing Venezuelan gas at Trinidad's Atlantic LNG facility during the interim period

(Williams 2003). The two governments have agreed to move towards the unitization of

gas fields that straddle their marine borders, in particular the major Loran and Kapok

fields that each hold estimated reserves of 6 trillion cubic feet (James 2007). Talks over

this unitization, first initiated in 2002, have proceeded slowly and stalled regularly over

disputes on quantities of gas on both sides of the border. Nevertheless, Prime Minister

Manning and President Chavez signed the first offshore unitization agreement in the

Western Hemisphere on March 20, 2007 (Javeed 2007). While the signing of this

agreement is quite remarkable, its execution would be nothing short of miraculous. As

recently as 2002, Benardo Alvarez, Venezuela's vice-minister of energy, announced that

"Venezuela is unwilling to allow its gas to be used to support the future expansion of the

Atlantic LNG plant at Point Fortin, Trinidad" (Oil & Gas 2002).

Diplomatic maneuvers aside, Venezuela is clearly reticent to assist Trinidad with its

gas projects. However, due to the constraints of its nationalized energy sector, Venezuela

has been unable to secure and sustain the foreign participation that is necessary to bring a

multi-billion dollar, technically demanding LNG facility online. In 1990, Royal Dutch

Shell, Exxon and Mitsubishi were invited by the Venezuelan government to participate in

the Cristobal Colon LNG project. However, perhaps in concession to the opponents of a

multinational corporate presence, the new LNG joint venture was offered access to gas

fields that were remote and challenging to develop (Shepherd and Ball 2006). After a

contentious period of debate and struggle, the project ultimately folded in 1997.

According to Minister Alvarez, the Venezuelan LNG project is 20 years behind, and

"playing catch up with Trinidad and Tobago" (Oil and Gas 2002). Therefore, at the

present moment, Venezuela is left with the choice of either leaving gas fields stranded, or

aiding its key (potential) LNG competitor by monetizing gas with Atlantic LNG in

Trinidad. This issue of unitization will be of central importance for relations between

Trinidad and Venezuela in the coming years, and will likely set fundamental precedents

for the geopolitics of energy in the Caribbean Basin.


At least since their independence in 1962, Trinidad and Tobago and Jamaica's

divergent paths towards decolonization have patterned the two nations' energy politics.

Arguably, both states vie to assume the role of intermediary power in the Anglophone

Caribbean, with Jamaica being the largest island and Trinidad traditionally being the

wealthiest. Modern relations date back to the West Indies Federation, which was

imposed in 1958 by the British who were intent on minimizing the burden of colonial

responsibility. Braveboy-Wagner (1989:39) notes that the Federation was torn asunder

by "intense disagreements" between Jamaica and Trinidad over the correct balance

between nationalism and regionalism that should be struck. Jamaica privileged the

former, and accordingly left the federation to seek independence. Trinidad declined to

join a Federation minus Jamaica, and it dissolved as Trinidad also obtained independent

status. Trinidad's frustration at Jamaica's departure from the Federation, "bred a legacy

of wariness and distrust, as well as a counter-productive sense of competition" towards

Jamaica (Braveboy-Wagner 1989:54). While there have been many examples of

multilateral agreement between Trinidad and Jamaica, this bitter sentiment continues to

impact diplomacy and terms of commercial exchange between the two states.

Jamaica first initiated discussions with Trinidad regarding an LNG agreement in

1993. The Jamaicans are interested in powering their bauxite refineries and electrical

plants with gas, which are currently oil-fueled. In the original memorandum of

understanding (MOU), Trinidad committed to supplying 158 million cubic feet per day to

a 1.5 million ton regasification terminal that would be build in Jamaica. The state-owned

gas companies of each nation agreed to create a joint venture firm to manage the project,

with Jamaica taking a 60 percent stake and Trinidad 40 percent (James 2007). However,

terms of the deal have subsequently faltered. Jamaica insists that under the auspices of

the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME), Trinidad is obligated to provide

Jamaica with "national treatment" by selling LNG at the same price its own National Gas

Company buys natural gas. In 2006, Trinidadian Prime Minister Manning assured the

Jamaicans that a mutually acceptable pricing arrangement would be settled upon for the

long-term LNG provision scheduled to commence in 2009 (Bryan 2007). Trinidad

maintains, however, that the Caribbean gas price must bear some relation to Henry Hub

(the US natural gas benchmark), while Jamaica is holding out for pricing based on a

domestic mechanism.

Recent statements by Trinidad's government have raised the charged discourse with

Jamaica over gas projects to a fever pitch. In March of 2007, the National Gas Company

of Trinidad and Tobago announced that it would not be able to supply Jamaica with LNG

by 2009 as planned, due to its own domestic demands (Bryan 2007). The response from

Kingston has been hostile, with threats of a "trade war" issuing from the Jamaican

manufacturer and commercial community, in order to compensate for the resultant trade

disadvantage. Commentators in Trinidad have also keyed in upon its government's

unrealistic promises to Jamaica and vocalized questions about the actual status of

Trinidad's natural gas reserves. Prime Minister Manning, however, publicly contends

that the Loran Manatee field, which Trinidad has agreed to unitize with Venezuela, will

yield gas for the Jamaica project (Javeed 2007). He maintains that Trinidad will uphold

the Jamaica deal upon completion of a planned Train 5 in Point Fortin, which will draw

gas from Loran, and is anticipated to go online in 2010. Jamaica, however, has already

entered into discussions with Venezuela regarding the feasibility of adding LNG to its

PetroCaribe initiative (Bryan 2007). While this option remains questionable due to

Venezuela's lack of an LNG facility, the case study underscores the volatility of the

energy politics between these three nations.

The United States

As the primary purchaser of Trinidad and Tobago's LNG, the United States plays an

influential role in the nation's energy affairs. However, Trinidad has recently shown

interest in diversifying its markets as other buyers outbid prices paid by the U.S.

According to Prime Minister Manning, "We have decided that we are not placing all our

eggs in one basket" (James 2007). Trinidad is discussing LNG deals with Brazil,

Mexico, Britain, South Korea and Japan, among others. Friction between Washington

and Port of Spain has risen not only due to this potential shift in supply agreements, but

also over Trinidad's negotiations with Venezuela on multilateral LNG projects. A

Washington official who chose to remain anonymous recently cautioned in a trade

journal that, "Trinidad and Tobago has to take into account the current tension in

relations between Venezuela and the U.S. Making a firm arrangement with Caracas on

this (LNG) is not very attractive at this time" (James 2005:15). As the U.S. looks

increasingly to LNG for its energy needs, diplomacy with Trinidad has become more

directed and pressing as Washington works to shore up vital trade contracts while also

countering moves by the Chavez administration to further extend its influence in the


The current relations between Trinidad and the US are situated within a history

punctuated by several main developments. The Caribbean Basin did not emerge as a sub-

region distinct from Latin America in U.S. hemispheric policy until the Carter

administration. In 1976, President Carter outlined a new approach to U.S.- Caribbean

relations based on a respect for the sovereignty of each nation, a strong commitment to

human rights and renewed support for economic development in the region (Serbin

1990). Trinidadian Prime Minister Eric Williams enjoyed a good relationship with U.S.

ambassador Phillip Habib during this period, and much of the bitterness carried over from

U.S. military presence on the island during the Cold War appeared to be dissipating

(Maingot and Lozano 2005).

Yet a dramatic shift occurred towards the end of Carter's term as increasing Cuban

militarization, the Sandinista revolution and a successful communist coup in Grenada led

to a more aggressive U.S. regional stance. Under President Reagan's leadership, the U.S.

intensified security activity in the Caribbean as part of its strategy to contain the Soviet

threat. Trinidad responded by once again distancing itself from the U.S. and adopting an

isolationist, Third World position in regional affairs, including its stance on the People's

Revolutionary Government in Grenada (Braveboy-Wagner 1989). By advocating

nonintervention in the Grenada case, Trinidad effectively alienated itself from the other

CARICOM nations and lost favor with the U.S. government. As Serbin notes:

The internal crisis unleashed within the government of the New Jewel Movement in Grenada
and the subsequent military occupation was probably the best opportunity that could have
presented itself to the Reagan administration for reaffirming U.S. hegemony in the region, an
action incurring relatively low military costs, but paying high political and psychological
dividends. The occupation of Grenada allowed the United States to neutralize leftist sectors
in the region, to isolate Cuba in the island Caribbean, and to promote certain governments,
such as those of Jamaica and Barbados, which at the time identified openly with U.S. policy

Shortly after the Grenada invasion, Trinidadian Prime Minister George Chambers

initiated a radical paradigm shift by realigning the economy around foreign investment,

accepting an IMF development package and announcing that, "the f6te is over and the

country must go back to work" (Maingot and Lozano 2005:50). Needless to say, by

embracing neoliberal economic policies, Trinidad and Tobago did much to improve its

standing with the United States. This new integrated alignment crystallized further when

Trinidad signed NAFTA in 1997.

For the past several decades, political and economic relations between the United

States and Trinidad have revolved primarily around natural gas products. While trade in

ammonia, methanol and fertilizers continues to be significant, the focus is increasingly on

Trinidad's LNG exports. In 2006, the United States imported roughly 580 billion cubic

feet of LNG, 67.6 percent of which came from Trinidad (Egypt, Nigeria and Algeria

provided the rest) (Gaul and Platt 2007). As its domestic production levels off and

demand increases, the U.S. expects to compensate with LNG imports. According to

Michael Zenker of the Cambridge Energy Research Associates, "The North American

markets are now dependent on the growth of liquefied natural gas. If we don't get LNG,

we don't have a plan B" (Burr 2005:29). The Bush administration has supported the

initiative by subsidizing and streamlining the regulatory process for the construction of

new re-gasification terminals, the majority of which are sited along the Gulf Coast (Gold


Ironically, the existing U.S. terminals are only importing roughly half the volume of

LNG they can handle. Why? The Americans are being aggressively outbid by Asian and

European buyers. As the industry consultant James Jensen notes, "there was a self-

indulgent, myopic belief that if the U.S. builds a terminal, everyone wants to supply us.

And that is what has been wrong" (Gold 2005:C1). Rather, overseas competition has

created a global LNG shortage, resulting in the rise of "spot-market" trading. Spot-

market refers to single cargo deals between a buyer and seller, in contrast to long-term

contractual agreements. Trinidad has been quick to enter the volatile, but highly

profitable spot-market trade in LNG, often to the detriment of the U.S. market. As Gaul

and Platt illustrate, "LNG netbacks to Trinidad and Tobago for cargoes shipped to Spain

and the United Kingdom in September 2006 were $9.17 and $5.32, respectively,

compared with $3.71 for shipments to the United States at the Lake Charles terminal"

(2007:6). Trinidad is also looking towards South Korea and Japan, which both rely on

LNG for over 90 percent of their natural gas supply, and have shown willingness to

outbid U.S. buyers.

The U.S. government's deep concern over terrorist attacks has also impacted its

LNG import project. LNG tankers and storage facilities have long been fretted over as

potential terror targets. In 2004, Candyce Kelshal, of Bluewater Defence and Security

Ltd., published "Radical Islam and LNG in Trinidad and Tobago", which outlines the

potential security risks the U.S. faces through its connections to Atlantic LNG. The

report focuses on a militant sect of Black Muslims, the Jamaat-al-Muslimeen, which in

1990 staged a coup wherein the prime minister and members of Parliament were taken

hostage. The coup was put down, but not before riots and looting had sacked much of the

capital, Port-of-Spain (Maingot and Lozano 2005). Nearly all of the militants were

offered amnesty and set free. This is an important challenge to LNG projects, one that

will require a further study all its own.

The Local Experience of Natural Gas Projects

The costs and benefits of Trinidad's natural gas production for its citizens remains a

contentious, while often muffled, debate. Government and industry spokespersons laud

the positive impact gas projects have had on employment and public services, while

community members and advocacy groups protest environmental and health hazards they

associate with gas facilities (Williams 2003). A pressing question concerns the degree to

which largely multi-national corporate gas-based enterprises produce benevolent

spillovers that support domestic economies and livelihoods. On the other hand, how are

the toxic spillovers (i.e. pollution & forced relocations) that invariably result from large-

scale gas and chemical projects mitigated against by state and corporate policies?

Scholars have paid very little attention to the localized experience of the oil and gas

industry anywhere, much less in the particular case of Trinidad and Tobago. This section

attempts to situate the Trinidad example within a broader analysis of the local impacts of

and responses to hydrocarbon production.

In late 2001, Trinidadian Prime Minister Williams initiated a new plan for

"sustainable gas development", which stressed utilizing energy sector growth as a

catalyst for investing in local capabilities and promoting wealth at the grass-roots level.

The Prime Minister insisted that his government was, "not being superficially about

ensuring the attainment of minimal local content quotas in energy operations. Far from

it, we are encouraging a collaborative approach between our partners to assist locals to

take on more value-added roles, management, and ownership in our economy" (Williams

2002:22). While Prime Minister Williams' initiative was greeted with optimism by civic

leaders and in the national press, its actual implementation would face serious challenges.

First, most natural gas production projects simply do not create a large number of jobs.

While a substantial amount of labor is required for the construction phase, LNG plants,

offshore gas developments and chemical facilities are not significant generators of

employment when operating (Shepherd and Ball 2006). Furthermore, due to the effects

of modernization, the global trend in the oil and gas industry is towards a consolidated

number of higher-paying and coveted industrial and service sector jobs. As Ross (2001)

notes, these industries tend to be "enclaves" which yield minimal linkages, or

employment opportunities, and provide few non-state multiplier effects.

In order to overcome such challenges and ensure that oil and gas projects have

domestic linkages, a host government must institute aggressive policies and legislation to

bring about their stated objectives. Trinidad has historically pulled up short of these

directed actions. Barclay notes that the oil boom of the 1970's was a "golden opportunity

for Trinidad and Tobago to use the foreign investor to enhance its indigenous

technological capabilities" (2004:489). Yet by failing to formulate and implement

selective intervention policies towards foreign corporations, the Trinidadian government

was unable to tie sustained domestic development programs to the oil and gas sector. By

the late 70's and early 80's, Trinidad had initiated an export-oriented, gas-intensive

strategy for economic growth, providing additional opportunities for directed policy to

support indigenous capacity building. Once again, the administration failed to capitalize.

The evidence suggests that the planners were well aware of technology policy problems such
as the need for locals to acquire the technical skills to operate the facilities. Yet no policies
were devised to develop such skills. Neither the local university nor the local technical and
vocational institutes offered training programs for this industry. Little attempt was made to
define the areas in which local capability could be built over the long term and the specific
technologies that foreign firms could contribute (Barclay 2004:491).

When, in 1989, Trinidad moved towards structural adjustment programs, liberalized trade

and exchange markets, the government's power to establish domestic linkages with

transnational oil and gas projects further eroded.

During the past decade, Trinidad has begun imposing 'local content requirements' on

foreign-owned companies operating in its natural gas industry. While the government

definition of local content remains unclear, this policy is intended to at minimum ensure,

on a contract-by-contract basis, that a specified percentage of labor and service is

domestic. Critics assert, however, that corporate compliance with these requirements is

inconsistent at best, due to the lack of any state agency tasked with monitoring adherence.

For example, one of the reported conditions for developing the first Atlantic LNG train

was that $100 million be spent by foreign firms on the services of local companies.

Policy makers recently estimated that local content in reality achieved approximately

$25-33 million (Barclay 2005). It is worth noting that industry representatives make the

reasonable claim that local service providers are in many cases not globally competitive,

or fail to have necessary training. Partially in response, Trinidad's government has asked

both foreign and local firms to make financial contributions to aide national human

resource development. These monies support technical training institutes designed

specifically to prepare people for work in the energy sector. Yet the state did not

establish a cohesive, legally binding system for securing this funding. As a result, some

transnational firms have come to view these contributions as a tax, and since the

obligation is not constituted by an act of parliament, they refuse to pay (Barclay 2005).

The aims, along with the structural weaknesses, of Trinidad's content requirement

and corporate contribution programs bear a striking resemblance to those of the corporate

social responsibility (CSR) movement. According to the World Business Council for

Sustainable Development, CSR is "the continuing commitment by business to behave

ethically and contribute to economic development while improving the quality of life of

its workers as well as the local community and society at large". CSR gained momentum

during the 1990's due to the critical attention an increasingly effective global human

rights advocacy network was able to draw towards a series of corporate disasters. Facing

public relations backlashes and boycotts, oil and gas companies in particular moved

quickly to draft codes of conduct which outlined their dedication to issues such as

community development and environmental responsibility. Yet from the start, CSR was,

as Watts notes, considered by corporations to be "an explicit endorsement of voluntary

approaches rather than mandatory regulation" (2005:394). Therefore, as the oil slicks

dissipated after a tanker spill or as the memory of Ken Saro-Wiwa in Nigeria began to

fade, transnational corporations were able to view CSR as a voluntary add-on to their

business portfolio. Without mandatory regulations aggressively monitored by the host

state, initiatives such as Trinidad's content and contribution programs, and CSR

agreements the world over, will remain frail statutes intermittently upheld at the whims of

company executives.

The Siren Song of Boom and Bust

It is clear that natural gas has provided Trinidad and Tobago with a much-needed

economic boost, visible from its rising national GDP, capital improvement projects and

fleet of new sports cars in Port of Spain. In the realm of energy geopolitics, Trinidad has

assumed a privileged position for a country of its size. Yet questions have emerged about

the development path it has chosen. In a dramatic turn from its statist approach during

the 1970's, Trinidad's government has stepped back from its active, interventionist role

in the nation's economic affairs. Rather, with a style much akin to the one prescribed by

the World Bank and IMF, the government has adopted a facilitating stance, largely

entrusting the economic development of the country to foreign firms. The problem here

is that the overriding concern of corporations is net gain, which will inevitably be

privileged over the long-term capacity building of its host nation. Trinidad's inability to

implement corporate intervention policies has resulted in its citizens possessing only

static technological capabilities, the underdevelopment of local downstream and

supporting firms, and weak domestic training institutions (Barclay 2004). It could be

said that Trinidad is falling headlong into the boom and bust trap all over again. Rather

than investing in the domestic production apparatus and laying the foundation for new

economic diversity, Trinidad's government appears to be relying on natural gas and

foreign exchange to keep the country secure.

Not all Trinidadians feel secure tying their future to natural gas. Experts claim that

the host of proposed gas-fed projects, including two new LNG terminals, a steel mill and

a fertilizer plant, will run well ahead of available supplies (James 2007). Residents are

also mounting protests against the adverse environmental and health affects they

associate with the multitude of chemical and industrial operations on the island (Williams

2003, Ragoonath 2003, Fernandes 2006). Very little is known about how the costs and

benefits of natural gas production are distributed across socio-economic, racial and

geographic categories in Trinidad. Field research must be conducted in order to

adequately address these critical issues.


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Erich Kesse

From: Judith Rogers [jrogers@uvi.edu]
Sent: Saturday, March 29, 2008 3:38 PM
To: Erich Kesse
Subject: FW: A CSA paper...

Attachments: Trin LNG Paper2.doc

Trin LNG
Paper2.doc (85 KB)
I've sent CDs by post.


-----Original Message-----
From: jacob@email.arizona.edu [mailto:jacob@email.arizona.edu]
Sent: Friday, June 08, 2007 5:50 PM
To: Judith Rogers
Subject: Digi archive

Hello, Judith we met briefly at the conference last week. I took the signature form
for submitting my paper, and thought you would be there for awhile, but your poster was
gone by the time I returned. So I've attached the paper here, and have the form signed.
How can I send it to you? And also, this may not be the final draft of the paper.
Should I send you another version as I edit more? What is your timeline?

Thanks, and let me know as your project develops.


Jacob Campbell
Department of Anthropology
University of Arizona

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