|ELSA, May 26 - The likely Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate wants to see more oil refineries built on the South Texas coast in order to take advantage of shale extraction in Eagle Ford Shale and the Burgos Basin in Mexico.
Businessman David Alameel made the suggestion following a recent meeting with officials at the Port of Brownsville.
“I am very impressed with the relationships we have with Mexico and how much trade we do. I think we can improve it. I am looking forward to when these ports we have in South Texas are huge. I would like to build refineries in South Texas,” Alameel said.
“The amount of oil we import is about five to six hundred billion dollars. That is a big trade deficit. It affects our economy, our currency and everything else. I would rather be a major exporter instead. I do not believe in forcing our oil companies to go overseas, refine, and bring it back. It comes very costly. We ought to build refineries here and we can sell refined products all over the world.”
Alameel is in a runoff to become the Democratic challenger to face incumbent Republican U.S. Sen. John Cornyn in the November general election. Most political pundits expect him to defeat the other runoff candidate, Kesha Rogers.
Alameel sat down with Rio Grande Valley reporters recently to discuss his ideas for growing the manufacturing base of South Texas. The interview took place at a party he hosted for colonia residents in Elsa, Texas. He told the colonia residents that he can identify with them because he came to the U.S. from Lebanon with very little money and had to pick fruit and vegetables like a migrant farm worker. After serving in the military he became a dentist thanks to the G.I. Bill and serviced the burgeoning Hispanic community in Dallas for many years. He sold his Dallas-based healthcare business for $50 million in 2009 and is now an international currency trader.
“We used to have an economy that was the envy of the world. We used to produce practically most of the products on this planet. That is why we had upward mobility and the American Dream. That has been destroyed by the Republicans. Now you see the middle class gone, the difference in income between the rich and the poor is the greatest in equality since the Great Depression. Why? Because they removed the equalizer - they cut education and passed more regressive tax measures,” Alameel said.
Alameel argues that manufacturing is the foundation of any great economy. “We lost our manufacturing base first to Japan and then to China. We are allowing them to produce profit overseas before selling it here and so they do not pay any taxes on it. It is starving our government from the basic revenues it needs to invest in society,” Alameel said.
“Today, our infrastructure is terrible. We need to rebuild the infrastructure in South Texas. We have oil and gas, which is great, and we need to invest more in that. We are doing hundreds of millions of dollars of trade with Mexico. We need to expand our ports, rail, and our highways. I think we have a lot of potential. If we would build the economy, we would be giving the middle class an opportunity again.”
In addition to visiting the Port of Brownsville, Alameel said he has seen the international ports at El Paso first hand. He said El Paso’s international bridges carry $90 million in international trade while Laredo’s carry $150 million-plus. “In terms of the world economy and what an individual state can do, it is a huge trade figure. This trade along the Texas border is great.”
Alameel said he has heard loud and clear from bridge directors complaining about how long it takes to get traffic in and out of the U.S.-Mexico international land ports. “They want infrastructure investment and I want to help. I think the big economic boom Texas is going to rely on in the coming years is trade, manufacturing and oil and gas.”
Alameel said the U.S. has waited 100 years to be independent as an oil and gas producer. “We used to be so dependent on Saudi Arabia and other countries. It affected our national security. Now, we already produce more than we import. In the next five to years we will be the largest oil and gas producer in the world. It is going to be a big boost to our economy.”
Alameel acknowledged his focus on business and economic development is not shared throughout the Democratic Party. “Some say we first have to fix problems with the environment. I respond that you do not throw out the baby with the bathwater. This oil and gas boom in Eagle Ford Shale and in Mexico is still a great thing for Texas. I think what is good for South Texas is good for the rest of Texas. Mexico is a very good friend of ours. It is a very good ally. I think it is great. I was very impressed with my visit to the Port of Brownsville, learning about these issues.”
Alameel added that the Keystone Pipeline is not an answer in and of itself.
“The Republicans want to bring oil here and send it overseas. With the Keystone Pipeline we just get a transit fee yet all the risk. I would rather make a condition that we build the refinery, we bring the oil, we put people to work and then we sell the finished product, which is much more valuable, and so it keeps hundreds of millions of dollars here instead of losing it,” Alameel said.
“Anybody who wants to give us the oil to refine, I am fine with that. It is a great job creator. The trade deficit is just as important as the debt of the government. If we buy more than we sell, then every year hundreds of billions of dollars go out of our economy and never come back.”