BROWNSVILLE, RGV – Because the focus this year will be on Mexico’s energy reforms, organizers are hoping that many business, government and education leaders from South Texas will attend the 21st Annual U.S.-Mexico Border Energy Forum.

The forum takes place at the InterContinental Presidente Hotel in Monterrey from Oct. 15 to 17. The event is hosted by the Texas General Land Office in association with the Comisión de Cooperación Ecológica Fronteriza, the North American Development Bank, the Energy Council, the Gobierno del Estado de Nuevo León, the U.S.-Mexico Chamber of Commerce and the U.S.-Mexico Cultural and Educational Foundation.

“Over the years we have always tried to highlight important projects on both sides of the border. This year, because the changes in Mexico and the opportunities in Mexico are so significant, we really expect the Mexican energy reforms to be the major topic,” said forum coordinator Soll Sussman.

“That being the case, one big goal we have this year is to attract a number of participants from South Texas. We think it is important for people in South Texas to take a look at what is going on and to see what opportunities there might be.”

Sussman, a longtime administrator at the General Land Office before he left to become a consultant to the BECC, said the Rio Grande Valley in particular and South Texas in general is expected to be important staging posts for petroleum production in the Burgos Basin of northeastern Mexico. For this reason he hopes South Texas leaders, including those from area universities, will attend the forum. “The Mexican energy reforms are by far the dominant topic this year. I think it affects almost everything we are going to talk about,” Sussman said.

Click here to view the agenda for the 21st Annual U.S.-Mexico Border Energy Forum.

Gary Doer, Canada's ambassador to the U.S., spoke at last year's U.S.-Mexico Border Energy Forum, which was held in San Antonio. This year's forum, the 21st, takes place in Monterrey, Mexico.
Gary Doer, Canada’s ambassador to the U.S., spoke at last year’s U.S.-Mexico Border Energy Forum, which was held in San Antonio. This year’s forum, the 21st, takes place in Monterrey, Mexico.

Among the VIPs slated to speak at the forum are Earl Anthony Wayne, the U.S. Ambassador to Mexico, Texas Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson, Leonardo Beltrán Rodríguez, the secretary for energy planning and transition in Mexico’s energy department, Francisco Xavier Salazar Díez de Sollano, president of Mexico’s energy regulatory commission, and Nuevo León Governor Rodrigo Medina de la Cruz.

Asked what the forum’s mission statement is, Sussman said: “The main purpose is to encourage the best use possible of energy resources in northern Mexico and the American southwest and to highlight the connection between energy, economic development and environmental protection. It is a huge topic. We are an all of the above conference. We cover everything from natural gas and shale opportunities to renewables to energy efficiency to the connection between energy and water, which, of course, is really important in our region. It is very comprehensive.”

In his interview with the Guardian about the forum, Sussman pointed out that New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie recently visited Mexico to build up ties in the energy sector for his state. Sussman commented:

“If Mexico’s energy reforms are getting that much attention from a northern state, just imagine how much attention and opportunity there is for Texas,” Sussman said. “We know there is interest coming in from Japan, and China and European countries and the northern U.S. and Canada. Who is better placed than the border states to be a major trading partner in any expansion in the Mexican energy sector? I think it is an exciting time and we will have to see what will come out but certainly all the projections are very optimistic.”

Asked if he knew how big the oil and gas reserves in the Burgos Basin are, Sussman said: “UT San Antonio and Autonoma de Nuevo Leon have embarked on an economic impact study. There is still a lot of conjecture at this point. Certainly the potential is there. Pemex hopes to see thousands of wells drilled. I saw a power point from Pemex that said they hoped to have 9,000 to 10,000 wells drilled. Certainly, the potential is there.”

Sussman said that this year’s forum will see, for the first time, a breakout session on jobs and education. “If you have paid attention you know that we need more lawyers, more petro-engineers, more geologists. Not that Mexican universities are not able to do a fantastic job of training workers but there will also be opportunities for Texas universities and colleges to participate in this,” Sussman said, pointing out that La Universidad Autónoma de Nuevo León has announced the first Master’s program in energy law.

Sussman has been involved in the U.S.-Mexico Border Energy Forum from the very beginning. He said he never imagined it would still be going after two decades. “It has been fascinating to see the changes and to see the developments over the two decades,” he said. When it started out the forum was very small. It has grown significantly.

“We have about 300 to 400 people attend and it is truly bi-national. Usually, 60 percent of the attendees are from the country that is hosting the event and 40 percent are from the other side of the border. It is definitely a binational crowd. We set out to better understand energy issues throughout the region and I think we have helped do that by taking it to every part of the border,” Sussman said.

“We are very proud of the Energy Forum. It started in 1994 in El Paso and we alternate each between the United States and Mexico. In the 21 years we have held the forum we have held conferences in each of the ten U.S. and Mexico border states. We really have tried to cultivate cross-border cooperation and information on energy and to build opportunities for partnerships throughout the region.”