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Argentine homes save on gas, electricity to meet energy crisis.

The Argentine government on Friday said that in the first six months of the year a plan to reduce household energy consumption yielded savings of 8 percent on domestic gas and 3 percent on electricity, which were used to supply growing industrial demand.

At a press conference, Federal Planning Minister Julio de Vido expressed the government's "extreme satisfaction" at the highly positive results obtained from the plan, launched April 28 following an energy crisis brought on by gas shortages.

Energy Secretary Daniel Cameron said domestic gas consumption met the government objective by dropping 8 percent in the first half of 2004. Household electricity consumption fell 3 percent, he said.

The rationing scheme gives discounts to clients who reduce their gas and electricity consumption, while charging an additional tariff to those consuming more energy than the previous year.

In the first six months the plan gave discounts to some 400,000 clients while imposing extra charges on about 200,000.

De Vido said the energy savings allowed the industrial sector a 15 percent increase in gas consumption and a 10 percent increase in electricity use, which were applied to rising manufacturing activity.

Nevertheless, De Vido said Argentina will continue importing natural gas from Bolivia and fuel from Venezuela, two emergency measures adopted after the energy crisis. To alleviate the gas shortage, Argentina also rationed gas exports to Chile in late March and decided to import electricity from Brazil.

The National Statistics and Census Institute reported Friday that generation of electricity grew 10.7 percent in the first six months this year compared to the same period in 2003, while natural gas production rose by 9.3 percent.

Editorial Notes: Some good results for Argentina in encouraging energy conservation, but feeding all the gains into industry and manufacturing suggests the government doesn't 'get' depletion quite yet.

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