A key Australian minister met with Terry Tamminen, California cabinet secretary, and Mike Chrisman, state resources secretary, to press the case that Australia could be California?s best hope for a long-term, reliable supply of natural gas. ?We?ve got gas to burn,? said Ian McFarlane, the minister of industry, tourism, and resources for the Australian government, January 19 at a scantily attended press conference in the patio bar of the Peninsula Hotel in Beverly Hills. ?But if they don?t hurry up building import terminals, they?re going to lose it.? McFarlane also met with 80 top corporate chief executive officers at a BHP Billiton investment seminar in Beverly Hills. The meeting came on the heels of the U.S. Coast Guard?s temporarily suspending its consideration of BHP Billiton?s proposed LNG terminal off the Ventura County coast, known as Cabrillo Port, until the company supplies a wide range of additional information. BHP Billiton is one of several companies that have proposed West Coast terminals, but it is running behind Sempra\/Shell and ChevronTexaco, which already have approvals for terminals in Baja California. The minister toured the ChevronTexaco and Sempra\/Shell terminal sites in Baja California. While there, he signed a memorandum of understanding on energy cooperation with the Mexican government under which Australia will seek to deliver gas and coal to Mexico and cooperate on energy investments. The Australian government reckons that the West Coast of North America could import as much as 14 million tons a year of liquefied natural gas, which would require at least two import terminals. Australia hopes to supply $50 billion worth of gas to California and Mexico over 20 years beginning in 2009. McFarlane stressed that his country can supply that gas safely and on time. He noted Australia is a political ally of the United States and one that has close cultural ties. Australia would like to do business with California and the U.S. but, he pointed out, could just as easily sell its gas to Mexico, China, Korea, and other growing nations. That gas would come from Australia?s Gorgon field, which lies 130 miles off the continent. ChevronTexaco is developing Gorgon?Australia?s single largest undeveloped gas field?and plans to deliver some of the gas to its proposed terminal just off the coast of Rosarito Beach, Mexico, near the Coronado Islands. A final development deal is expected to be approved in the next six months, McFarlane said. McFarlane acknowledged that there is still debate in California over whether LNG imports will be needed, as well as strong community opposition. For instance, in recent comments filed with the U.S. Coast Guard on the draft environmental impact statement for Cabrillo Port, a host of government agencies and environmental groups urged the coast guard to more fully address the impacts of the project on air pollution and marine life. The U.S. Navy pointed out that LNG ships calling on Cabrillo Port would have to sail through its Point Magu weapons test range. The navy asked for advance notice of ship passages and said that if an LNG ship was in a position ?where there was the potential for an errant missile to hit it, the operation would [be] postponed or relocated.?