Resources Agency secretary Mike Chrisman and deputy secretary of energy Joe Desmond are touring liquefied natural gas facilities in Australia and South Korea as part of a trip sponsored by the California Foundation on the Environment and the Economy (CFEE), state employees confirmed this week. Neither CFEE nor Resources spokespersons would provide details about the event, saying only that it relates to liquefied natural gas. The foundation, a nonprofit group comprising an assortment of commercial, labor, academic, state, and local interests, addresses a variety of issues?including energy, economics, and "deregulation of basic industries," according to CFEE. The group hosts regular events similar to the current LNG show, from which participants are expected to return by the middle of next week. The tenor of those events, however, is open to interpretation. Some Capitol sources characterize the CFEE trips as utility-funded getaways to "fabulous locales" where utility executives mix with high-powered policy makers. Others, including Assembly Utilities and Commerce Committee energy consultant Dan Kim, see the events differently. "You'd be surprised," he said. "From what I've heard, it's very structured and you have very little free time to shop and lounge around. I guess if you're a policy wonk, you can consider it a vacation." According to Resources Agency spokesperson Brian Miller, travel costs for Chrisman and Desmond are being covered by CFEE, not the state. In lieu of providing more information about the excursion, he assured that the two would "wax eloquently" about their Eastern travels upon their return. Bill Allayaud, legislative director of the Sierra Club's California chapter, supports the trip. "Frankly, I think it's a good idea they get over there and see what's going on with technology and siting issues," he said. He added that Susan Jordan of the California Coastal Protection Network is also along on the visit. Jordan leads a coalition called the LNG Environmental Stakeholder Working Group, a consortium of more than 20 environmental groups, including the Sierra Club, addressing the issue of liquefied natural gas. On the whole, however, the Sierra Club staunchly opposes LNG. The fuel would be mined from Third World sources, Allayaud said, where environmental or labor impacts could be hard to track. According to Joseph Mathew, president of Houston-based Hybrid Energy Advisors, traditional production areas include Algeria, Libya, Nigeria, and Qatar, among others, with some additional sites likely to emerge in the Middle East. In an on-line backgrounder he wrote on LNG, Mathew noted that the "sovereign risk" of dealing with politically unstable countries could "portend inconsistent supply" of liquefied gas for the U.S. In addition, Allayaud argued, California should pursue more renewable energy supplies and conservation methods before resorting to increased use of fossil fuels. "We can do a lot better," he said. Australia is the home of mining and resources giant BHP Billiton, whose LNG arm has proposed to build a floating liquefied gas terminal about 14 miles from the shores of Ventura County. Australian prime minister John Howard met with Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger last month to discuss the subject of LNG in California?as well as, according to Capitol insiders, the prospect of using kangaroo hides to make soccer balls (state law currently prohibits the manufacture of products using endangered species).