Energy policy under Mexico’s incoming President faces controversy, scrutiny

Global Business

Across Mexico, hope and worry characterize the lead-up to Saturday’s inauguration of the country’s next president, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador. He promises to fight poverty and corruption. 

But he’s also said he may overturn the previous administration’s energy reforms, which allow for foreign investment in Mexico’s hobbled oil industry.

CGTN’s Fran Contreras reports.

Rewind a couple decades, and Mexico was a top oil producing nation. But when Lopez Obrador takes office as Mexico’s new president, he inherits a state oil company, Pemex, in tatters. 

Lopez Obrador is a self-proclaimed nationalist. Critics fear his planned $10.5 billion rescue of the oil industry will increase Pemex’s already deep debt burden. 

But AMLO insists a proper energy policy should end Mexico’s dependence on foreign fuel. 

“Crude oil is being imported, and we are buying oil to supply the six refineries we have had for more than 40 years,” Lopez Obrador said.  “That is the last straw. We are in a profound energy crisis. This was aggravated by the so-called energy reform.”

In Lopez Obrador’s home state of Tabasco trees are being cleared, where a new refinery is planned at a cost of eight billion dollars. AMLO has said he’ll visit the site during his first week in office.  

Buldozers and dump trucks are working overtime ahead of his visit. 

Construction at the site has already begun on what could become Mexico’s largest refinery. The incoming government promising it will produce up to 400,000 barrels of gasoline per day.

It’s the leftist president’s answer to sweeping energy reforms rooted in a constitutional change spearheaded by outgoing President Enrique Peña Nieto. 

Those reforms opened Mexico’s oil and electricity sectors to foreign investment for the first time in 80 years. 

Oil industry consultant Miriam Grunstein said Lopez Obrador’s energy proposals could lead Mexico into financial ruin. 

“Maybe in the short term the gasoline that the refinery can produce is low-priced. But also in that short and medium term he is going to make no money, and it’s going to be a financial burden for the Mexican government,” Grunstein said.

Add that to AMLO’s challenge to make Pemex great again at a time when the state-run oil company is struggling to overcome financial troubles, made worse by chronic basic problems like fuel theft that’s costing the company about a billion-and-a-half dollars a year.