AMLO outside the Senate, Monday, October 26

Worker's Party Deputy Mario di Costanzo Tears Apart Carstens Economic Plan

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Dog Days

These are, indeed, dog days for Felipe Calderón. Faced with a recalcitrant Congress, an energized social movement, and the sweltering end-of-dry season Mexican weather, Calderón - as it usual oscillating between Napoleon complex-style authoritarianism and visionless vacillation (one, of course, plays off the other) - finds himself trying to hand off responsibility for the hot potato that is oil privatization to the Congress, which (the PRI faction at least) insists on trying to hand it back to him. "The Executive must lead," says the PRI. "Congress is where the energy initiative will originate," says Santiago Creel, head of the PAN (Calderon's conservative party) faction in the Senate. But what will the initative include, exactly? One can hardly tell if the "government" can't even get it together enough to decide what the justification is for presenting the initiative in the first place. First, we heard that we needed to associate with private enterprise because Mexico was running out of reserves, fast. Then the tune changed, and we heard, in a sweet-sounding television spot (making a moot point of the new electoral reform law that supposedly bans political advertising on TV) that Mexico has a "hidden treasure" buried deep in the Gulf of Mexico, and that only association with private enterprise will provide Mexico with the technology necessary to extract it (incidentally, two versions of that ad were made, one for foreign consumption, and one for the national audience, with the privatizing language toned down). Question: with over $50 billion dollars in oil revenues last year alone, why can't Mexico acquire the required technology itself, instead of associating with private companies who don't have it either? Norway, for one, offers a moveable ocean rig for rent at 250,000 euros a day called "Erik the Red" which can penetrate down 3,000 meters, three times the depth of existing, fixed rigs (check out a Discovery Channel program on this new rig on YouTube: Surely, with $50 billion in revenue, PEMEX could rent Erik the Red itself, especially considering what it stands to gain from it? And what's more, if Mexico ever quit being the lackey of international capital and started looking out for its own interests, it could use its oil revenues to become an expert in oil-perforation technology on its own (certainly in its interest), start building these kinds of rigs and training its engineers to use them, and even export them for other countries to use. Or even better than placing its entire bet on a dwindling store (depending on which governmental argument is being used on which day) of polluting fossil fuels, it could use its revenues to become a leader in eco-technology and electric cars. Hell, with oil prices at a record high and promising to rise, Mexico should be building its own refineries on the double, a long row of refineries right on the border with the United States, and then sell refined gasoline for energy-hog Americans to fill up their SUVs with, undercutting Exxon Mobil and Texoco by just enough and still making an absolute killing. As it stands now, Mexico sells its crude oil to the States and buys back the gasoline; it hasn't built a new refinery in 25 years (not suprisingly, the same amount of time the neo-cons have been running the show here). How pathetic is that?

All of this is part of an energy-reform smokescreen which is doing nothing more than undercut what's left of Mexico's national sovereignty. The Calderón "government", for example, recently signed a deal with Repsol of Spain to provide natural gas to Mexico for the next 15 years, at a cost to Mexico of $15 billion dollars. Repsol, who was the only bidder, will buy the gas from Peru and sell it to Mexico, who has dutifully committed to building a plant in Colima to house it. As a mere intermediary, Repsol will make its own killing. And this, despite the fact that Mexico has gas reserves of its own lying fallow in the Yucatan, and despite the obvious conflict of interest of PEMEX having bought Repsol stock back when Calderón was Secretary of Energy and on PEMEX's Administrative Board, and then making a hash of it (for the public interest, at least) by effectively selling the stock off before its value subsequently rose, for a neat loss of $655 million dollars. So one wonders: how did Repsol, "Calderón's favorite company" happen to get that no-bid gas contract anyway, and how did it know to put in its bid just at the right time? And incidentally, whatever happened to old article 27 of the Mexican Constitution, making energy production the property of the nation?

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