Old Mexico gets smart; New Mexico stays stupid

Old Mexico gets smart; New Mexico stays stupid by Peter Burrows 4/24/21 elburropete@gmail.com

A month after taking office Dec. 1, 2019, the President of Mexico, Manuel Lopez Obrador, did something very smart:  he turned Mexico’s electricity future away from renewables and back to oil and coal.  He did this by cancelling a “clean energy” auction that would have had Mexico paying millions of dollars for electricity generated by solar panels and wind turbines.  

He then cancelled two transmission-line projects that would have transported the renewable energy around the nation. He also called for more investment in coal and had the temerity to note that high subsidies for renewables had led to “very high costs.” His new director of Mexico’s state-owned electric utility, the Federal Electricity Commission (Comision Federal de Electricidad or CFE), dismissed wind and solar as unreliable and expensive.  

The criticism was immediate and risible. Mexicans could now expect blackouts because of the reduction in intermittent electricity sources, which everywhere else in the world leads to MORE blackouts. In the same vein, Mexicans could count on higher prices because Mexico was, somehow, going to become the only place in the entire world where adding wind and solar to the generation mix would lower electricity bills. 

The most ridiculous criticism was that by abandoning wind and solar electricity, Mexico would be unable to meet its emission reduction commitments under the Paris climate agreement, the 2015 treaty signed by 196 nations who pledged to reduce their CO2 emissions.  Unfortunately (fortunately?), even if the developed nations were actually going to achieve their stated goals, which they are NOT going to do, it wouldn’t mean a thing.  

That’s because China, India and some poor nations in Africa are going full steam ahead building more coal-fired electricity plants, Paris be damned. China, the world’s largest CO2 emitter, twice that of the US, has said they will be carbon neutral by 2060, whatever that means. 2060? Gosh, maybe Biden’s Climate Czar, the pathetic John Kerry, can get them to advance that date to 2055, or even 2050. 

India, the number three CO2 emitter after China and the US, is starting to really ramp up its industrialization as they face the threat of a modernized, aggressive China on its northern border. To get an idea of the magnitude of additional CO2 that entails, India’s per capita CO2 emissions are about one-fourth that of the US and one-half of China’s. Per capita CO2 is a proxy for a nation’s prosperity, and when India’s per capita CO2 emissions equals that of China’s, it will be the CO2 equivalent of adding a brand-new America to the world.  

Of course, China won’t be standing still, and it’s conceivable that the two countries combined will be adding two or three brand new Americas to the CO2 world over the next decade, making a mockery of all the environmental posturing going on about how the U.S. must “save the world” by spending trillions on offshore wind turbines, EV charging stations and other moronic liberal nonsense. (Pardon my redundancy.)  

Why, you may ask, aren’t India et al putting up solar panels and windmills instead of coal-fired generation plants, since solar and wind are cheaper than coal?  BECAUSE IN THE 24-7 REAL WORLD THEY AREN’T CHEAPER. You think not? Show me where adding renewables has lowered electricity bills. Certainly not here in New Mexico.  

And if you think somebody in India, China, Africa, or old Mexico for that matter, is going to forego cheap, 24-7 electricity just to prevent the streets of Manhattan from being under water someday, I have a bridge I’d like to sell you. 

Obrador followed up the renewable cancellation with orders for five new gas-fired electric generating plants, and, taking a page from China and India, last July ordered Mexico’s state-owned power company to buy two million tons of coal from Mexican coal producers, sending a clear message to Mexico’s coal industry. I don’t know if this will replace coal imports from the US, or if it represents new coal-fired capacity. Probably the former, as “energy sovereignty” is Obrador’s goal.  

This goal was validated last February when a winter storm knocked out power in Texas, which led the governor of Texas to shut off natural gas exports to Mexico, leaving 4 million Mexicans without electricity. Obrador said the lesson was clear: “We (Mexico) must produce.” I bet he also learned that trying to rely on intermittent sources of electricity for base-load needs is flirting with disaster.  

Proof of this, at least in my opinion, came last month when he proposed legislation that would require Mexico’s electricity grid to first take power from the state-run coal and oil-powered plants, the traditional sources of base-load power, BEFORE adding any solar or wind produced power. Obrador “gets” it.   

So, in spite of being what journalists have called “left-leaning,” Obrador is becoming one of my favorite politicians. He’s smart enough to see through the environmental BS and he’s acting in the best interests of Mexico. If current trends continue, old Mexico will someday enjoy the competitive advantage of cheap, reliable electricity, unlike New Mexico, where our “left leaning” politicians remain stuck on stupid. 

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