By RICARDO CASTILLO
Texas Gas Shortage
The Arctic vortex that hit Texas and the north of Mexico on Monday, Feb. 15, did not catch the Federal Electricity Commission (CFE) unprepared, said the commission’s director, Manuel Bartlett Díaz.
The cold spell was expected, and the subsequent gas shortage it produced was also to be expected, he said, but not just for climatic reasons.
Last week, before the deep freeze, Texan gas suppliers began hiking the price of gas, and by Friday, Feb. 12, according to commodity markets data, the cost of the fuel began skyrocketing, forcing the Mexican government to temporarily suspend purchases in hopes the price might go back down.
Preparations for the gas shortage came, Bartlett said during President Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s (AMLO) daily press conference at the National Palace Thursday, Feb. 18, and the CFE was ready to reconvert electricity producing plants to “alternate fuels.”
“Even without the gas from Texas gas, were able to restore the service” as fast as possible given the size of the snow blast, Bartlett said, using the instruments the government had on hand to restore electricity to most of the vast affected areas of six states, including the four bordering with Texas.
Meanwhile, on Wednesday, Feb. 17, Texas Governor Greg Abbot issued an executive order to all gas suppliers forbidding the export of gas — be it to Mexico or other states — until Sunday, Feb. 21, apparently in an attempt to put a halt to the price surge of the commodity.
The massive power outage in Mexico came precisely at a time when AMLO was pushing through the Chamber of Deputies his own controversial Electricity Bill to, he claimed, “put things in order” as to which companies should supply energy first into the Mexican grid, privately-owned, clean-energy companies or government producers, using fossil fuels.
That bill could be voted on as early as Friday, Feb. 19.
During that same press conference, AMLO blames past administrations for preventing fuel gas production by the state-run Petróleos Mexicanos (Pemex), which he accused without evidence of taking part in “corruption and bribery scams,” leading both Pemex and the CFE into a “programmed divestment bankruptcy.”
Consequently, AMLO said, Mexico now imports 70 percent of the gas it uses to fuel electricity production plants.
“We are solving this problem because we are revving up plants that do not require gas, using fuel oil and coal to confront the emergency,” he said.
Car Makers Stop Production
This week, U.S. auto giant Ford has halted production in several of its plants the United States and Mexico due to extreme weather conditions, mainly in Texas.
The company announced Wednesday, Feb. 17, that it had temporarily stopped production in its assembly plants in Hermosillo, Sonora, along with its plants in Flat Rock, Ohio, and Kansas City.
Ford was not alone.
German carmakers Volkswagen and Audi, with plants in Puebla and San Jose Chiapa, respectively, also began “technical stoppages” to comply with a government request to diminish the use of natural gas due to shortages provoked by the recent cold front.
Audi said that production will be slowed down “in accordance with the flow of gas, an indispensable resource for the production of the Audi Q5 model.”
All three companies said that the stoppages would not affect employees’ salaries or contribute to economic stability.
Sandoval Infected with Covid
Mexican Defense Secretary Luis Cresencio Sandoval González tweeted on Wednesday, Feb. 17, that he had tested positive for covid-19.
Notwithstanding, Sandoval González said that he would continue his duties in isolation from home, under medical treatment and with the support of military officials in accordance with the chain of command.
As a result, Sandoval will miss Mexican Army Day festivities, slated to be carried out nationwide today, Friday, Feb. 19.
He was supposed to be the keynote speaker at the main ceremony at the under- construction Santa Lucia Airport, just north of Mexico City.
Photo ID Snafu
The National Electoral Institute (INE) protested because the brigades in charge of administering covid-19 vaccines were asking recipients for their voter registration card as a valid identification document.
The INE said taking photos of the ID was illegal because the card might be used by “a political party” for electioneering purposes.
Of course, the political party that the INE was referring to was current majority National Regeneration Movement (Morena).
On Thursday, Feb. 18, Interior Secretary Olga Sánchez Cordero flatly rejected the accusation on the grounds that the objective of the move was to create a vaccination census through the Unique Code of Population Registrar (CURP), which is included on the voter ID card.
“We are not using the photo for identification,” Sánchez Cordero said.
U.S. Dollar Quotes
The Mexican peso is trading steady at around 20 to the U.S. dollar.
On Thursday, Feb. 18, the peso quoted at a reference price of 20.14 per greenback, and banks were purchasing dollars at 19.90 pesos and selling them at 20.40 pesos.
…Feb. 19, 2021