Without sufficient investments in upstream oil field activities utilizing new and advanced technologies, Mexico faces the prospect of becoming a net oil importer in 10 years, according to new research by Rice University's James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy and Oxford University. The stakes of the current political stalemate over oil are quite high, the study concluded. Were Pemex, Mexico's national oil company, able to fully develop its oil in line with international standards and technology, Mexican citizens could earn $1,055 per capita per year by 2020, versus $546 if current trends continue.
Mexican leaders are keenly aware of the potential problems caused by falling oil exports and rising public expectations. Pemex has taken steps to slow the declining production by increasing investment in two newer fields. However, the study warned, enhanced recovery techniques for both onshore and offshore oil take years to have an effect.
Moreover, the study questioned whether the Mexican leadership has the will and the ability to reach long-term energy goals. "Political decision-making in the Mexican energy sector, like in many democratic societies, can become highly captive of vested interests," the study said, "with outcomes that are less than optimum for the stakeholder, in this case, the Mexican people." The study argued that for many of those vested interests, the status quo is quite advantageous.
"The study's final determination is that the decline in Mexican oil revenues is likely to be gradual rather than rapid and reduce the chances that a sudden, deep crisis will create the political will to make hard choices or unpopular reforms. For instance, if Pemex is able to maintain production levels through new finds and better efficiency, it could postpone the export crisis for three decades. But even with this expanded time frame, it is not assured that Mexico will undertake an orderly adjustment. Rather, the study's authors concluded, "it can also generate incentives to postpone it or adjust to the fall in government revenues through the least-costly short-run solution, such as cutting public investment, which can, at the same time, generate the greatest adverse effects in the long run."
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