We covered the Great Plains winter storm last week, which cut power and impacted many states’ water supplies, especially Texas.

However, the storm did not just impact the U.S. The storm left over five million customers in northern Mexico without power as a shortage of natural gas disrupted electricity production.

Mexico’s government-owned utility, the Federal Electricity Commission, said its operations were left short as the winter storm in Texas froze natural gas pipelines. It said some private power plants also began shutting down Sunday night. Private plants supply about 80% of power in northern Mexico.

Mexico uses gas to generate about 60% of its power, compared to about 40% in the United States. Mexico built pipelines to take advantage of cheap natural gas from the U.S., often obtained by fracking in Texas, but Mexico does not allow fracking in its own territory.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s orders to restrict natural gas exports during the crisis resulted in the need for some diplomatic work.

Mr. Abbott’s order has heightened tensions between the two countries, with top Mexican officials protesting the governor’s decision to cut off gas supplies just as Mexico works to resolve its own mass power outages as a result of the frigid weather.

“We are doing our diplomatic work so that this doesn’t happen,” President Andrés Manuel López Obrador of Mexico said at a news conference on Thursday, referring to Mr. Abbott’s order. “This wouldn’t just affect Mexico — it would also affect other states in the Union.”

Perhaps that is why Mexico’s president is now turning toward coal and diverting focus from green energy.

President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, popularly known as Amlo, has unveiled plans to buy nearly 2m tons of thermal coal from small producers like Rivera. He also plans to reactivate a pair of coal-fired plants on the Texas border, which were being wound down as natural gas and renewables took a more prominent role in Mexico’s energy mix.

Not only is López Obradorbetting big on fossil fuels, he is also curtailing clean energy.

The populist president has promoted a vision of energy sovereignty, in which state-run bodies – the oil company Pemex and the Federal Electricity Commission (CFE) – pump petroleum and generate electricity. Private players, which have heavily invested in clean energy, are relegated to a secondary role in López Obrador’s vision – while emissions and climate commitments are an afterthought.

“Instead of thinking of a transition from coal and fossil fuels, he’s thinking of using more coal and petroleum,” said Adrián Fernández Bremauntz, director of Iniciativa Climática de México, an environmental organisation.

And while it may not win him any “green energy awards,” Obrador’s decision may win him the support of Mexicans, who will be grateful not to be so dependent on a neighbor that is likely to be even less reliable in the future.


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