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The 4th Transformation: Four Transformations

13 May 2019

This government has given itself the moniker of the “Fourth Transformation”… the first three since Independence being the Juarez Reforms, the Revolution, and the “New Deal” 1930s administration of Lazaro Cardenas.  While one can’t say whether this 4th “transformation” will change the country in some new and radical way, here are four new ideas being raised that … if even partially implemented… might very well change the way Mexicans live.

NO MORE PLASTIC.

This is an oil-producing country, and plastics are a major industry.  Directly or indirectly, 45,000 Mexicans depend on plastic for their livelihood.  The states of Oaxaca and Mexico City both have passed legislation outlawing single use plastics, and other states are expected to follow.  Given Mexico City’s population, and the concentration of business in the Capital, the effect is going to be that manufactures will have to switch to alternative products here, it not being particularly cost effective to sell one set of products outside the capital and another in the rest of the county (minus those states … like Oaxaca… which follow Mexico City’s lead).

However, as Oaxacan artist and environmental activist Alejando Toledo notes, this is not necessarily a one sided environmental victory.  Glass-making is energy intensive, paper-making has its own environmental problems (and over-harvesting trees is a whole other environmental problem in Mexico)  and, besides the problem of finding new employment for those losing their jobs (which includes people who sell plastic bags, but can sell paper or cloth ones, presumably). what to do with all that plastic waste likely to be exported from the United States as it de-plasticizes (if that’s a word) that is likely to be dumped here are effects not yet considered.

MEXICAN GASOLINE FOR MEXICAN CARS

With the exponential growth in the number of automobiles in Mexico, gasoline prices, and access to gasoline has been a political issue for years.  WIth no new refineries having been built in the last 30+ years, PEMEX has been in the odd position of exporting oil and importing gasoline.  One of AMLO’s more concrete campaign promises was to build refineries in Mexico, and use Mexico oil to produce Mexican gasoline.  Mexico oil is high in sulpher, which makes it more difficult to refine into gasoline (or, at least, less environmentally damaging gasoline).  There is also the problem that there hasn0t been a reflinery built in Mexico in over 30 years, and it was said that PEMEX just didn’t have the expertise to build one.  Several foreign contractors were considered, but the decision has come down to PEMEX doing this on their own, without outside contractors.  I imagine they will be hiring consultants, there will be cost overruns, and probably not as much refined gasoline as anticipated.  Even so, less imported gasoline, and more oil consumed domestically could either worsen the growing dependence on private transportion and internal combustion engines here, or just means less dependence on foreign oil prices for state revenue.

INTERNET FOR ALL

While they are the less inhabited regions of the country, about 80% of Mexico has no internet service.  Providers have argued that it’s not cost effective to provide service in these regions and, in some, rural electrification programs dating back to the early 1960s (Mexico’s last great socialist investment was buying out the foreign-owned electric companies) has never reached some areas.  At a speech in Nayar, Nayarit (one of the most isolated communities in the country), AMLO announced that the state would set up its own internet provider for the entire country.  I don’t know that that’s 100% achievable and wonder if a small tax on phone and internet services to subsidize service in rural communities (as is done in the United States) wouldn’t be more feasible… but even so, expanded service would be welcome, and would have some secondary effects like making it possible to provide more educational and business opportunities in isolated regions which have been depopulating for years.

NO MORE SUBWAYS IN THE SUBWAY

A rather surprising environmental issue is pizza parlors and fast food restaurants in the metro stations.  It seems they use electric ovens (God help us using gas in those crowded, underground caverns).  Ovens heat up, raising the already high temperatures a few million human bodies add to the system, and draining the electrical system meant to power fans and … well… trains.  So… if you want a snack, I guess you’ll have to come up to the street.  On the other hand, the Metro has stated moving the ticket turnstiles so that people can use the stations to cross from one side of the street to the other without having to buy a ticket.

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