Major discussions have taken place concerning Mexico's 2013 changes to its energy framework. These discussions are mostly related to corruption, the state's capacity to add value in the oil and gas sector, energy security and sovereignty, transnational companies and to some extent environmental issues (Padierna 2014; Morales Aragón and Dávalos López 2015; Ackerman et al. 2017). Within this massive change, private companies have been allowed to fully involve in oil, gas, and electricity supply chains, under the argument that markets are to be developed for prices to decrease to benefit consumers.
From the 2014 plan for exploring and extracting fossil fuels, I found that 34,830 km2 were to be auctioned for fracking (SENER 2015), however SENER increased the area to 52,604 km2 in 2018. Dear reader, please note that the Netherlands is only 41,543 km2! This auction has been strongly promoted in the recent months; the government has even paid for a forum with academic centers, think-tanks and businessman. From the outside, it seems like our institutions are trying to get rid of these fossil fuel reserves at any price! Fortunately (for us), they have only been able to assign in the first auction to PEMEX around 478 km2.
The precautionary principle was included in Art. 15 and Art. 3.3 of the Rio Declaration and the UNFCCC convention Mexico signed in 1992. This postulate implies that adverse effects should be prevented from dangerous activities that pose uncertainties or scientific uncertainty of what could happen in the future (Toth and Mwansdosya 2001; Gollier et al. 2000). Thus, by applying this principle we acknowledge a social preference to avoid risk in face of unknown results.
Knight (1921) said that risk is something that we can estimate based on previous experiences (thus allowing forecasts of possible future outcomes) but that uncertainty cannot be forecast as it includes multiple events with variable outcomes.
Fracking has been linked to increased risk to human health and the environment (Concerned Health Professionals of New York 2016), but fracking results are also uncertain depending on the specifics of where and how the technology is used. The technology, in other words, may be the same but the local conditions (topography, water basins, ecosystems and geological conditions) introduce uncertainty regarding the technology's impact.
When future uncertainty is relevant, Gollier et al. (2000) advise stronger actions today. Therefore, the precautionary principle is a safeguard against opportunistic politicians whenever asymmetric information or a weak monitoring by society takes place. Based on this principle and thorough studies, countries like France or Germany -- contrary to the United States or Mexico -- have banned fracking for some major reasons:
- Social resistance and active opinion against pro-fracking politicians and companies
- The United States' experiences with high water demand and pollution
- Strong uncertainties regarding methane leakage or increased seismicity
In a nutshell, (we) Mexicans should be worried about fracking for these reasons:
- The proven risks associated to the activity
- Uncertainties attached to this practice in regard to methane leakage, water spills, and induced seismicity, etc.
- Mexico's culture of chronic corruption favoring profit over care
* Please help my environmental economics students by commenting on unclear analysis, other perspectives, data sources, etc. (Or you can just say something nice :)