Petro-populism and infrastructural energy landscapes: The case of Mexico’s Dos Bocas Refinery
In 2018, recently elected presidential candidate Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador (AMLO) promised the construction of a new refinery in Mexico. Arguing a lack of energy independence and the urgent need to ‘rescue’ petro-state giant PEMEX and the stateowned electricity company CFE from the mismanagement and neoliberal policies of previous administrations, the Dos Bocas Refinery (DBR) became one of the main flagship projects of AMLO’s administration symbolizing a discourse of energy security and national pride. This paper reviews the process of approval and construction of the refinery by assessing, the material and relational character of energy infrastructure, the “politics and poetics” that are built into the promises of infrastructure projects, and the shifting temporalities of infrastructure and their interaction with emerging ‘petropopulist landscapes’ which serve as material evidence of oil-led development. Drawing on Anthropology's and Geography’s ‘infrastructural turn’, this paper reviews a series of government documents, speeches and declarations supported by interviews with energy experts to understand the symbolic meaning of energy infrastructure and how the DBR has become deeply entangled with a nationalist political project which has instituted an inertial path-dependence towards the continued use of fossil fuels, off-staging other concerns associated to climate change and the energy transition at the national level.
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