Mexico is the eleventh largest producer of oil in the world and the thirteenth-largest in the exportation of oil. It has the seventeenth-largest oil reserves and is the fourth largest producer in the Western Hemisphere. And yet, in early 2019, Mexico experienced a gas shortage. The restructuring of the gas distribution system left many rural Mexican towns without gas for nearly two months.
by Jolina Flowers, SHTFblog’s Expat Prepper
This Gaspocalypse in Mexico hit the area where I live quite hard. After the second week, there was not a drop of that liquid gold to be found in any of the surrounding towns. The roads were eerily deserted.
By Thursday of the fourth week, there was a trickle of gas coming in. Gas stations opened at 8 am and were sold out by 11 am. People waited more than 6 hours in line. So many people camped out in their cars awaiting the next gas shipment in our town that an entire lane of traffic was closed to accommodate them, stretching for miles. Traffic was entirely rerouted.
The impacts of oil and gas scarcity went beyond just fuel for our vehicles. Few delivery trucks were up and running. Fresh fruit and vegetables became scarce. Bank trucks couldn’t get to banks to deliver cash, so the banks had no funds to disperse. Cooking gas wasn’t available for delivery either in many areas. The police were reduced to bike patrol.
Mexico’s Gas Shortage History
So how did things get to this critical juncture? Well, the well-intentioned president Andrés Manuel López Obrador closed the pipelines that traverse the country to cut down on out-of-control petroleum theft. Gas was to be brought to the stations via tanker truck under watchful military vigilance.
Related article: Expats and Guns – Defending Yourself in Another Country
There weren’t enough trucks to meet delivery demand so the gas languished away at the port storage facilities. In fact, 60 oil tankers were anchored off-shore unable to offload their cargo. Some had been waiting for more than a month. Thus it remained a distribution problem rather than an actual gas shortage.
Finally the first week of February, the Mexican government hired privately owned trucks to help alleviate the delivery backup. The trucks ran 24 hours a day and were escorted by military police until the distribution was again regulated.
Gaspocalypse Lessons Learned
The gas shortage demonstrated how very fragile the infrastructure is here in Mexico. It’s only a matter of time before another issue creates a new gas crisis. So what can you do to better prepare?
- Top your tank up whenever you can
- Use bikes or motorcycles to get around
- Stock up on non-perishable food
- Have an alternative way to cook
Our motorcycles, called motos here in Mexico, were life savers, literally. One tank of gas in my husband’s motorcycle costs $200 pesos and will last us about three weeks. My moto doesn’t get quite as good mileage, but for $90 pesos (under $5 USD) I can go nearly two weeks making one trip to town and back.
Prior Motorcycle Experience
In my pre-expat life, I didn’t own a motorcycle. This is a skill that I picked up since my move to Mexico. It has provided me with such a degree of independence that when I was without a moto for nearly a year recently, I felt imprisoned.
There was a bit of a learning curve in mastering moto driving. I opted for an automatic rather than standard model, both because it was easier to drive without having to worry about a clutch and because it was smaller, so I could reach the ground with both feet when stopped.
Unfortunate Mexican Motorcycle Experience
There are also some hazards to driving a moto in Mexico. Several years ago, my in-laws were involved in a crash that killed my mother-in-law. My father-in-law was driving the moto and my mother-in-law was a passenger. They had just gone to fill up the gas tank and were crossing the intersection to go to work when a police truck going more than 200 kilometers per hour hit them. My mother-in-law was dragged nearly 100 feet in the grill of the truck.
The police covered up much of the evidence and the officer driving has been transferred to another town, so there was no justice for her death. Newspaper articles were used to shift the blame on my father-in-law, saying things like no one was wearing helmets and that he had hit the side of the truck, which were blatant lies. But that’s pretty much how things go here in Mexico.
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It’s also important that you have your documents in order when driving a moto. As a permanent resident, I have been able to get my motorcycle driver’s license without too much fuss. The motorcycle also must have a license plate and a permit to circulate card.
A second hazard to driving in Mexico is the inevitable shake down by police, known as la mordida (a little bite). Having a driver’s license, license plates and circulation card will cut down on the extortion you’ll experience. Of course, there could be other issues that might result in a cash exchange, like a broken headlight or a missing mirror, so you won’t be completely out of the woods, but it will help.
Driving itself can be perilous. Topes (speed bumps) and potholes can really do a number on your front suspension. Drivers of larger vehicles are less than careful when it comes to the motorcyclist. Vicious chihuahuas and piles of horse dung are also hazards in my area.
Gaspocalypse Motorcycle Summary
Despite all these issues, not only does using a motorcycle as your primary means of transportation save your bacon during a Gaspocalypse, but also you can pretty much park wherever you want, including up on the sidewalk. I’m sure there is some sort of local ordinance that prohibits that, but I haven’t seen anyone enforce it in the 15 years I’ve been driving my moto around town.
And having survived that last Gaspocalypse in Mexico, I’ve also learned that having a bit more provisions than you think you might need on hand, is a good idea. The next gas shortage might be the last.