Watch for Mexico to become the world's No. 4 oil producer -- perhaps as early as 1981. Mexico has just moved into fifth place as its output rose to 2.276 million barrels per day. The only producers still ahead of the Mexicans are the Soviet Union, Saudi Arabia, the US, and Iraq.
Mexico's gusher has surprised some experts. It ranked only 20th as recently as 1975 and appeared to be oil deficient. But Mexico City is actually holding back output because of concern that too much, too fast could fuel inflation.
The oil boom south of the Rio Grande delights US policymakers. It lowers the West's dependence on OPEC, boosts the troubled Mexican economy, and would be a secure source that didn't depend on transatlantic shipping lanes.m