Mexico’s ambitious president has unleashed a staggering series of reforms in his first year, tackling education, labor relations, and drug crime. But the trickiest gambit of all may be one that strikes at the heart of the nation’s pride and its economy: the bid to transform Mexico’s energy sector.

President Enrique Peña Nieto, who took office in December, has confronted in oil and natural gas an issue central to Mexico’s sense of sovereignty. The day in 1938 when President Lázaro Cárdenas kicked out the U.S. and British oil companies and nationalized Mexico’s reserves is celebrated each year as a national holiday. Instead of paying fealty to the corporate interests of its powerful northern neighbor, Mexico eventually became one of the United States’ most important oil suppliers, valued as a bulwark against the vicissitudes of OPEC.

But Mexico’s secure position among the world’s top oil producers is eroding. Its old oil fields are depleting rapidly, and state-owned monopoly Petróleos Mexicanos, or Pemex, lacks both the money and technology to tap its substantial oil and natural gas reserves in the deepwater of the Gulf of Mexico and in the shale formations that run along much of the east coast. (See related, “Pictures: Mexico’s Robust Wind Energy Prospects Ruffle Nearby Villages.”

via Mexico’s Bid for Energy Reform Stirs Passion on Oil Patrimony.