Setting research agendas requires a substantial allocation of resources. Non – hegemonic countries lack the means to influence global trends in knowledge production. Still, some margin is available. By selecting specific topics to focus on, these countries build a national approach to global issues. This paper examines how two Latin American countries, namely Mexico and Argentina, have tackled the global challenge of developing new and renewable forms of energy through their research activities between 1992 and 2016. It stresses the historical and national specificities of global quests in a Latin-American setting by choosing two countries with central roles in the region and research systems of similar size and distinctive traditions. This research utilizes textual data from bibliometric sources. More precisely, the fields title, abstract, and keywords from the energy collection at the Scopus database. Text is processed using natural language detection techniques (NPL) to find a complex and relevant set of describing terms. The query line was built to grasp the discussion in detail, drawing on literature reviews and technology briefs. Findings show threads and rhythms bounded to the national dimension. Continual and harmonious evolution of research efforts stands out for Mexico. In Argentina, a distinctive set of preoccupations emerges in different moments during the studied period. The article provides relevant evidence that enables a reflection on how strategic-oriented efforts effectively unfold in a particular set of time and spatial coordinates. It also brings forward a methodological take to assess local competencies and trajectories on issues of global public concern.