Observatorio Petrolero Sur [OPSur] is an organization founded in 2008 and located in Buenos Aires and Neuquén cities, Argentina. The group’s main challenge is that energy’s production and consumption are made in a fair, democratic, healthy and sustainable way. We use tools such as communication, training, research and public policy advocacy in order to articulate and create social movement.
Mission: from the bottom to the top
OPSur works the critical issues of energy, environment and collective rights from a holistic approach. It considers necessary a transition to an alternative productive and energy matrix under a framework of environmental and social justice. Its actions stimulates and promotes social empowerment and participation to counterbalance power concentration, in energy and other sectors, to achieve social change in harmony with nature.
The challenge: transition to a sustainable and fair society
Argentina’s energy matrix depends on a 90% of hydrocarbon consumption. The non-transparent decision-making and ownership processes are deeply centralized and privatized. In the recent decades, as a consequence of the relevance of corporate actors, largely transnationals, Argentina did not develop a sovereign policy of diversification and energy substitution, at the same time that massively exported oil and gas, loosing self-sufficiency.
Under this prevailing logic, the development of the industry exacerbates environmental degradation, health and cultural impacts by prioritizing market logic at the expense of the commons. This involves the creation of ‘sacrifice zones’, territories where raw resource exploitation in detriment of local interests and welfare. In general, governments do not inform or guarantee collective and human rights and, if necessary, explicitly and implicitly exert violence on the population that resists. At the same time, the clear consequences of climate change, and the close relationship it keeps with the fossil fuels, extend social and environmental problems on a global scale.
These facts are strengthened by trying to meet a concentrated, relentless and exponential consumption, both nationally and internationally. This results in a permanent expansion of the oil frontier towards regions without precedents and offshore and the introduction of brand new technological packages, such as the experimental technique fracking in unconventional basins.
On the other hand, as fossil fuels are the main motor force of the global market and financial system, the control of this strategic and non-renewable resources is a source of multiple diplomatic and war conflicts. Beyond Argentina’s distinctive features, in the international level, transnational corporations and central countries are privileged actors in these disputes and global constructions. But also hydrocarbons have overflowed the energy function becoming central components in agrochemicals, plastics, clothes and ceaseless uses that have shaped a real ‘oil civilization’.
Ultimately, the root of the problem is the massive exploitation of hydrocarbons in search of satisfying an endless energy thirst, which sustains a system that has turned humanity and nature into commodities.
Our work: inputs for social change
OPSur is a multidisciplinary team integrated by the following professionals: Ariana Ortega [B.S. in Political Science in progress (Buenos Aires University)] | Diana Rodríguez López [Lawyer (National University of Colombia)] | Diego di Risio [B.S. in Political Science (Buenos Aires University)] | Diego Pérez Roig [PhD in Social Cs. In process (Universidad de Buenos Aires, CONICET)] | Felipe Gutiérrez Ríos [M.D. in Social Studies in process (Buenos Aires University)] | Fernando Cabrera [M.D. in Social Cs. in process (General Sarmiento University)] | Martín Álvarez [Journalist] | Hernán Scandizzo [Journalist (Workshop School Agency)].
Institutionally, OPSur is part of the Non-Profit Organization CEPPAS [Centro de Políticas Públicas para el Socialismo], created in 2002 to promote a deepening of democracy, in key of justice, human rights and sustainability. Action focuses on economic crime and corruption; access to land and indigenous rights; community and alternative media centers; exploitation of the commons and environmental degradation. OPSur also integrates different networks: Multisectorial against Fracking of Neuquén, the Brazilian Network for Environmental Justice, the regional magazine Energy and Equity and the global south network Oilwatch.
In order to achieve the strategic objective of energy produced and consumed in a fair, democratic, healthy and sustainable way, OPSur’s work is divided into three overlapping areas:
- Oil Free Territories: Due to the constant expansion of the industry, stopping new ‘sacrifice zones’ consolidates social participation processes and organization, reduces the sector’s power and creates conditions for alternative projects. Thus, priority is placed in public policies, making visible and dismantling the power map that promotes them and communicate environmental degradation due to the lack of information coming from public and private sectors.
- Environmental Justice: To ensure all citizens a dignified and peaceful life is fundamental to repair environmental, economic and health inequities. The program focuses in research, dissemination, recognition and guarantee of both individual and collective rights, in the strengthening of participatory public policies that rely on accurate, integral and public information to ensure collective decisions towards a fairly and equitable usage of the common goods. It also stimulates the processes of citizen and public control and regulation over the sector.
- Energy Sovereignty: The discussion of energy is intertwined with development models present in societies, a debate that today is dominated by corporate sectors. In that sense, it is important to work energy comprehensively, beyond the sources, because its access, distribution and profits determine the type of development to be achieved. In search of new perspectives and understanding it as a fundamental human right, OPSur addresses issues such as management, integration, sovereignty, the development of technology and the democratization of access.
OPSur has become a reference in the area and its objectives are fulfilled with financial contributions from organizations, foundations, unions and individuals from the country and abroad. It does not belong to any party or depends of a government or company.
Most of our work is done in Spanish but some it has been translated for certain objetives:
Joint report with Les Amis de la Terre, Milieudefensie and Friends of the Earth Europe for advocacy and action due to the increasing investment of foreign companies in Argentina’s unconventional fossil fuels (Neuquén province, north of Patagonia). Focus on Total, Chevron and Shell’s practices, thorough research and a series of field visits have shown, among other things, that the oil and gas sector has captured the political debate (unpublished contracts and key environmental information missing), lax regulation prevails and agencies in charge of control are understaffed or its opinions are underestimated. Among other cases, the report details the expansion of companies in Auca Mahuida Protected Area and indigenous territories in the province. Spanish and French versions are also available.
This publication had an important number of public presentations in Europe (France, Netherlands, Czech Republic, Poland, Hungary and Spain) in a tour that also held actions in Shell’s and Total’s Annual General Meetings and activities with grassroots organizations, press and MP’s. Moreover, it was also the opportunity to present the documentary ‘Fracking Patagonia‘ of Les Amis de la Terre. The trip was made by a representative of Multisectorial against Fracking of Neuquén and an OPSur member, invited and organized by the previously mentioned organizations and Bankwatch network.
- 2013: Anti-fracking mobilization suppressed and indigenous houses burnt due to resistance over Chevron-YPF agreement
Press release over Chevron-YPF agreement for shale exploitation. It includes background information: A new context: unconventional power, resistances and the pursuit for other energy.
Subtitles in English for campaign’s video.
Included in Friends of the Earth Europe report ‘Shale gas: unconventional and unwanted’.
Brief over a wider report in these topic.
(54) 11 4373 6303/4
Buenos Aires, Argentina