Observatorio Petrolero Sur [OPSur] is an organization founded in 2008 and located in Buenos Aires and Neuquén cities, Argentina. The group’s goal is for energy production and consumption to be 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. It is the Latin American coordinator of Oilwatch network.

Mission: from the bottom to the top

OPSur works the critical issues of energy, environment and collective rights from a holistic approach. We believe it is necessary to transition to an alternative energy matrix under a framework of environmental and social justice. Our actions stimulate and promote 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 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, Argentina massively exported oil and gas, losing 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 occurs to the 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, theclear consequences of climate change, 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 and the introduction of brand new technological packages, such as the experimental technique of fracking.

Our work: inputs for social change

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 programs:

  • Oil Free Territories: The objective is to create oil free territories and stop new ‘sacrifice zones’ through public policy and mobilization work. In addition, through communications and media actions, awareness is raised over environmental and social degradation. The increased public awareness reduces the industry’s power and creates conditions for alternative energy projects.
  • Environmental Justice: To ensure all citizens a dignified and peaceful life is fundamental to repair environmental, economic and health inequities. The program focuses on 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 fair and equitable use 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.

The programs are carried out by different daily tasks: communication (reports, articles and interviews to directly affected communities and specialists), workshops (to affected communities for empowerment and capacity building), public activities (for organizations and general audience), public policy (research and production over judicial framework and collective rights) and advocacy to influence government decision makers. As an example of this, OPSur has worked from the early stages on raising awareness of unconventional fuel’s development and the risks of fracking by producing inputs for mobilization and capacity building. Through our research, we have produced reports and videos that we distribute across the country. We also organize and hold workshops to train community activists and build the first steps towards a regional network. We advocate for municipal policies by holding meetings with MPs and producing ban models, aiming for national replication. Finally, we do media work and on-going actions to control the industry.

OPSur has become a leader 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 political party and does not depend on government or corporations for support.

Actions and Resources

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.

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.