Just energy transition is one of the major agendas in the current government’s national development plan (2022-2026). Various scholars, NGOs, and unions have disputed the meaning and timing of corporate transitions that propose diversification of energy sources without challenging the current consumption and extractivism on the continent (Rátiva Gaona 2022; Ulloa 2021; Yaguas Parra et al 2021). In the middle of discussions surrounding justice, I turn my attention to the sea, a place overlooked in social research and widely conceived as people empty (Mulrennan and Scott 2000; Rivera Sotelo forthcoming a; Satizábal y Batterbyry 2019). I am interested in how just transition proposals meet the Caribbean Sea offshore through gas exploration and exploitation— with gas considered a transition fuel—and the expansion of Eolic parks and hydrogen hubs. While policy documents constantly separate gas, Eolic power, and hydrogen through distinct “roadmaps,” I propose to explore how they come together, may be inter-dependent, intervene in the timing and technical fabulations of just energy transition, and currently interrupt and create diverse sea lifeways.
Since the early 1990s, the national government has promoted gas to diversify the energy matrix and to support the electric system. The state and the private sector have built infrastructure to massify the use of gas. Today, oil and other industries account for 48% of gas consumption. Since 2000, production has decreased by up to 44%. With this trend, Colombia may only have gas for another seven years. In the last decade, The National Hydrocarbons Agency (ANH) and Ecopetrol intensified exploration offshore and through fracking. The current government has opposed fracking and has sought to extend the current reserves for another 15 years upon previously assigned contracts offshore in the Caribbean Sea (Ruiz Caro 2023). Colombia has exploited gas offshore since 1970 in La Guajira. One of the current projects (Uchuv-1) is close to that field (Chuchupa). The other big project is in ultradeep seawater near deep coral and coral conservation areas (Gorgon-2) closer to Bolivar, Cordoba, and Sucre. Besides the risk of explosions, ordinary operations carry other issues associated with noise, perpetual pollution, and the disruption of deep connectivity and migrations of marine species (Uplift and Oceana 2023; Rivera Sotelo forthcoming b).
In 2022, the Ministry of Mines and Energy released the hydrogen and Eolic energy offshore Colombia roadmaps. While gas considered a transition fuel drives the production of blue hydrogen, green hydrogen based on renewable energy sources ties into Eolic parks offshore of Bolivar, Atlantico and La Guajira. There are at least 13 areas of interest for this kind of project, seven of those in La Guajira. According to the roadmaps, hydrogen and wind renewable energy will satisfy a growing internal and international demand. None of the roadmaps acknowledge participation.
rights and prior consultation on offshore projects (Barney 2023). Black Peoples Community Councils in the Caribbean continue to claim the state recognition of stripes offshore as part of their ancestral territories (Rivera Sotelo forthcoming a). Likewise, Wuayuu indigenous apaalanchis peoples claim the sea as a sacred territory where all Wuayuu spirits go rest, and the winds as persons not only the elements of energy planning and engineering (Barney 2023).
I will focus on how the energy transition materializes offshore through the elusive elements of gas, hydrogen and wind, juridical and technical infrastructures, and various fabulations of the times of just transitions based on technical data. I will also analyze how these materials, infrastructures, and fabulations currently interrupt and create diverse human and non-human sea lifeways—including those of the sea and the winds as sacred Wuayuu territories and persons. This research wants to make visible various ways how the sea is always already social and how erasing deeply enmeshed human and non-human relations reproduces historical injustices at the core of just energy transition proposals.
How do gas, Eolic energy, and hydrogen materialize just energy transition offshore the Caribbean Sea of Colombia?
- To identify and analyze how the elements of gas, hydrogen, winds, juridical and technical infrastructures, and time fabulations based on technical data materialize energy transition offshore.
- To analyze how these materials, infrastructures, and fabulations currently interrupt and create diverse human and non-human marine lifeways—including those of the sea and winds as Wuayuu sacred territories and persons.
- To expand on how erasing multiple and enmeshed human and non-human relations in the sea reproduces historical injustices at the core of just energy transition proposals.
Barney, Joanna. 2023. Por el mar y la tierra guajiros vuela el viento Wuayuu. En alerta la Püloui y Waneetu’unai, por el asedio de las multinacionales eólicas en territorio Wuayuu. Bogota: INDEPAZ.
Mulrennan, Monica y Colin Scott. 2000. “Mare Nullius: indigenous rights in saltwater environments”. Development and Change, Vol. 31 (3): 681-708.
Rátiva Gaona, Sandra. 2022. “De la transición energética a la transición socio-ecológica: pistas para pensar desde el movimiento popular colombiano.” Revista Semillas, 79.
Rivera Sotelo, Aída Sofía. Forthcoming a. “Pensar maritorios, mares cimarrones y comunitarios más allá de la delimitación geográfica: Una provocación”. Perspectivas socioculturales e históricas sobre maritorios y acuatorios latinoamericanos y caribeños.
Rivera Sotelo, Aída Sofía. Forthcoming b. “Elusive Coral and Fish, Reconsidering the Shore-Offshore Separation in Caribbean Archipelagos”. Journal of Latin American and Caribbean Anthropology.
Ruiz Caro, Marusia. 2023. Análisis sobre la situación del gas natural y su rol en la ruta de la transición energética en Colombia. Available at: https://resourcegovernance.org/publications/analisis-sobre-la-situacion-del-gas-natural-y-su-rol-en-la-transicion-energetica-en
Satizábal, Paula y Simon Batterbury. 2019. “Geografías fluidas: territorialización marina y el escalamiento de epistemologías acuáticas locales en la costa Pacífica de Colombia”. In Tabula Rasa, Vol. 31: 289-323.
Ulloa, Astrid. 2023. “Aesthetics of green dispossession: From coal to wind extraction in La Guajira, Colombia.” In Journal of Political Ecology, 30: awaiting final page numbers.
Ulloa, Astrid. 2021. “Transformaciones radicales socioambientales frente a la destrucción renovada y verde, La Guajira, Colombia.” Revista de Geografía Norte Grande, 80: 13-34.
Uplift and Oceana. 2023. Deep Water. Exposing the hidden impacts of oil and gas on the UK’s seas. Available at: https://uk.oceana.org/reports/in-deep-water/
Yaguas Parra, Paola; Cardoso, Andrea; Corral, Felipe y Luis Álvaro Pardo. 2021. Por una transición amplia, sostenible y democrática. Bogotá: Heinrich Böll Stiftung