Fracking Vaca Muerta: Socio-Economic Implications of Shale Gas Extraction in Northern Patagonia, Argentina.

Abstract / Resumen / Resumo

This article explores struggles over shale fuel development in the Vaca Muerta formation in the Province of Neuquén in northern Patagonia, Argentina. In particular, this article provides a socio-geographical analysis to elucidate the legal framework used to control underground deposits and critically explore the socioeconomic implications of fracking activities in the community of Añelo, where the infrastructure to support fracking activities is being developed. By analyzing the relationships between national strategies to recover hydrocarbon sovereignty to achieve energy self-sufficiency, provincial government attempts to develop shale deposits to increase the revenue generated from their rent, and everyday lives of citizens in Añelo, this study aims to illuminate the myriad complexities inherent to issues of access to and control over unconventional deposits, the commodification of shale deposits, and the impacts associated with their extraction in a changing energy landscape. The paper argues that the socioeconomic impacts experienced in Añelo are not only the direct consequence of the boomtown scenario resulting from the exploitation of Vaca Muerta, but this process is in part the end-result of a national strategy spearheaded by the government to secure the accumulation of capital through shale fuels rent as part of a broader agenda to achieve energy sovereignty. It further contends that livelihood changes in Añelo are the direct result of neo-extractivism where the primary agents responsible for the boomtown scenario in the community are the state-owned company YPF in joint venture with a series of international energy firms.