argentina oil shale JUAN MABROMATA/AFP/Getty Images

Argentina is No Climate Leader

Argentina’s shale drilling has already violated the rights of workers and indigenous people and raised household energy costs. And President Mauricio Macri’s government, which is hosting the G20's annual summit this week, has been using the body’s forums to promote gas as a sustainable energy alternative.

NEUQUÉN – Argentinian President Mauricio Macri claims that exploiting his country’s oil and gas shale reserves – the second-largest in the world – is vital not only to lift the economy out of the doldrums, but also to provide a “bridge fuel” to support the climate transition. The reality, which is already becoming apparent, is not nearly so rosy.

Under Argentina’s leadership, G20 energy ministers signed a communiqué this summer highlighting the role of natural gas in “supporting transitions towards lower-emission energy systems,” with the “potential to expand significantly over the coming decades.” And the Macri government has created a plan to attract $12 billion per year in fossil-fuel investments, predicting that revenues from oil and gas exports will surpass those from agriculture – currently Argentina’s leading export sector – by 2027.

Argentina certainly has massive reserves still to be exploited: an estimated 19.9 billion barrels of crude oil and 583 trillion cubic feet of gas, concentrated in the Vaca Muerta shale formation. But the notion that using these resources would have any environmental benefit is entirely illusory. Extracting Argentina’s shale resources would not only require dangerous and expensive hydraulic fracturing (fracking); exploiting them would result in around 50 billion tons of carbon dioxide emissions.

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