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Energy justice and the contested petroleum politics of stranded assets: Policy insights from the Yasuní-ITT Initiative in Ecuador

Listed author(s):
  • Sovacool, Benjamin K.
  • Scarpaci, Joseph
Registered author(s):

    Ecuador's progressive Yasuní-ITT Initiative, operational 2007 to 2013, would have left almost one billion barrels of crude oil locked in perpetuity beneath one of the most intact and diverse nature reserves on the planet. The project attempted to “strand” these oil assets in order to protect biodiversity, respect the territory of indigenous peoples, combat climate change, and encourage more sustainable economic development. The Yasuní-ITT proposal would have had the international community pay Ecuador $3.6 billion—roughly half the value of the oil found there—in exchange for not developing the Ishpingo Tambococha Tiputini (ITT) oilfields. Funds would have been placed into social and environmental development programs and the promotion of domestic renewable energy. Instead, the project collected only $13 million and succumbed to a series of challenges including limited financing, intense political pressure, a national commitment to oil, and carbon leakage. This article summarizes the history, benefits, and insurmountable obstacles facing the Yasuní-ITT Initiative and presents six broader lessons and implications for climate and energy analysts, practitioners, and policymakers. It questions the political viability of and serves as a stark warning against those promoting and advocating policies centered on carbon budgets, stranded assets, negative emissions, and carbon revenue streams.

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    File URL: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0301421516302142
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    Article provided by Elsevier in its journal Energy Policy.

    Volume (Year): 95 (2016)
    Issue (Month): C ()
    Pages: 158-171

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    Handle: RePEc:eee:enepol:v:95:y:2016:i:c:p:158-171
    DOI: 10.1016/j.enpol.2016.04.045
    Contact details of provider: Web page: http://www.elsevier.com/locate/enpol

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    1. Rival, Laura, 2010. "Ecuador's Yasuní-ITT Initiative: The old and new values of petroleum," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 70(2), pages 358-365, December.
    2. Vallejo, María Cristina & Burbano, Rafael & Falconí, Fander & Larrea, Carlos, 2015. "Leaving oil underground in Ecuador: The Yasuní-ITT initiative from a multi-criteria perspective," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 109(C), pages 175-185.
    3. Pfeiffer, Alexander & Millar, Richard & Hepburn, Cameron & Beinhocker, Eric, 2016. "The ‘2°C capital stock’ for electricity generation: Committed cumulative carbon emissions from the electricity generation sector and the transition to a green economy," Applied Energy, Elsevier, vol. 179(C), pages 1395-1408.
    4. McGlade, Christophe & Ekins, Paul, 2014. "Un-burnable oil: An examination of oil resource utilisation in a decarbonised energy system," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 64(C), pages 102-112.
    5. Sovacool, Benjamin K. & Dworkin, Michael H., 2015. "Energy justice: Conceptual insights and practical applications," Applied Energy, Elsevier, vol. 142(C), pages 435-444.
    6. Sovacool, Benjamin K. & Brossmann, Brent, 2010. "Symbolic convergence and the hydrogen economy," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 38(4), pages 1999-2012, April.
    7. Pelaez-Samaniego, M.R. & Garcia-Perez, M. & Cortez, L.A.B. & Oscullo, J. & Olmedo, G., 2007. "Energy sector in Ecuador: Current status," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 35(8), pages 4177-4189, August.
    8. Espinosa, Cristina, 2013. "The riddle of leaving the oil in the soil—Ecuador's Yasuní-ITT project from a discourse perspective," Forest Policy and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 36(C), pages 27-36.
    9. Szarka, Joseph, 2006. "Wind power, policy learning and paradigm change," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 34(17), pages 3041-3048, November.
    10. Farrell, Katharine N., 2014. "Intellectual mercantilism and franchise equity: A critical study of the ecological political economy of international payments for ecosystem services," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 102(C), pages 137-146.
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