I enter the Peruvian region of Talara at night. When the sun finally rises, I realize the road takes me through a mountainous desert where cactus and various other plants are rarely spread around the infinity and rough terrain.
For several hours I feel peaceful and in harmony with nature, until some objects start popping up, breaking the unity of the landscape, and as disturbing weed, disturb my inner rest. Every few meters the iron robots dig their noses in the earth and pomp up the wealth of the nation. Welcome in Talara, the oil capital of Peru.
However proudly announced at the entrance of the city, the area shows immediately the black side of the black gold. The port exhibits not only fisher boats and a fish market, but smoking chimneys interrupting the fairly blue sky, while several oil platforms interrupt the flat horizon.
The heavily congested traffic and the trash everywhere but in trash cans, turn the streets into dirty victims of the petroleum industry, suffering from dumped plastic and motorised vehicles.
A drop of oil
The road continues, leaves the city and goes back into the infinity of the desert; however, the oil pumps avoid any illusion of being in a desolate, untouched area. The couple of windmills between Talara and Lobitos are ironically, a drop of oil on a hot plate.
Whereas the wind in the hilly desert seems like more infinite than the desert itself, cooling down the heath and as such having the capacity to generate sufficient energy for the entire area. Nevertheless, nowadays the few mills are in contrast with the thousands of oil pumps. Would it be a sign of an upcoming energy transition – the petroleum industry in Talara counts for more than 100 years versus the recently constructed windmills -, a first step towards greening the matrix, or would it be no more than a veil. Even though I fear the latter, I hope the first.
City Design by Big Oil
Even without energy, renewable or fossil, the village of Lobitos has changed due to the oil industry in the area. First of all, the oil pumps are omnipresent on the main land, and the oil platforms are omnipresent in the sea, as far as one can see.
Further, the town feels like a ghost town, due to the weird contrast between well-maintained and developed roads, created by the oil company, and desolated houses and lots. Some of them already turned in ruins, others still waiting for a future owner.
After the Rain
Ironically, what once created the wealth of the village, might become its end as well. Every year the desert receives a decent amount of rain, and some years the rain fall is exuberant, flooding the lower parts of the village.
Oscar has known his property being flood several times already, even though his one is located in a higher part of the village. ‘But here we are, and we keep on going,’ says the old man. The rainfall is worsened by the natural phenomenon of El niño, which in turn is worsend by climate change, due to the changing temperatures of the Ocean.
Besides some climate change deniers, it is general knowledge that climate change is caused by burning fossil fuels, like oil. So, the pumps that interrupt land and ocean in the area have more consequences for the region, and however not immediately visible, forming an immediate treat for the inhabitants of Lobitos and surroundings.