Latifundios of Energy: Enclosing the Wind in Andalucía

Authors: David Hughes*, Rutgers University
Topics: Energy, Europe, Anthropocene
Keywords: energy, property, enclosure, feudalism, sustainability, wind
Session Type: Paper
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

Who owns this wind? This question – which never had to be asked or answered before – will determine the nature and very possibility of an energy transition from fossil fuels to renewables. As a non-surface resource, the kinetic energy of air might – like minerals and oil – belong to a local, national, or global commons. In the absence of laws to this effect, however, landowners are appropriating rights to megawatts, monopolizing the benefits of wind, and excluding land-poor neighbors from the same. Perhaps nowhere is this resource-grab more apparent than in southern Andalucía and the Strait of Gibraltar, where energy-rich breezes race over a landscape notorious for inequality. Latifundistas – some descended from medieval nobility or in possession of medieval estates – have signed contracts with turbine operators. Villagers find themselves powerless to stop such deals. Technically, they are squatting on an old cattle route. They can only insult the landowners as “caciques.” This conflict does not trouble the wind companies. Indeed, a low level of anti-eolic protest serves their interests: opposition keeps limits the number of wind farms scarce and, thereby, boosts the value of wind-generated megawatts. The kinetic energy of air is taking economic shape as a replica of oil reserves – as an artificially scarce and always profitable commodity. Ultimately, a bizarre conjuncture of archaic land relations and eco-capitalist finance may stop the energy transition almost as soon as it begins.

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