We introduce the new concept of embodied energy injustices in order to encourage integrative, systemic, transboundary assessment of the global implications and responsibility of energy-policy decisions. Embodied energy injustices reframe considerations of energy justice to explicitly consider hidden and distant injustices (upstream or downstream) arising from the extraction, processing, transportation and disposal of energy resources. We assess the embodied energy injustices connected to the decision to decommission a coal-fired power plant in Salem, Massachusetts, US, and its replacement with a natural-gas-fired power station. Cerrejón open-pit coalmine in La Guajira, Colombia, powered the Salem plant for over a decade. Fracked gas from Pennsylvania now supplies fuel for the new power station. Comparing the extraction of these two very different fuels reveals multiple parallel injustices. But the regulatory environment fails to account for the different constituencies, jurisdictions and effects that fall outside the formal remit of existing impact assessments. We therefore call for mandatory transboundary impact assessments of large-scale energy-related projects, which explicitly integrate previously unrecognized social-environmental harms and injustices. Expanding energy law and policy discussions to incorporate embodied energy injustices can enhance sustainable energy governance and enable corporate accountability for the transboundary harms of fossil fuel extraction and use. Linking chains of energy injustice—by revealing their interconnected positions along fossil-fuel supply chains—may help generate and unite powerful trans-local solidarity movements, which politicize local struggles within wider national, regional and global energy politics.
Embodied energy injustices explicitly consider hidden and distant injustices (upstream or downstream) arising from the extraction, processing, transportation and disposal of energy resources.