Dr. Andrew Venter Blog
FRACKING battle lines drawn
March 26, 2012
Carte Blanche’s rather shocking documentary on Hydraulic Fracturing (fracking) last Sunday, came shortly on the heels of the highly controversial Econometrix Report in favour of fracking, and was contextualised by the Treasure the Karoo Action Group’s (TKAG) on-going and increasingly vociferous campaign against fracking. The Econometrix report and TKAG campaign represent opposite poles in this battle.
TKAG have done an amazing job, on a voluntary basis, bringing this issue to the forefront of public awareness. There is no doubt that fracking prospecting rights would have already been issued and that South Africa’s next “mega” investment deal would be well underway. Given our “get rich quick” mentality, it is almost certain that this deal would have been loaded for the personal benefit of a few well placed individuals, as South Africa’s fracking opportunity sits up there with the Arms and emerging Nuclear deals, in terms of its “get rich quick” potential.
There is no doubt that Shell and its fracking allies are determined to persevere despite the concerns that have been raised. Government are also very keen and are doing everything in their ability to fast track this opportunity. This is understandable, to a limited extent, as many of the wealthiest economies have been built off the back of fossil fuel and it could be very short sighted for us to forego the associated economic opportunities. If we had oil, we’d probably not have many of our existing poverty challenges, although this is not a given. Simply look to West Africa to see the negative impact of oil based economies. We do have coal and we’ve definitely worked hard to maximise the economic potential of our coal resources. Presumably, we’d apply the same diligence to natural gas. This in itself is worrying, as “we” have demonstrated reckless disregard for both the local and global environment in realizing this potential. The Witbank area, South Africa’s coal capital, is widely recognised as one of the most degraded natural environments in South Africa. This due to large scale mining related air and water pollution, and our coal based CO2 emissions have made a very significant contribution to global warming woes.
The motivation was and still is economic development and job creation. The Econometrix report actively promotes the perceived economic benefits. This report, commissioned by Shell, states that fracking “could generate massive contributions to GDP (Gross Development Product) and create many hundreds of thousands of jobs”. There is no doubt that fracking would boost our GDP and create jobs. However, there is significant doubt as to the realistic scale of this impact. The Econometrix report has been widely criticised as not only being biased (which is to be expected) and also unrealistic in its projections. A simple example is the job creation projection of 700 000 jobs. This seems fanciful, given that our entire coal mining industry, which is far more labour intensive than fracking, only employs around 50 000 people!
More importantly, evidence is piling up around the world that fracking not only leaves behind an environmental mess, but also only provides transient economic benefit. Simply put, the wells will run dry within 5 – 10 years, the local operation will then be shut down, locally – employees contracts terminated and local water resources – more than likely – contaminated. How can this be constructive and who will pay for the on-going rehabilitation efforts, especially given that it is highly unlikely that the water contamination can be reversed? Should we be encouraging such a reckless and short term approach? I don’t think so, especially when we have abundant offshore gas resources that can be harvested with minimal environmental impact. Let me know what you think: http://andrewventer.wordpress.com/Go back