Opposition to fracking is not leftist or anti-development

Saliem Fakir BDLive 3 July 2013.

Cape Town in August 2011. Picture: THE TIMES

SIMON Lincoln Reader has become the latest proponent of fracking. In his column on BDlive, he rails against environmentalists, bunching them all as left-leaning. His generalisations are quite a stretch.

As much as Jonathan Deal, chairman of the Treasure the Karoo Action Group — whom Reader criticises in one of his columns — is a public spokesman for anti-fracking activists, he is not exactly what leftists would call left. He has no tradition in leftist politics and would say so himself, even if some the issues he takes up are of interest to the left…

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Limiting Methane Leaks Critical to Gas, Climate Benefits

Climate Central 22 May 2013.

(Contributor’s note: Although this is a US study, it is relevant to South Africa, particularly with respect to the governance of the future use of natural gas in South Africa – both from fracking and from imported liquefied natural gas. Issues such as collecting baseline methane emission and water quality and availability before fracking starts and how depleted fracking wells will be closed down are important. We don’t want a repeat of the acid mine drainage problem. See the interactive graph – it is excellent!)

Knowing how much methane is leaking from the natural gas system is essential to determining the potential climate benefits of natural gas use. Our extensive review of the publicly available studies finds that a pervasive lack of measurements makes it nearly impossible to know with confidence what the average methane leak rate is for the U.S. as a whole. More measurements, more reliable data, and better understanding of industry practices are needed.

It has been widely reported that shifting from coal to gas in electricity generation will provide a 50 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. In reality, the extent of reduced global warming impact depends largely on three factors:

  1. The methane leak rate from the natural gas system;
  2. How much time has passed after switching from coal to gas, because the potency of methane as a greenhouse gas is 102 times that of carbon dioxide (on a pound-for-pound basis) when first released into the atmosphere and decays to 72 times CO2 over 20 years and to 25 times CO2 over 100 years, and;
  3. The rate at which coal electricity is replaced by gas electricity.

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Australian scientists find excess greenhouse gas near fracking

LA Times 17 November 2012.

Environmental researchers have detected excess greenhouse gas levels near the site of Australia’sbiggest coal seam gas field, prompting calls for halting expansion of hydraulic fracturing until scientists can determine whether it might be contributing to climate change.

The reported findings of methane, carbon dioxide and other compounds at more than three times normal background levels have stirred new controversy in eastern Australia over the pros and cons of boosting natural gas output by “fracking,” a process that blasts sand, water and chemicals into deep underground wells…

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Gas Bubble Leaking, About to Burst

Richard Heinberg 12 November 2012

The US Presidential election campaign served up much in the way of promises but worryingly little in the way of energy and climate reality. For this month’s Museletter I’ve included three pieces I wrote as the campaign wrapped up — the last of the three is intended as tongue in cheek humor. I would also invite you to read an op-ed which I co-authored with Tom Butler that appeared in the Christian Science Monitor.

Download printable PDF version here (PDF, 105 KB)

Gas Bubble Leaking, About to Burst

Gas rig at sunset

For the past three or four years media sources in the U.S. trumpeted the “game-changing” new stream of natural gas coming from tight shale deposits produced with the technologies of horizontal drilling and hydrofracturing. So much gas surged from wells in Texas, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Arkansas, and Pennsylvania that the U.S. Department of Energy, presidential candidates, and the companies working in these plays all agreed: America can look forward to a hundred years of cheap, abundant gas!

Fracking, bears and baboons: a lesson from bear country

Mike Muller of the NPC writing in the Business Day Live 6 November 2012.

HE RECENT decision to lift the 14-month moratorium on gas prospecting in the Karoo means “fracking” is back on the agenda. But the concerns raised by environmental activists must be addressed. So how will fracking be regulated?

During a road trip from Chicago to New York in September, I gained some useful insights into the challenges of fracking for natural gas and how best to manage it. I also found a common thread linking the Western Cape to northeastern Pennsylvania — the management of relations between wild animals and humans — which provides a useful analogy to the fracking debate…

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Shale gas exploration needed to determine full potential – academic

Engineering News 31 October 2012.

The Karoo’s shale gas resource could potentially change the economic landscape of South Africa, as it held significant energy and job creation potential, University of the Free State director of ground water studies Dr Danie Vermeulen said on Wednesday…

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The true face of fracking – Pennsylvania

Times Live 30 October 2012.

I stared deep into the photograph of a man who refused to be beaten by industry. The face I was looking at was Fred McIntyre, a water driller from northern Pennsylvania. His eyes cut right through me; green, calm and alive with fury. His expression was bland but each one of the thousand wrinkles flowing towards pursed lips told a story of a man who would not be undermined.

Fred can no longer drink his tap water and, when the wind blows down from the drilling rig nearby, he and anyone with him need to lock themselves indoors as the air becomes too difficult to breathe…
… However, it was not until the end of the session, when I admitted I was a South African looking to learn about the similarities between Pennsylvania and our own Karoo area, that things got really interesting. For an hour after the final speaker, I was unable to leave due to the queue of people wanting to pass on their stories and advice.

“You need to do three things back home,” said Fred.

“First prize is that you don’t drill wells. But if first prize is not possible, you need to make sure that they case those things all the way to the bottom. Secondly, you need to regulate where the water goes after it has been pumped into the well. When it comes back up it will have a whole lot of terrible things in it.”

The message was clear.

Fracking is not just about environmental concerns, it’s about people. It is about the security of families, the health of their children, and the success of farms…

Click here for the full, depressing article