Thursday 13 September 2012

Whats Wrong With Fracking? What Can You Do?

Last night David Fig, one of South Africa's leading eco-justice activists, spoke at a WITS University Amandla Forum about fracking.  David challenged us to think about the following issues:

- The country leading on fracking is the USA but the science about fracking and its consequences are only trickling into the public arena; it is an untested technology in terms of its social and ecological impacts. In short,  it is not clear what was the scientific basis for the South African cabinet's decision to remove the ban on fracking. The cabinet memorandum has not been made public. We need to know what was the scientific basis for the cabinets decision;

- The removal of the ban on fracking opens the way for Shell, Falcon and Bundu to engage in exploration for shale gas. The government regulations and practice generally tends to lean towards giving licenses. In short, the removal of the ban opens the way for full blown exploration.

- The consequences of fracking range from methane emissions (hence greater green house gases), water contamination, heavy road traffic in a pristine part of South Africa, the potential destruction of viable eco-tourism and sheep farming in the Karoo and no guarantees that shale gas would be part of the national energy mix.

- South Africa does not have an appropriate regulatory framework. There is no fracking law, we do not have a strict EIA process to deal with fracking, our water laws are not aligned and  monitoring standards are not clear. The ban on fracking should have ensured South Africa tightened its regulatory framework.

- How do we explain the national planning commission's support for fracking and cabinets decision to remove the ban on fracking? Is this part of the 'resource nationalism' of the ANC to encourage elite formation through BEE in partnership with transnational capital? Is this our new 'arms deal' with all the trappings of corruption? Is this what foreign direct investment-led growth is all about? Is this government just continuing a fossil fuel economy without serious commitment to renewable energy options?

- We can we do? The struggle is not over. We need to support September 22nd, the international day to ban fracking, we need to demand tighter regulation of South Africa's gas industry, we need to demand greater community participation and a stringent EIA process, we need to demand a public debate about the science around fracking including the science the SA government looked at, we need to strengthen grass roots mobilisation against fracking including Shell, Bundu, Falcon and other shale gas grabbers,  we need tight monitoring standards, at a minimum.

- If you would like David Figs power point presentation and academic paper he delivered on fracking at a conference in Iceland do not hesitate to contact me. These are great resources which can be used in small group discussions, in workshops and in community meetings.

The struggle continues.

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