Do some fracking reading

I generally have no issue with people having opinions.

The only issue that I occasionally have is when those opinions are poorly considered. When people have simply chosen one side of an argument to be on simply because they think it’s the cool side to be on or because they have read or been told something, somewhere that suggests that perhaps the other side of the argument is wrong. I’m not necessarily saying that they are not allowed to do that, but when they are unable to back up their stance with some reasonable rational, they lose my respect and with it, my support.

Thou shall think for yourselves

Because the environment is such an emotive issue (you only have to look at the hysterical reactions to a tongue-in-cheek blog post about whales), there tends to be only one side that these poorly-read individuals come down upon. And that’s because it is deeply uncool to not automatically and vehemently oppose anything that may remotely harm the environment.
Yep. Apparently, no matter where you get your “facts” from, if they support “the environment”, then they must be indisputably correct.
Pah.

I am, therefore, deeply uncool for even considering that the plans to consider starting exploratory work in the Karoo to consider whether there are shale gas reserves there which are worth considering, could be considered, in any way shape or form, to be a good idea.

Not that I am saying that they are a good idea, of course. Because before I began this post, I felt that I probably didn’t actually have enough knowledge or information on the technicalities of the “fracking” process to commit myself. So here I’m really not arguing for Shell et al here; I’m arguing against those who are arguing against Shell et al just because they automatically assume that Shell et al are bad people intent on destroying the Karoo.

I’m not the only one calling for a little forethought though, thank goodness. Moneyweb’s David Carte has stuck his head above the metaphorical parapet and into the direct line of fire of the full-time bunnyhuggers and their kneejerk, bandwagon-jumping associates with a piece emphasising something as radical as er… the need for consideration instead of immediate condemnation of the exploratory plans:

The moral of the story is that the project should be assessed coolly and rationally and we should beware of hot heads, scare mongers and people with vested interests.

Carte cites SA’s need for lower cost, cleaner energy and addresses some of the dichotomies that exist in people’s thoughts of the Karoo as a protected area with reference to the planned SKA project there. He also compares the alleged “vast” water usage in fracking with that of Eskom (6 million litres vs 300 billion litres). Yet because he chooses to quote actual Shell executives rather than biased (and often hysterical) green-leaning or anti-corporate websites, he is accused in the comments of writing “a PR piece for Shell”.
As I said, it’s not nice to be seen to apparently support something that has the possibility of harming the environment, even when you state perfectly logic reason for your statements.

Of course, we all drive cars. We all use petrol and petroleum products. We all use electricity and we all complain bitterly about the price increases that we’ve seen in the past. So there’s a certain amount of NIMBYism and hypocrisy in the complaints of potential environmental damage.
And you can add billionaire Johann Rupert to the hypocritical throng. Quite how a man whose $3.8billion fortune was based on the sales of cigarettes can protest about the potential risk of carcinogen exposure is beyond me.

Those calling (usually in CAPITAL LETTERS and with plenty of punctuation!!!!!!!!!!) for us all to Boycott Shell!!!!!!! are asking a lot of the apathetic South African public. Not everyone would agree with the reasoning behind the boycott nor with the method of protest. And even if, by some twist of fate the remainder were actually to turn away from Shell’s forecourts in SA, it would only be a drop in the ocean for them (perhaps a poor analogy, given BP’s recent trials and tribulations).

Lewis Pugh’s desperately emotional speech at last night’s Cape Town meeting in Newlands, telling us of the dreams of Desmond Tutu, Nelson Mandela, Mahatma Gandhi and Oliver Tambo was pitifully theatrical and contained these lines:

If we damage our limited water supply – and fracking will do just that – we will have conflict again in South Africa.
Fellow South Africans, we have had enough conflict in this land – now is the time for peace.

Wait. What?
Firstly – again – where is your evidence that “fracking will do just that”? Because now having read around the subject fairly widely, I have yet to find objective evidence that this is the case. Certainly, there have been a few instances where fracking has damaged the environment, but then equally, there have been many thousands of cases where it hasn’t. So why the certainty over the damage to the Karoo?
And then the conflict thing: is there really any way that the suggestion that by allowing these exploratory operations we will return to the troubles of the apartheid era can be described as anything more than shameful scare-mongering?

For a man with a law degree from UCT & Cambridge, it’s utterly pathetic. It’s a speech appealing to the very lowest common denominator of the audience. It’s full of wonderful soundbites but has nothing of substance. It would be laughed out of any court of law – institutions based on fact, logic and reason and not on hearsay, misinformation and emotion. However, for the purpose of generating support for his cause – for adding more unthinking sheep to the Karoo flock – it’s perfect.
And of course it will be (and already has been) widely circulated and celebrated by those very people that I am complaining about here.
On twitter, I see “South Africans, you HAVE to read @LewisPugh’s speech about Shell tonight. It’s really important.” and on facebook: “amazing speech by Louis Pugh at antifracking meeting …standing ovation.” (That one evidently didn’t even know where she was this evening. Shame.)

I recognise that I’m unlikely to change the general consensus on this matter. And even if I did, there would be something else tomorrow: dolphins, perhaps or something about rhinos and then we’d have to go through the whole thing again.

All I’m asking is that people to look at both sides of any argument – especially those where emotions run high – before making up their minds.
Read around the issue, check your sources, strain for objectivity.
Maybe you’ll find something that will make you think again; make you change direction instead of simply trotting after the other sheep in the flock.
And if you don’t see things differently when you’ve considered the other viewpoint(s), well just that’s fine as well and you’ll be able to argue your case far more logically and coherently, meaning that you stand more chance of making a difference.

And isn’t that what you want to do?

UPDATE: Please also see my follow-up post on this subject.

55 thoughts on “Do some fracking reading

  1. “Quite how a man whose $3.8billion fortune was based on the sales of cigarettes can protest about the potential risk of carcinogen exposure is beyond me.”

    🙂 !!!

  2. Hi 6000,

    Something about the style and tone of this post troubles me, and it’s taken me a little while to figure out what it is. You are careful to not make the post about fracking per se, and the paragraph which begins “Not that I am saying that they are a good idea, of course . . .” is a careful disclaimer that you’re not making a judgment. But then you go about coloring the environmentalists (“the full-time bunnyhuggers and their kneejerk, bandwagon-jumping associates”) as generally too ignorant, lazy, emotional and uneducated to research and consider both sides of an issue. While those who support at least the initial explorations are painted being the ones who have carefully and soberly researched and considered both sides.

    You would probably say that you restrict criticism to a subset of poorly educated and read environmentalists. But the problem is that’s not how it comes across. For example you reference Lewis Pugh’s speech (which I agree is highly emotive and over the top in places), and then tear that straw man to pieces. (BTW I think it’s specious to say it would be laughed out of court, since it was not written for, nor delivered in, court proceedings.) You go on to reference David Carte’s article, but don’t criticize it at all. And you provide your own assessment that you have read widely, and you can find no evidence that fracking can widely damage water supply.

    To my mind the Carte article has some howlers too: for example the statement: “The US Environmental Protection Agency . . . has okayed fracturing as a safe and proven technique” (a classic “appeal to authority”) is simply not factual . . . as best I can figure there was a report in 2004 covering the application of fracturing in a very limited domain and covering only a small subset of possible impacts—but that finding is now considered obsolete, there are widely held concerns, and it seems a new more comprehensive EPA report is due in 2012. Further, I see every reason to not take the reported assertions of Shell executives and PR people at face value (Pugh’s speech actually gives some reasons why), and I think the comparison to the impact of SKA has very limited relevance (won’t expand for now).

    In short there is a derisive and patronizing tone, directed very asymmetrically. I think you make it very clear which side of the issue you come down on (fracking is really the meta-issue, of course). Naturally you are quite entitled to write and publish this way on your own blog. I just think that with a modification of style, and a different set of assumptions about the intelligence and background of an opposing group, in your own words: “you stand more chance of making a difference”

    Cheers,

  3. Jeremy > Ah yes. Of course. And we’re all going to die in Cape Town because Koeberg is going to be hit by a tidal wave, right? Right.

    carl botha > Well?!?

    Jonathan > Hi Jonathan and thanks for the comment.
    Firstly, I am sorry to have troubled you. Never my intention.

    I must say that – although it wasn’t stated per se within the post (because it is irrelevant to the actual aim of the post) – the reading that I have done (and in saying this, I am inferring reading of good quality and objective sources as far as I can surmise) have left me leaning more than slightly in the favour of the oil companies. Perhaps this could be because there are so few anti-fracking pieces out there which are well and logically argued. While that may be a weakness in my argument, it’s certainly not for want of my trying to read around both sides. If you want something taken seriously, argue it logically.

    The reference to Lewis Pugh’s piece being laughed out of court was – I think, fairly obviously – an indication that I feel that someone of his education and standing “could do better” and should know better than to lower himself to that standard.

    Yes, David Carte’s article comes down fairly obviously on Shell’s side, but he has at least gone against the grain in actually looking further into the argument and in actual fact is (as I said) merely suggesting that SA should look at both sides and not simply write this off as a bad idea. While you point out some disagreement with one of his arguments, the fact that he takes the emotion out of some of the absurd claims made by those immediately opposed to this project is to be applauded in my view.

    Your statement that I “can find no evidence that fracking can widely damage water supply” is incorrect. Certainly there are incidents where that has happened, just as there are incidents where oil has leaked from oil wells and reactors have been unhappy in Japan. But for every one of those incidents there are hundreds of thousands of non-incidents which are conveniently ignored.

    In conclusion, yes – you are probably correct in your assertion that “there is a derisive and patronizing tone, directed very asymmetrically”. That’s simply because I could find no hysteria nor even vague emotion in the pieces “supporting” fracking: just facts and information. As a scientist, I thrive on that.

    This post was never directed at those who have researched fracking and object to it on the facts and information that they have discovered; only at those who have jumped on the greenie bandwagon without ever considering their reasons for boarding.

  4. 6000> Thanks for the response. I well understood that your post wasn’t really about fracking, but about how those opposed to it might better put their case. My response was primarily (though not exclusively) to argue the tone of your post is apt to be detrimental to its intended purpose—on the assumption that in some small way you were trying to get through to the ill-read bunny-huggers.

    To this end, it it interesting to note that notwithstanding your claim that you are sticking your neck out, the comments from Jeremy and Carl seem to be uncritically supportive (I don’t understand the point of the other).

    By the way I am a car-driving, airplane flying, electricity consuming scientist, who tries to understand the role of long term exploration and technology development in energy resource planning. I thought the Carte article started making good points in this area, but I also thought its bias on Shell’s fracking proposal was clear, but its justification was rather weak (the misstatement of the EPA finding being the clearest single example). Having done a little reading, and trying, like you, to evaluate sources for objectivity and authority, I personally came away not at all clear how to weigh up fracking’s costs, benefits and risks.

    I enjoy your blog though. Cheers.

  5. hey, 6000, as a scientist what is your view on global climate change? The anthropogenic variety, that is.

    I ask because its an interesting case of role reversal, where the sober establishment scientific opinion comes down on the side of the bunny-huggers (used in my case with affection 😉 .

    (it is amazing how many international professional societies and academies of science have issued statements supporting the consensus view:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scientific_opinion_on_climate_change
    the only dissenting opinion had been due to the “American Association of Petroleum Geologists”, who in 2007 changed theirs to a non-committal view. No possible vested interest there!)

    Anyway it seems to my subjective view that its the global warming/climate change skeptics who seem to be rather shrill and emotional, suggesting conspiracy theories etc. Which suggests this isn’t behaviour intrinsic to environmental objectors.

    ======

    P.S. I’m completely in favor of the fracking of the Karoo being rationally and cooly considered. I just feel it’s appropriate, even at this early stage, that Shell encounter some resistance.

  6. It’s not about supporting tree huggers or oil companies. The world is fucked enough as it is. Leave the pristine areas alone. Simple.

  7. Jonathan: “the comments from Jeremy and Carl seem to be uncritically supportive”

    Yes, correct!, and the smile 🙂 was directed at 6000’s remark:

    “Quite how a man whose $3.8billion fortune was based on the sales of cigarettes can protest about the potential risk of carcinogen exposure is beyond me.”,

    which I admit was much too short to pay proper tribute to said remark of 6000, I will now put it in other words, with the hope of reaching more people:

    Mr Johann Rupert did a lot for this country, although it is very much like the kind uncle who sends you to university, but also abused you as a child.

    (BTW, people who think that they/we/other people are responsible for Global Warming, should urgently get help, because:

    1. They are crazy.

    2. They are on a serious ego-trip — DOWN Jacob’s Ladder )

  8. Just a semantic point about how you use and have used “hypocrisy”. I’ll leave it to Samuel Johnson to make.

    “Nothing is more unjust, however common, than to charge with hypocrisy him that expresses zeal for those virtues which he neglects to practice; since he may be sincerely convinced of the advantages of conquering his passions, without having yet obtained the victory, as a man may be confident of the advantages of a voyage, or a journey, without having courage or industry to undertake it, and may honestly recommend to others, those attempts which he neglects himself”.

    You can still get a nice sting out of a different, more apt, charge.

  9. Jonathan > At some point (probably even before writing this post) I had given up on ever getting through to the ill-read bunnyhuggers. Some of the email and comments I have received via twitter have shown that this was a very, very wise decision. Writing this post – perhaps not so much.

    As regards your second point – Climate Change one area where I struggle. Simply because even when applying this same logical, rational approach to the subject, there are so many expert voices on each side. And we’re really going nowhere on getting any agreement here. When the fundamentals are so deeply disputed, there’s unlikely to ever be agreement. See Religion for details.
    That’s one reason you won’t see anything about climate change on this blog.

    Dave > They are hard to find, true. Everything seemingly leads back to oil companies or environmental groups. Also difficult because – much like SA crime – a non-event isn’t worth reporting on (Remember the Cape Times headline: “Koeberg runs smoothly all weekend”? No, of course you don’t) – so one can only find articles on problems and environmental damage.
    Scientific American has a good article here: http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=shale-gas-and-hydraulic-fracturing
    There’s a good one on environmental protection here: http://www.propublica.org/article/john-hanger-pas-former-environmental-chief-talks-about-challenges-of-keepin
    and here’s an interesting one from (my) microbiological point of view. http://poseidonsciences.scienceblog.com/2010/07/23/this-fracking-problem-chasing-the-solution-to-this-controversial-mining-issue/
    Everything points to the fact that if this is done properly and regulated properly, then there should be limited hazards.

    Cloudgazer > Firstly, you’ve missed the point of this post by actually not reading it. It’s not about Fracking per se, it’s basically about people who comment on stuff without reading it. [cue Irony Klaxon]
    Anyway… Protect the pristine areas so that you can go visit them on your motorbike powered by petrol derived from some other pristine area? How altruistic of you.

    carl botha > Your support is much appreciated. I liked that line too. (Am I allowed to do that?)

    Rorschach > I’ve not heard of this Samuel Johnson chap. Is he from Greenpeace?
    Either way – he could learn a thing or two about not writing such long sentences. 😉

    Heather Mills > I’m sure Paul would be up in arms.

  10. We will be having a seance about the Karoo the SECOND that Shell starts drilling there. We invite everyone who joined our chanting circle for the whales last time to join us again so that these evil money-grabbing tree-killers will desist harming mother earth, thereby encouraging earthquakes and tsunamis.

  11. I thought fracking was what got done to Starbuck in Battlestar Galatica (Season 5, Ep 6), but that said it’s quite simple – there is no way we can sustain our energy needs through renewable resources – ten million warthogs farting into wind turbines won’t do it for us. All the Daily Maverick writers standing up with posteriors pointed toward Photovoltaic reflectors wont do it for us. (and that’s a lot of sunshine)
    Right now coal, gas and nuclear generated power IS the only way that we will be able meet our energy needs and with coal supplies dwindling here in SA, Nuclear becomes the only viable option left to us unless Shell can prove that there is enough Shale gas to supplement existing resources. So take your pick Sherlocks, Sutherland or Sendai?

  12. Simon: “We will be having a seance about the Karoo the SECOND that Shell starts drilling there. ”

    Those who cannot attend may just come to this blog and touch(e) the screen — disabled people may either wheel their mouse up and down, or left-click on an open white area (which of course, represents the Karoo.)

  13. Andrew > There’s a column from the head of some anti-nuclear power group in the Cape Times today saying that because of Fukushima, Koeberg should be closed. (The rationale being that it is too close to an urban area). That takes about 1000 words.
    He then ends with a quick two lines saying that because of Fukushima, all other non-urban nuclear power station plans for SA should be shelved. (The rationale being that although they are not near an urban area, they might go boom boom.)

    carl botha > “…an open white area (which of course, represents the Karoo.)”

    Nonsense, there are several people of colour living in the Karoo.

  14. 6000 > Yes, I agree! You had given up on getting through to them before you even wrote the post.

    Genuinely sorry you have had to put up with hate mail.

    A little disappointed that you won’t commit on climate change, but agree that there’s a lot of conflicting and confusing information out there, and respect that you won’t publish on it.

    In my view: anthropogenic climate change is a sufficiently well supported hypothesis that it is worthy of intense ongoing study and monitoring. The stakes are potentially far higher than for fracking, or nuclear power for that matter. There may be conflicting views by qualified people on the topic, but I assert again that, overwhelmingly, the consensus view of the scientific establishment is that—within confidence limits—it may well be a real effect. I think of funding for the study almost like an insurance premium.

    Carl > In the light of the above, please provide evidence, citing peer reviewed literature, that I am crazy, on an ego trip, and urgently need help. Or at least acknowledge that the level of that particular piece of your discourse is somewhat on a par with Lewis Pugh.

  15. Jonathan > Re: Climate change: That’s how science works. If you don’t understand it, you research it. And yes, there needs to be more research. And yes – potentially it’s very big.
    There’s probably an need for ongoing research into fracking and nuclear power as well. Because even when we have processes, there’s always a need to improve and refine them (and that includes safety too).

  16. 6000 > We don’t disagree in any way whatsoever! I don’t understand how I managed to generate so much to debate with you about. 😉

    However I don’t know if Carl would agree that anthropogenic climate change is worthy of further research. Research isn’t free, after all, and is often publicly funded. Carl seems to dismiss *any* possibility that human activity is influencing long term global climate. The only justification he gives for this pov, though, is an ad hominem attack against those would who entertain this possibility. I think this is interesting because he doesn’t appear to be a bunnyhugger. My point being that both sides are prone to using emotion, rather than pure reason, from time to time—nothing at all against Carl.

    Carl?

  17. Jonathan, you are not crazy, but now that I have your attention:

    Do you honestly believe that the population of the earth play a role in climate change?

    Climate, and its little brother weather, is changing all the time — for (m/tr)illions of years.

    Even an earthquake can change our climate/seasons by shifting the earth’s axis — nature is actually more powerful than we can imagine.

    (Try to imagine the force that created this creation … … … you see?)

    Sorry, but if you think we are causing Global Warming, then you ARE on a ego trip.

    BTW, who the he11 is Lewis Pugh? — Never heard of this guy … 🙂

    Kindly note that, on par with all postings and comments ever submitted on this planet, that this comment is my opinion on these matters.

  18. Hi Carl,

    Seems I have your attention too. Good to engage with you in civil debate.

    Carl said > Do you honestly believe that the population of the earth play a role in climate change?

    I didn’t assert that this has been proven with certainty. That’s not how science works, no scientific hypothesis or theory is ever certain. I don’t want to ramble on about this, so I’ll just refer you to: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scientific_method

    I stand by (100%) what I said in my earlier comment: “In my view: anthropogenic climate change is a sufficiently well supported hypothesis that it is worthy of intense ongoing study and monitoring.”

    Do you disagree with this statement?

    The real subject of 6000’s original post was neither fracking, nor climate change. Rather it was about the quality of reasoned discourse. He referenced in the original post a recent speech (25 March, Newlands, Western Cape) given by an anti-fracking environmental activist (aka bunnyhugger) by the name of Lewis Pugh. He seems to imply (taking follow-on commentary into account) that the use of emotive and irrational argument is disproportionately the province of the environmentalists. My primary goal is to demonstrate that someone who is sympathetic to the environmental cause can debate in a reasoned way. I also (respectfully) held your statement about crazy etc up as a counter point, that someone who supports fracking is also susceptible to resorting to emotion rather than reason.

    It may be that I’m beating this to death by now, so will happily give you the last word.

    Best wishes.

  19. Jonathan said: “In my view: anthropogenic climate change is a sufficiently well supported hypothesis that it is worthy of intense ongoing study and monitoring.”

    “Do you disagree with this statement?”

    I disagree with BOTH statements:

    1. Anthropogenic climate change is NOT even a (sufficiently well supported) hypothesis.

    2. It is NOT worthy of intense/any ongoing study and monitoring.

    BTW, Science is also a valid religion — and I dont believe in either of them — especially the type of science the so-called “bunnyhuggers” are preaching.
    .
    .
    .
    .
    .
    .
    .
    .
    If you really want to make a difference, raise your consciousness by staying alert and stop using alcohol, and stop creating a demand for murder by eating meat.

    As you see, our different approaches are many life times apart — but not necessarily.

    I will admit however, that my approach to life is totally unemotional .

  20. @6000

    Cool post. I like your approach. I found it entirely by accident since I’m behind on so many cool bookmarked articles I’ve stumbled upon on Twitter, but I’m glad I found it because I’m working on a post on exactly the same topic, although my stance is somewhat different.

    I’m from the Karoo and I think Shell should go ahead with their fracking plans (if you’ll pardon my French). I attended Shell’s presentation of their environmental management policy last Friday and I was beyond irked with the environmentalists’ approach to it. They were rude, belligerent, and closed-minded. All they heard were, “holes in the karoo, holes in the karoo, holes in the karoo.” But ya, I’m going to pop all of my complaints into my post once it’s done (full time work gets in the way of blogging unfortunately).

    *thumbs up* on the post.

    Lewis Pugh’s speech was insane by the way. Well put together but complete sensationalised overkill. Jeez. “The Karoo is to Shell what the Gulf was to BP.” Really guys? Really?

  21. kelltrill > “I’m working on a post on exactly the same topic” & “I’m from the Karoo and I think Shell should go ahead with their fracking plans”
    Two quotes that have got me salivating.

    Thanks for the comment and the support. Much appreciated.

  22. I have to admit to being somewhat nauseated by this debate. Whilst I would not call myself a bunnyhugger I do have vested interests and it is for that reason that I am opposed to Shell, or anyone, fracking for shale gas in the Karoo. Vested interests? I live in the Karoo. It’s my home and my livelihood. Take that away and what is left? Multiply that by the entire population living in the Karoo and it does not take a rocket scientist, or any scientist for that matter, to figure out why there is outrage about this issue.
    David Carte made the observation that Eskom uses huge quantities of water cooling power stations. Come on, and you and others go along with that to counter the concerns over the huge volumes of water required in just one frack job borehole. The argument in this case holds no water. Eskom’s cooling water evaporates into the atmosphere. Shell will pump huge quantities of water mixed with a cocktail (their trade secret, I’m sorry I can’t be more specific) of pollutants into the ground and are not able to guarantee that our limited groundwater will not be polluted. Should we not be concerned?
    Shale gas is deep down, 4 to 5 kilometers deep. It’s almost inaccessible. Are we meant to be able to get at it. Can anyone, especially the scientists, tell us what the consequences of mining this gas will be. What is the gas doing down there?, and what may result with it’s removal? I guess we don’t know, do we?
    Our underground water, limited as it is, is found up to depths of 300 meters. What guarantees can Shell give us that when sinking shafts up to 5 kilometers deep they will not strike an aquifer resulting in the permanent loss of water? They cannot, and will not. Should we not be worried?
    In your eloquent post, or possibly some comment on your post, I’m not sure, a statement was made that out of the many frack jobs that have occurred there have been limited failures. No one has quantified limited, but I would suggest that just ONE failure is ONE too many. People , animals, fauna and flora perish as a result of just ONE failure. Should we not be worried?
    People say that we need to become energy sufficient, I couldn’t agree more. I have read ad nauseum that natural gas is ‘cleaner’ than other sources of energy. That may well be so. They claim the carbon footprint of natural gas will be less and that it will be cheaper. I’m not so sure? Consider the cost of mining this gas, of rendering it useable, the carbon emmissions during this whole process and add it altogether, who knows we will probably be even worse off than we are now. Not to mention the cost of it all. A cheaper source of energy? I have my doubts.

    These are just of few comments that many out there seem to be ignoring. Consider them before rushing into a downward spiraling debate.
    We are not bunnyhuggers, we are concerned.
    What would you do if your livelihood was about to be taken away from you, your health put at risk (well documented) you are forced to move but can’t sell your house because no one wants to move into the neighbourhood for the very reason you are forced to move out. Again no rocket science needed in that equation.

  23. Keith > Of course there should be concerns. At no point during this entire “nauseating” debate have I said that there shouldn’t be. What I have said is that those concerns should be based on rational facts and figures, not (for example) on stuff like Lewis Pugh’s statement that “Shell is to the Karoo what BP is to the Gulf of Mexico”. That’s not based on fact at all – that’s blatant scaremongering.
    And again, you raise a valid point about the carbon footprint of the project. Whether of not you choose to accept the theory of global warming/climate change/greenhouse effect etc etc, if there are arguments for and against this project based on that issue, then the figures that they are arguing about must be accurately calculated, not just a thumbsuck from either side.
    The MIT paper that I linked to (somewhere… ah… here) states quite clearly that the gas can be accessed and, in many thousands of cases, has been accessed with no problems or issue.
    Quick question for you: If shale gas couldn’t be accessed or extracted, would we be having this debate?

    I guess that if I was to be picky, I’d have an issue with your use of terminology like “cocktail of pollutants”- I would not say that they are pollutants – perhaps, in a worse case scenario, potential pollutants, but you seem to have made your mind up already.
    And the “well documented” health issues? Well maybe, but then you conveniently ignore the millions of people whose health hasn’t been affected by fracking – the ones that aren’t reported because nothing happened.

    Yes, every system – natural, industrial, whatever – has problems at some point. That doesn’t mean that it fails every time.

    The cynic in me might say that you were merely a NIMBY, (if I let him). And because you don’t want fracking in your back yard, you have listened to and read up on one side of the argument alone. And that’s the side which is telling you it will all end in doom and disaster. And when you look into the facts, that’s actually very unlikely to be the case.
    We don’t have a choice but to try and find new sources of energy. The wonderful renewables are decades away from being able to supply us with any meaningful amount of energy and so we must find a way to generate until they can help us. All the while, you are using energy from coal and gas and nuclear energy generated from other parts of the country, but we’re not complaining.
    I’m writing this from 15kms south of a nuclear power plant that’s helping power your PC. Doesn’t bother me, but would you want to live that close?

    But I’m falling into the same trap here. The one thing that you seem to have overlooked about this whole debate is that while the two parties (for and against) are arguing about the petty minutia of whether the trucks transporting the water to the wells are using low sulphur diesel, they are not discussing the bigger picture. Both sides, as far as I can see, are guilty of attempting to steer the debate off course as often as possible.

    It’s going to be interesting to see what happens. I have likened this argument to one over religion (atheists v christians, for example), where the two parties are so very far apart, their viewpoints based on such divergent foundations, that there can surely be no resolution. And there isn’t – that argument will rage for millennia to come.
    But this one has to come to a head at some point, and some point soon.

    All we can hope is that whatever decision is made is made based on sound, rational facts.

  24. Stumbled across your blog while researching the Karoo business for a course of mine (Environmental Engineering — don’t be too quick to judge!).

    Was wondering if you managed to find any peer-reviewed studies to be used…all I seem to be finding is blogs and press-pieces with little to know scientific method applied.

    Oh, and I am impressed with the discussion…here I thought the internet was inhabited with trolls and halfwits (thanks, news24).

  25. Tim > Hi. I have found NOTHING peer-reviewed at all. As a scientist, that upsets me greatly.
    Even a meta-analysis is impossible.

    The best stuff (for factual, unbiased information) that I have found has been the Scientific American article and the MIT paper.

    http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=shale-gas-and-hydraulic-fracturing &
    http://web.mit.edu/mitei/research/studies/report-natural-gas.pdf

    Everything else leads back to some contaminated source or other, if you’ll excuse the pun.

    Well done for doing the decent thing and not quoting those dodgy sources you’ve found. You’ll go far.
    (terms and conditions apply)

  26. Keith, even if you are correct, or half-correct, then the Karoo must go down for the greater good of MANY people.

    Cars kill people, sport kills people, power stations kill people, love kills people etc etc.

    Would you rather sit in the dark with nowhere to go and nothing to do — not even loving somebody — and give up everything you got now?

    Oh wait … sorry … you already did .. you live in the Karoo …

  27. 6000,

    We got to choose the lesser evil — that goes for many, many things in life:

    1 .Abortion — Rather kill a baby than letting him/her suffer from starvation.

    2. Kevorkian — Rather kill a terminal patient than letting him/her suffer.

    3. Power Stations — Yes, it kills people, but can we do without it?

    I personally feel uneasy with Koeberg so close to civilization — would rather see it in the Karoo where it will harm far less people than CT should something go wrong — but I got to accept it here because of … yes, that right! … financial considerations.

    We can dump as much as we want to on big companies, but they are playing a huge role in keeping us alive and well — surely, they make mistakes, but who does not?

    “I’m writing this from 15kms south of a nuclear power plant that’s helping power your PC. ”

    Yes, while everyone is reaping the fruit of an advanced society, why do some people think they are exempt from paying the price associated with modern life?

    BTW 6000, you are FAR off by comparing religion and fracking, for the simple reason that we know a lot about fracking and virtually nothing about G0d … 🙂

    Remember the YouTube clip you referred us to? (200 years 200 countries in 4 minutes)

    What I got from that, is that millions and millions people gave their time, money, effort and health to bring this planet to a point where it can support billions of people. (6.9bil+, I think)

    It is our duty to stop complaining and criticize and actually do some productive work.

  28. Tim > They’re informative, but that’s all.

    carlbothabp > You must visit Europe (or, I guess, Japan) where there isn’t the space to build nuclear power stations away from conurbations. And I believe that there are certain practical reasons why a nuclear power station couldn’t be built in the Karoo. Ironically, availability of water would be chief amongst those.
    I disagree that the resources of the Karoo (or anywhere else) should be exploited just for the sake of being exploited. But where there is a demonstrable need for those resources (that itself is something that people in this argument continue to disagree on), then it warrants being looked into.
    My comment on religion was basically just that two dimetrically and fundamentally opposed viewpoints are about to be addressed.It will be interesting from my objective point of view.
    Incidentally, I didn’t link to that video – first time I’ve seen it. Fascinating stuff.

  29. Anyone watched a documentary called Gasland?

    I suggest you give it a look see Mr 6000 before holding too much faith in those scientific artilcles probably written by academics on the Shell payroll.

  30. Chris > When one is about to insult someone on the internet (something I am occasionally driven to do) (aren’t we all?), one should always sit back and relax for a while, “take a chill pill” and think about what one is about to do. Fairly regularly, this period of reflection results in the need to insult dying down and a more reasonable approach can be followed.

    Not on this occasion though. Chris, you are an idiot. A buffoon of the highest order.
    40 comments in and we have our first proper tosspot.

    You warn me about holding too much faith scientific articles “probably” written by academics on the Shell payroll and instead direct my readers to one of the most overtly biased pieces of documentary filming since The Cove.

    Really, Chris.
    Have you read ANY of this post whatsoever?

  31. You’re absolutely spot on. I’m a complete buffoon of the highest order. Glad I got that off my chest. You should try it.

    So there’s absolutely no way that a cocktail of arsenic, asbestos, cyanide, lead, mercury or benzine, to name a few, could possibly find its way into the aquifers. Even if they get the green light, I’m not worried at all, those competent fellows in government will make sure its all well regulated. Not to mention the benefits of all that foreign investment, I can see those shiny new Shell-sponsored SLK’s glistening outside Edna Molewa’s palacial homestead. Beautiful.

    I’m no tree hugger. I realise that a few solar panels in the N Cape aren’t going to make an iota of difference. Coal and nuclear are the best options we have.

    And its Ruan Pienaar. Tosspot.

  32. Chris > You still haven’t read it, have you? I’m not saying that there is no possibility of an accident. I’ve said that all along that every industrial process has risks.
    That said, they don’t use asbestos in fracking. Nor cyanide. Nor mercury – in fact, not using natural gas would mean we had to use more coal to generate power, which is responsible for 98% of mercury in the air. I can also find no mention of lead in any of the papers I’ve looked at – not even the green-biased ones I have read.
    I’d love to know where you get your info from.

    I’m also fairly unhappy with the terminology about this “cocktail” of toxic chemicals which keeps being mentioned.
    The amounts of these chemicals being added to the fracking mix is tiny (although I understand that their effects can be large). If anyone tried to serve me a cocktail which was over 99.8% water, I’d be pretty annoyed. That’s why I refuse to drink Castle Lite.

    You can try to turn this into a political issue if you want, which obviously you do. I think that’s a completely different matte and has nothing to do with my post at all.
    But either way, I would suggest that you try to get your facts in order before telling me to get my facts in order.

  33. Nothing like an open mind. Here is Lewis Pugh quoted in the Argus

    Question: South Africa’s natural resources have given this country much of its wealth. Would you support fracking if it could be proven to be safe by independent experts of your choice?

    Answer : No independent expert could ever find that fracking is safe. How could they? Using fossil fuels is causing climate change, and fracking has been shown to damage water supplies.

    Fluids injected contain toxic chemicals all right, but define toxic….those components are diluted. Very diluted. To the point of NOT being toxic.

    Kind of like those terribly nasty poisons all you spoiled rich folks put in yours swimming pools….then dive in. Could even drink it.

    Or that shock chlorination one does on your old smelly water well. Boere?

    Or like your laundry detergent or household cleaners…fine to pour those toxic chemicals away right?(trust me, they are toxic till use).

    Or am I wrong?

    However I must say I AM opposed to people pouring millions of liters of endocrine disruptors, carcinogens, mutagens and neurotoxins into the Karoo soils year after year. Who wants that to percolate to the fresh water aquifers close to the surface? Certainly not me.

     I mean stuff like Alphamethrin, Diazinon, Piperonyl butoxide, Triazophos, Deltamethrin, Chlorfenvinphos and Amitraz. Not to mention arsenic and other long-lived nasties. These are bad chemicals and I don’t want any big company – let alone any individual – pouring those away.

    Oh wait! Those are commonly used sheep-dip chemicals not fraccing chemicals. 

    Yeah – you know sheep dips…thousands and thousands of those all over the Karoo where animals are plunged into vats of liquid toxin several times a year. After that, the animals are so toxic they have to be kept away from watercourses for several days, (but hey, they often escape and, well, like the Shell bloke said, you can’t plan for every eventuality). Once the animals are dipped, the thousands of liters of used dip is usually disposed of by pouring it onto open ground “away from watercourses or water sources”.

    Let’s say..umm..four thousand sheep dips? Each disposing of a thousand liters of diluted dip a shot. Each being used 6 times a year….why that’s 24 million liters of used sheep dip being poured away. Into the ground. 

    Seems to me Shell has some serious competition if they are so intent on polluting the environment. At least their “cocktail” goes into a layer several kilometers deep and already impregnated with gas. Not directly into the soil above the aquifer.

    I hope all of you indignant, shocked and terribly angry people wanting to save the Karoo will immediately rise up and organize a grassroots movement to drive the sheep farmers out of the Karoo too (that’s what PETA wants anyway).

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