STILL NO ANSWERS FROM SHELL or the DEPARTMENT OF MINERALS ….
Cape Town November 9
Shell is full of grand plans for South Africa. And the way that Mr. Jan-Willem Eggink of Shell puts it across makes it sound as if the company is actually just a large philanthropic organisation. “Shale gas mining will be the answer to SA's energy needs and create lots of jobs,” he says. But in eight months of this year I've heard nothing new that could cause any reasonable-thinking person to want fracking in this country. If I sound annoyed, it is because I am. Shell does not have the interests of this country at heart. They have been less than candid with us in big adverts splashed across the media. Even while our government has imposed and extended a moratorium on fracking with a view to investigating the technology, Shell are intensifying their lobbying of business, community and government from behind their billion rand exploration budget.
Meanwhile, TKAG has sued the Minister of Minerals for access to information surrounding the governmental task team on fracking. “This is vital information to us and others, and we have been requesting it for months. The department has, this week indicated via a response that it intends to oppose our application for the information”, confirmed TKAG chairman, Jonathan Deal.
But there are no answers to our questions. Where will you find the water? How do you know that you can drill and frack in the Karoo without polluting precious underground water? Where will you dispose of toxic and radioactive fracking fluid? How will roads and towns cope with literally thousands of truck trips in areas where there is presently very little traffic? How long does your gas last before the wells are dried up and you move away? What about the impact on tourism in an area and country where tourism is a growing source of revenue? What about farming operations that will be affected by dust, light and noise? What about the airborne and water borne risks to the health of our communities? How do you intend to leave the Karoo, as you claim ‘better than you found it'?
Shell asserts that shale gas is a much better option than coal – but they don't talk about all of the extra Co2 emissions that are produced when drilling, fracking, extracting, flaring, piping, refining and distributing gas. They don't talk about the fact that when Co2 on drill sites combines with methane it forms ozone – and how dangerous ozone is to humans. No, all they can talk about is the advantages from their viewpoint – probably much the same as they would have said in Nigeria if the Nigerian activists were able to stand up without being executed by their own government.
Renewables? ‘No', says Shell, ‘we are not in that business'. And anyway, ‘Solar takes too long and it can't supply the base load', they add. But to come back to jobs – they tell the hopeful unemployed of this country that jobs will be there for the picking – but those people don't understand that the jobs – few and short – will be ten years in the coming. In America, the oil and gas industry released figures about jobs and revenue in Pennsylvannia for 2009. ‘43 000 jobs', they said, ‘more than $7 billion'. The real figures emerged recently. Less than half. Much less. 17000 jobs. $3.1 billion dollars. Is that a mistake or a distortion? Is it different to what Shell would like the South African public to eat?
We've got the 5th biggest gas reserves in the world. Really? Says who? The United States Geological Survey (USGS). But their first ‘estimate' was 1000tcf (trillion cubic feet). Now it's 485tcf. How come? What does our own petroleum agency (PASA) say? 5tcf. That's a variance of 90 times. Meanwhile in the United States, according to an August 24 report in the Pittsburgh Tribune, government geologists, updating previous assessments, have slashed their estimation of undiscovered Marcellus shale gas reserves by nearly 80%. Their first estimates were 410tcf and these have now been reduced to 84tcf. An 80% reduction? In an area where they have observed, measured, recorded and sampled for years. If they can't get it right in America how can they expect us to believe that they can get it right in South Africa?
‘Pollution incidents in fracking are caused by smaller, less professional companies' [not global standard setters like Shell], they say. What about Shell in the Marcellus shale area in the US? Between January 19 and March 2011 they were cited for a variety of environmental violations, which included pollution of waters (streams and rivers), drilling a gas well without a permit and leaving abandoned wells unplugged. Is that the standard that South Africans must accept? If the water in South Africa is polluted is an ‘Oops, sorry', going to fix it? If they are fined for pollution can we eat and drink the money?
‘If we don't do it, you'll have smaller, less professional companies fracking in SA,' they warn. ‘No Shell. You have underestimated the spirit of South Africans. We will not stand by and watch you or any other oil and gas company worm your fracking way into South Africa.'
Jonathan Deal is chairman of Treasure Karoo Action Group
TKAG Website: http://www.treasurethekaroo.co.za/
TKAG Fundraising Website: https://www.givengain.com/cgi-bin/giga.cgi?c=2961