|Title||We Say No to Fracking – Voices from the Karoo|
|Date released (year)||2012|
|Production company||EcoDoc Africa|
|Keywords/tags||Education, environmentalism, fracking, protest|
|Link to film||http://youtu.be/JZ6cOlTrLN4
|Synopsis||Saturday 28 July 2012 saw a gathering of communities, environmentalists, scientists, children, bikers etc. in Nieu-Bethesda to raise awareness that the people of South Africa are saying NO to fracking. The Rally was organised locally by Mikey Wentworth with support from Climate Justice Campaign and Earthlife Africa Cape Town.
This video was filmed and edited by Liane Greeff of EcoDoc Africa, and produced for EJOLT-CCS. EJOLT is a large collaborative project bringing science and society together to catalogue ecological distribution conflicts and to work towards confronting environmental injustice. EcoDoc Africa is taking the camera to the conflicts and building and sharing a video archive of people’s protests against ecocide on earth.
|Reviews/discussion||What is Fracking?
Hydraulic fracturing is the propagation of fractures in a rock layer by a pressurized fluid. Some hydraulic fractures form naturally—certain veins or dikes are examples—and can create conduits along which gas and petroleum from source rocks may migrate to reservoir rocks. Induced hydraulic fracturing or hydrofracturing, commonly known as fracing, fraccing, or fracking, is a technique used to release petroleum, natural gas (including shale gas, tight gas, and coal seam gas), or other substances for extraction. This type of fracturing creates fractures from a wellbore drilled into reservoir rock formations.
A Pro-fracking argument:
Fracking it in South Africa: an argument for shale gas production in the Karoo – By John Schellhase, November 15, 2012
South Africa is in the midst of a heated energy debate. Africa’s wealthiest nation sits on top of one of the world’s largest shale gas reserves. While the government has lifted its moratorium on shale gas exploration, the controversial hydraulic fracturing technique, ‘fracking’, is still restricted as the country weighs environmental risks against opportunities for economic development. Given the clear economic opportunities and the chance to diversify away from coal, government officials should continue their deliberate, but steady progress toward completely removing the ban on fracking in South Africa.
In a study of 32 countries, the US Energy Information Administration (EIA) found that South Africa has the 5th largest reserves of potentially recoverable shale gas. At 485 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, the shale reserves in South Africa surpass those of Australia, Brazil, Canada, and Poland, where Prime Minister Donald Tusk has called natural gas his country’s “great chance,” according to the Wall Street Journal.
Fracking is a controversial technique. In order to extract gas from shale formations, energy companies drill thousands of meters below ground, then drill horizontally into a shale formation. The rig operators pump water and a mixture of chemicals into the shale at high pressures, fracturing rock formations and allowing gas to flow. Fracking opponents worry that the chemicals involved in the process will contaminate water supplies, threatening both human communities and natural ecosystems. Proponents, such as Ben Grumbles, president of the non-for-profit Clean Water America Alliance, disagree. Grumbles has written, “Hydraulic fracturing can be ‘safe’ when done in the right place, on the right scale, with the right safeguards.”
Royal Dutch Shell, Falcon Oil, Sunset Energy, Sasol Oil, and Bundu Oil and Gas are all eager to explore South Africa’s shale basin in the semi-arid Karoo region, which stretches between Capetown and Johannesburg. This area has the lowest population density in the country. But with over 6,000 plant species, 40 percent of which are unique to the area, the Karoo is rich in biodiversity. In February 2011, Susan Shabangu, the Minister of Mineral Resources, instituted a nation-wide ban on shale gas exploration, citing environmental concerns.
Pressure from both sides of the issue has only grown louder since Shabangu’s announcement. In March of this year, Treasure the Karoo Action Group, an organization fighting shale exploration, declared, “In the event that Minister Shabangu issues exploration licenses under the current status quo, we will look to the courts for protection.” In May, Energy Minister Dipuo Peters, according to local media reports, called the gas beneath the Karoo a “blessing that God gives us,” adding, “and we need to exploit it for the benefit of the people.”
Since September, the government has been sending mixed messages. At first, Collins Chabane, a minister in the President’s office, announced that the moratorium was entirely lifted, but less than two weeks later, Shabangu corrected the record, explaining that the moratorium has only been lifted for “normal exploration” and that fracking remains off-limits. In a speech to parliament, she said, “Hydraulic fracturing – when and if it eventually happens – will be authorized under the strict supervision of the monitoring committee.” President Jacob Zuma has stayed out of the fray. When contacted for comment on this piece, for example, his office redirected the query to the Ministry of Mining.
Currently, coal dominates South Africa’s energy landscape, accounting for over 90 percent of electricity production. With proved reserves of 300 billion tons, coal provides the cheap energy South Africa needs to sustain its rapid economic rise. Those reserves can keep the country powered for the next century, but concerns about climate change are driving policymakers to seek alternatives. In this context, natural gas, which cuts greenhouse gas emissions in half compared to coal, has become increasingly attractive.
Ichumile Gqada, a researcher at the respected South Africa Institute of International Affairs, believes shale gas exploration in the Karoo should go forward. In an email, she wrote, “Ignoring the massive potential of the resource that might be in place in the Karoo by ‘leaving the resource in the ground,’ as some have suggested, would be unjustifiable in my eyes.”
The upside potential of exploration is powerfully attractive. A report released in September by the Department of Mineral Resources described the economic potential of fracking in the Karoo. In a “moderately optimistic” case, the authors estimate that if 30 trillion cubic feet, out of the estimated 485 trillion cubic feet, could be produced the financial windfall would be 1 trillion rand; in other words, a mere 6 percent of potential reserve is worth US $115 billion. The government report also cites PetroSA’s Mossel Bay project, where the production of just 1 trillion cubic feet of natural gas led to the creation of over 1,500 jobs.
As incomes in South Africa continue to rise and energy demands increase, the economic logic of shale gas extraction may become irresistible. Local environmental groups such as Treasure the Karoo and international NGOs such as Greenpeace and World Wildlife Fund should transform their message from stopping fracking at any cost to ensuring the highest health and environmental standards possible. Instead of protesting from the periphery, they should work to embed their members on advisory boards and oversight panels. By working with extractive industries instead of against them, civil society groups will have far more influence in shaping the future of fracking in South Africa.
For its part, the government must continue to ensure that environmental concerns guide future exploration. Working with industry and civil society, ministers must have clear, forceful regulations in place to guarantee the strictest consequences if energy companies cause environmental harm. It is also time that President Zuma makes an extended public statement on the issue.
Shale gas exploration has the potential to drive the next wave of economic growth in South Africa, reducing poverty and creating tens of thousands of jobs over the next decade. While the government must maintain the highest environmental standards for companies wishing to extract shale gas in the Karoo, it has an economic obligation to steadily open shale gas to further development, including fracking. It is time for South Africa’s government to lead the country to a more secure energy future.
John Schellhase is a graduate student at the Center for Global Affairs, New York University.
Fracking cancer risk, September 20 2012
KwaZulu-Natal – SA’s top water research body has warned the government to think carefully about the serious risk of water pollution from cancer-causing chemicals and radioactive compounds from future underground “fracking” operations across huge swathes of the country.
A new report by the state-funded Water Research Commission says shale gas rock-fracturing (fracking) will not only happen in remote sections of the Karoo. In fact, the government had already issued fracking exploration permits in six of the nine provinces, including a massive chunk of southern KwaZulu-Natal stretching almost as far north as Pietermaritzburg.
The scientists note that future fracking, at depths 4km below the earth’s surface, could be over a much wider area of the country – including most of the high-lying areas south of latitude 29°C in KZN (a line which starts at Mtunzini in the east and stretches inland past Estcourt towards Bloemfontein and Kimberley).
The report also identifies a number of risks to human health, water and the natural environment from fracking wells. These risks included:
– Widespread pollution of groundwater, rivers and lakes with dozens of cancer-causing fracking compounds and other “highly toxic” pollutants such as benzene, hydrochloric acid and isopropanol.
– Accidental release of underground uranium and other radioactive elements into the water and soil.
– Underground mini-earthquakes, cave-ins and land subsidence.
– Privatisation of parks and other state land where the public is excluded from fracking land and gas fields for safety reasons.
– Above-ground air pollution from methane and other shale gas wells.
– Lower property values.
However, water pollution is the main emphasis of the 84-page Water Research Commission report by Gideon Steyl (University of the Free State chemistry department), Gerrit van Tonder (University of the Free State Institute for Groundwater Studies) and Luc Chevallier (Council for Geoscience).
The scientists note that gas-drilling companies in the US have been trying to hide the toxic nature of many fracking chemicals.
However, the commission cites a report from the US House of Representatives last year which identified at least 29 commonly used fracking chemicals that were known or probable cancer-causing agents, or were regulated as hazardous to drinking water and air.
These chemicals are mixed with water and pumped underground at very high pressure to fracture and crack the rock formations to release buried pockets of methane and other gas formed millions of years ago from rotting mounds of mud, vegetation, algae and other organic matter.
Some chemicals included benzene (a known cancer-causing chemical) along with a variety of acids and petroleum products.
A study by the University of Buffalo in the US last year also raised concern about the possible release of underground uranium and other radioactive compounds when rocks are cracked up with hydrochloric acid.
Another US study published last year showed that the methane gas level in underground drinking water was generally 17 times higher in fracking areas compared with well water where no fracking took place.
However, Steyl and his colleagues voiced dismay over the difficulty in tracking down truly unbiased international studies on the impacts of fracking, since most were done by industry and private interests.
Even official US government reports claiming no damage to public health or the environment stood in contradiction to numerous adverse reports by US citizens and the US Environmental Protection Agency.
The commission researchers note that a single fracking event in a single well used the same amount of water needed to irrigate eight to 10ha of maize during a growing season.
Every time a well was fracked, large volumes of chemicals were added to the water-pressure mixture. Although chemicals only made up between 0.5 and 2 percent of the mixture, the volume of hazardous chemicals in a single fracking event could total between 34 000 and 136 000 litres.
Even if just 1 percent of dangerous fracking chemicals leaked out of the concrete well drillings during a single fracking, Steyl estimated that 490 litres of hazardous chemicals could contaminate underground water. This could pose “serious hazards” to the environment and to underground water drunk by people and livestock.
Despite these concerns, the scientists appear to recognise that fracking is a fait accompli and they have listed a set of 10 recommendations to limit harm. They include compulsory “full disclosure” of every chemical used. Any fracking well should be at least 10km away from residential areas to reduce chemical exposure risks.
All drilling records should be freely available to the public, and a thorough baseline study should be done to measure pre-fracking quality of water, soil and air by an “unbiased” body such as a university.
Legal action should also be taken against any drilling company after a first offence. They should be forced to clean up damage, and be banned from future fracking in SA. However, even in the US, there were fewer than 10 inspectors to monitor more than 3 500 fracking wells in Pennsylvania. – The Mercury
An introduction to fracking in South Africa
The report also suggested that exploration proceed without allowing for horizontal drilling or hydraulic fracturing, while laws are amended and a monitoring committee is established. Due to the fatal flaws in the applicants’ EMP’s and other considerations, TKAG will be opposing any licences that may be granted in the near future by legal means.
High Volume, Slickwater, Horizontal hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking”/”fraccing”, is the controversial technology used for the extraction of unconventional gas, such as shale gas. The technique involves a vertical well that is drilled to a depth of between 2000 m and 6000 m, after which the drilling bore turns to drill horizontally for a few thousand meters. A mixture of 99%-99.5% water and sand, along with 0.5% – 1% chemicals are pumped under high pressure into the well. This process fractures the shale rock layer, releasing the gas trapped between rock particles.
|Links to other resources||www.ejolt.org|
|Title||Nigerian Activist Nnimmo Bassey Calls US Emissions Stance “A Death Sentence”|
|Date released (year)||2011|
|Keywords/tags||Climate change, global warming, protest, climate justice, Kyoto Protocol, COP17|
|Link to film||http://youtu.be/Me3lJPAqBxs
|Synopsis||Democracy Now! continues its week-long coverage from the United Nations Climate Change Conference COP 17 in Durban, where negotiators from more than 190 nations are gathered. The future of the Kyoto Protocol is in doubt as is the formation of a new Green Climate Fund. With the talks taking place in South Africa, special interest is being paid to how the continent of Africa is already being heavily impacted by the climate crisis. Democracy Now! speaks to Nigerian environmentalist Nnimmo Bassey, Executive Director of Environmental Rights Action in Nigeria and Chair of Friends of the Earth International. He is author of the new book, “To Cook a Continent: Destructive Extraction and Climate Crisis in Africa.”
“We are still in a situation where the negotiations are being carried out on a big platform of hypocrisy, a lack of seriousness, a lack of recognition of the fact that Africa is so heavily impacted,” Bassey says. “For every one degree Celsius change in temperature, Africa is impacted at a heightened level. This is very much to be condemned.”
|Reviews/discussion||On ‘To Cook a Climate’ by Nnimmo Bassey
There are some in Africa who argue that having a valuable resource is not necessarily a curse. They say that nature’s wealth is a blessing and that the curse happens only in relation to how resources are grabbed, owned, extracted and utilised. In other words, the curse is located firmly in the social structure of the world.
Let us start with a caveat about the word ‘resource’, which implies that nature’s wealth is a bounty, ready for corporate robbery. But we as humans frame this dilemma of extraction incorrectly if we don’t point out the intrinsic right of nature to survive on its own terms. Most importantly, we are part of Mother Earth, not apart from her. Her rights to exist and reproduce the conditions for all species’ existence are not to be violated.
That said, everyone acknowledges that Africa is resource rich. That the continent has been a net supplier of energy and raw materials to the North is not in doubt. That the climate crisis confronting the world today is mainly rooted in the wealthy economies’ abuse of fossil fuels, indigenous forests and global commercial agriculture is not in doubt. What has been obfuscated is how to respond to this reality. Indeed, the question peddled in policy circles is often what can be done about Africa. And, in moments of generosity, the question moves to what can be done for Africa.
This book looks at what has been done to Africa and how Africans and peoples of the world should respond for the collective good of all. The resource conflicts in Africa have been orchestrated by a history of greed and rapacious consumption. We ask the question: must these conflicts remain intractable? We will connect the drive for mindless extraction to the tightening noose of odious debt repayment and we will demand a fresh look at the accounting books, asking when environmental costs and other externalities are included: who really owes what to whom? Isn’t Africa the creditor of the world, if we take seriously the North’s ‘ecological debt’ to the South?
What makes possible the lack of regulation in Africa’s extractive sectors, the open robbery and the incredibly destructive extractive activities? Leading the multiplicity of factors are unjust power relations that follow from and amplify the baggage of slavery, colonialism and neo-colonialism. From a Nigerian stand-point, but within the tradition of Pan-Africanist political economy and global political ecology, this book unpacks these issues and sets up bins for these needless and toxic loads.
Because of my own experiences, the pages that follow pay close attention to the oil industry in Africa, to the history of environmental justice struggles in the Niger Delta, to the discovery of oilfields in Uganda’s rift Valley, and to the big pull of the offshore finds in the Gulf of Guinea. As we examine the impacts of fossil fuel extraction on the continent, we also look at massive land grabs for the production of agrofuels and foods for export.
What can Africa do? And once our peoples decide, can the rest of the world act in solidarity? If not, will we continue on the path laid out by elites, a path that brings us ever closer to the brink? Must we live in denial even at a time of a rising tide of social and ecological disasters?
One of the worst gas flares in the Niger Delta is at a former Shell facility at Oben, on the border of Delta and Edo states. They have been roaring and crackling non-stop for over 30 years, since Shell first lit them. The flared gas comes from the crude oil extracted from the oil wells in the Oben field. As at more than 200 other flow stations across the Niger Delta, these gas flares belch toxic elements into the atmosphere, poisoning the environment and the people. Globally, gas flares pump about 400 million tonnes of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere annually. Here in Nigeria, the climate is brazenly assaulted both in the short term by gas flaring and over the long term because of the CO2 emissions from this filthy practice. In the hierarchy of gas flares infamy, Nigeria is second only to Russia.
Gas flares and oil spills have attracted the attention of the world as the two most visible assaults on the Niger Delta. It was no surprise that when the Dutch parliament decided to hold a hearing on the activities of Shell in Nigeria, journalists and parliamentarians from the Netherlands decided to visit the region to see things for themselves.
I was at Oben on 18 December 2010 just after the United Nations’ climate negotiations disaster at Cancun, accompanied by Sharon Gesthuisen, a Socialist Party member of the Dutch parliament, along with a Dutch diplomat and Sunny Ofehe of the Hope for the Niger Delta Campaign. Our journey started in Benin City early in the evening after the parliamentarian had flown in from Lagos. escorted by a team of Oben community people, we set out on the hour-long ride along the highway from Benin City to Warri, a road noted for the high number of military check- points. They would make anyone think that Nigeria was at war. We meandered through the hazardous roadblocks made with trash hurled from nearby bushes and veered off the highway at Jesse, just before Sapele, from where we took a narrow winding road to Oben. Jesse is important in the tragic history of the Niger Delta: it was the community where a petrol pipeline fire killed about 1,000 poor villagers in 1998.
We got to Oben at about 7pm and were waved through a military checkpoint set up to guard the oil flow station and the belching dragons. Gaining entrance to the heavily guarded facility was easy; leaving was not. As soon as we arrived, a worker whom we happened across gave us a little talk about what went on there. People from the community complained about how they had had to put up with the flares for more than three decades while their dreams of jobs and development projects faded away.
The Dutch MP was amazed by what she saw. She was happy she had made this trip, otherwise she would have had to depend solely on the chaperoned visits arranged by the oil giant Shell in a bid to show how environmentally friendly they are. The flames leapt and roared relentlessly. We inched as close as we could before having to turn away because of the unbearable heat. As we turned to leave, the brightness of the village sky contrasted with the darkness of the homes that lacked electricity. But we could not leave.
Our cars were surrounded by soldiers of the Joint Task Force (JTF), a military force that became infamous when an armed unit was created specifically to punish the Ogoni people in the 1990s. The soldiers demanded to know by what authority we visited the gas flare site. They would not let us leave without producing an authorisation letter from the JTF headquarters. All our explanations that we were there at the invitation of the community fell on deaf ears. The presence of a Dutch parliamentarian as well as a diplomat meant nothing to these guys, who apparently knew their script. Hours went by. The darkness of the night struggled with the glow of the gas flares. The soldiers stuck to their guns.
The JTF men demanded our car keys and threatened to deflate the tyres. We would not leave the location that night, they insisted. Threats followed. Rifles were raised and then lowered. They would not call their superiors. They were the lords working at the behest of capital.
Eventually a Nigerian journalist who was on our team placed a call to the media relations officer of the JTF. After much foot dragging the soldiers wrote down the numbers of our cars and took our names, addresses and statements before letting us go at midnight. We rode back to Benin City in silence, each mulling over the hazards faced by communities living in the oilfields and the human rights abuses inflicted regularly on those who monitor or question the evils that go on in the land. To the Dutch parliamentarian, the events of the evening were a good introduction to the Niger Delta and the operations of the oil companies: exploit, degrade, abuse and punish the environment and the people. The scenario replays across the continent.
BROUGHT TO YOU BY PAMBAZUKA NEWS
* This article forms the preface and beginning of chapter 1 from Nnimmo Bassey’s forthcoming book ‘To Cook a Continent – Destructive Extraction and the Climate Crisis in Africa’, published by Pambazuka Press (ISBN: 1-906387-53-2)
Durban COP17: failures in the making | by Patrick Bond:
The failure of Durban’s COP17 – a veritable “Conference of Polluters” – is certain, but the nuance and spin are also important. Binding emissions-cut commitments under the Kyoto Protocol are impossible given Washington’s push for an alternate architecture that is also built upon sand. The devils in the details over climate finance and technology include an extension of private-sector profit-making opportunities at public expense, plus bizarre new technologies that threaten planetary safety.
Politically, the overall orientation of global climate policy managers, especially from the US State Department and World Bank, eventually will be to displace the main process to the G20. This did not happen in Cannes because of the Greek and Italian economic crises, but is likely in future. It entails Washington’s rejection of any potential overall UN solution to the climate crisis – which in any case is a zero-possibility in the near future because of the terribly adverse power balance – and the UN’s dismissal of civil society’s varied critiques of market strategies. The COP negotiators will also reject climate justice movement’s strategies to keep fossil fuels in the ground and its demands for state-subsidised, community-controlled, transformative energy, transport, production, consumption and disposal systems.
The Cancun Summut
Nothing will be different in Durban, but in the meantime all the worst tendencies in world capitalism have conjoined to prevent progress on the two main areas of COP 17 decisions: financing and technology. The latter includes intellectual property rights barriers which must be overcome, reminiscent of how militant AIDS treatment activists liberated antiretroviral (ARV) medicines in 2003 at the Doha World Trade Organisation summit. Before that summit, Trade Related Intellectual Property Rights provisions allowed Big Pharma to charge $15 000 per person per year for life-saving ARVs, even though generic drugs cost a fraction of that sum. A similar push to decommodify vital climate technology is needed, but only a few activists have prioritised this struggle.
After all, technological processes that threaten the earth have intensified, such as geo-engineering, shale-gas fracking (endorsed by the SA National Planning Commission), tar sands extraction, and carbon capture and storage schemes aiming to bury greenhouse gases. The Johannesburg company SASOL continues to build up the world’s most CO2-intensive factory by converting coal and gas to liquid petroleum, for which it requests carbon credits from the UN.
And in spite of the Fukushima catastrophe, the US and South Africa continue a major nuclear energy expansion. The mad idea of seeding the oceans with iron filings to generate carbon-sequestrating algae blooms continues to get attention. In October 2010, the Convention on Biological Diversity in Nagoya, Japan called for a halt to geo-engineering, but a year later British scientists began experimenting with stratospheric aerosol injections as a way to artificially cool the planet. As Canadian technology watchdog Diana Bronson put it, ‘This so-called Solar Radiation Management could have devastating consequences: altering precipitation patterns, threatening food supplies and public health, destroying ozone and diminishing the effectiveness of solar power.’
The financial mechanisms under debate since Cancun are just as dangerous because austerity-minded states in the US and European Union are backtracking on their $100 billion/year promise of a Green Climate Fund to promote carbon trading. That Fund appears set to re-subsidise carbon markets by ensuring they become the source of revenues, instead of larger flows of direct aid from rich countries, which activists suggest should become a down payment on the North’s ‘climate debt’. The markets have been foiled by their own internal corruption and contradictions, as well as by left critiques in key sites such as California and Australia, and rightwing climate change denialism in the US Congress.
But most importantly, the EU’s emissions trading scheme is still failing to generate even $10/ton carbon prices, whereas at least $50 would be required to start substantial shifts from fossil fuels to renewables. And world financial chaos means no one can trust the markets to self-correct.
Even with a rise of 2° C, scientists generally agree, small islands will sink, Andean and Himalayan glaciers will melt, coastal areas such as much of Bangladesh and many port cities will drown and Africa will dry out or in some places flood. With the trajectory going into Durban, the result will be a cataclysmic 4–5° C rise in temperature over this century, and if Copenhagen and Cancun promises are broken, as is reasonable to anticipate, 7° C is likely.
After 16 annual Conferences of Parties, the power balance within the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change continues to degenerate. On the other hand, growing awareness of elite paralysis is rising here in Durban, even within a generally uncritical mass media.
That means the space occupied by activists will be crucial for highlighting anti-extraction campaigns including the Canadian tar sands, West Virginia mountains, Ecuadoran Amazon and Niger Delta – the hottest spots at present.
Expanding the Enviro Fightback
Patrick Bond directs the University of KwaZulu-Natal Centre for Civil Society in Durban. His two most recent books are Politics of Climate Justice and Durban’s Climate
|Links to other resources||Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/democracynow
The African Climate Connection: www.african-climate-connection.org