Is Africa Being Sold For a Handful of Glass Beads?

An article by Thompson Reuters Foundation January 27, points to the favour granted to international corporations over the rights of farmers and indigenous peoples who rely on sustainable agriculture for a living.

The views expressed dovetail remarkably with an article penned almost a year ago by Jonathan Deal. That article can be read here

Corporations trump citizens in struggle for natural resources in Africa – report

Source: Thomson Reuters Foundation – Mon, 27 Jan 2014 03:37 PM

cor-gov hum-rig cli-for
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Garlic farmer Molly Nikelo in the Karoo, South Africa October 11, 2013. Some residents fear that proposed fracking will destabilise agriculture. REUTERS/Mike Hutchings

DAKAR (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Land laws which fail to give citizens rights over natural resources give corporations the upper hand and fuel poverty and environmental damage in sub-Saharan Africa, according to new research by the World Resources Institute.

The study found that African governments overwhelmingly put more weight on laws that govern rights to resources than rights to land, enriching mining and extractive companies and leaving the vast majority of African landowners powerless to economically benefit from their land.

“The rights to surface resources are the most important, as these are the ones that are readily available to the population without the need to engage expensive exploration and mining technology,” said Peter Veit of the Washington-based World Resource Institute.

“Most natural resource laws only allow communities to use certain trees or certain amounts of water, for domestic and subsistence purposes only, but they don’t allow them to take advantage of the resources that are on or below their land to actually generate a meaningful livelihood,” Veit said.

Africa is a major oil and gas producer and has some of the earth’s largest subterranean stocks of gold, diamonds, metal ores as well as other high-value resources above ground. However, the continent is home to 25 of the top 30 poorest countries in the world, according to the World Bank.

Mahogany sells for around $2,000 per cubic metre in current market conditions, ivory sells for $1,000 per pound in the illegal market whilst trophy hunting can bring in as much as $350,000 for some species such as the recent auction of a permit to hunt a black rhino.

In northern Liberia, the government gave one company in 2011 the rights to search for and exploit iron ore minerals in an area that has an authorised community forest, owned by local communities under the Community Forest Management Agreement with the government.

“If the mining company finds mineral resources, they will have the right to access the mineral resources even if it destroys the forest resources in the process,” a development expert working in Liberia, who wished to remain anonymous, told Thomson Reuters Foundation by telephone from Monrovia.

Similarly, in Ghana, the farming communities of Prestea, Himan, and Bondaye have been in conflict with a Canadian mining company for more than a decade. They say the company has taken large amounts of their agricultural land and provided little compensation for their losses.

Veit said that petroleum and minerals are crucial to national development, so there is justification for having that under the control of the state. But leaving citizens with no rights to the resources above or beneath their land can create a lose-lose situation.

“In parts of Ghana, farmers have no rights to naturally occurring trees on their farm. They’re afraid the government will grant harvesting rights to mining companies or timber operators without benefitting them, so they cut down, burn or uproot the trees and grow crops on the land, rather than preserving them,” said Veit.

He said there were ongoing efforts by environmental NGOs to help communities through the arduous process of securing more rights to resources on the land, but in the long term land rights should automatically include rights to natural resources.

“Granting communities more rights to natural resources when they have land rights means they can negotiate directly with the companies and the state can benefit through a taxing of those operations, whether they are high value timber species, trophy hunting or mining operations,” Veit said.


Challenger Energy eyes South Africa through corrupt opportunity

Creamer Media’s Mining Weekly reported yesterday that Australian Challenger Energy had applied for shale gas exploration rights in the Karoo.

Sunset (read the proof here)

In the article, Mining Weekly accurately reported the path of Challenger starting with Bundu Oil & Gas in South Africa.

A letter attached as part of a report to shareholders of Sunset Energy (The company between Bundu and Challenger) reported that the company had managed to re-instate and even increase a rejected mining application by ‘leveraging our connections in South Africa’.

The company’s explanation of just what this ‘leveraging’ entailed, and who it involved, will be fascinating, and will no doubt be explored as the licensing process unfolds.

Watch this space.

Fracking confusion is the order of the day for David Johnson

The debate continues. David’s response today – with my answer.

Jonathan Deal does it again!

January 10, 2014

Jonathan, in his previous article, again completely ignored the case I have put forward since this debate began. Initially I thought there was little point in repeating my argument once more, until I read comments on social media sites. Some readers aligned to TKAG’s view complimented Jonathan on his “rebuttal”. But a rebuttal would require Jonathan to actually address the main pillar of my original article, not merely say why he doesn’t like fracking, which is all he does. I will therefore restate my position in writing, for the fourth and final time.

The most effective approach to limiting the negative environmental effects of energy development is based on a scientific analysis of all generation options and their effects. This offers us an objective basis to debate, on environmental grounds, which kinds of energy should be preferred overall or in a particular area.

TKAG are uninterested in discussing the environmental impacts of alternatives to shale gas. Their position seems to be that as long as the Karoo is saved it doesn’t matter how electricity is generated or which land is degraded elsewhere in the process. Jonathan never addresses this environmental concern in his replies.

Jonathan makes a number of points which relate to fracking in general, but are completely extraneous to the issue in the articles he purports to respond to. Jonathan’s tactic of responding with only superficially relevant arguments is so well developed he should seriously consider entering politics, he’d be good at it. Here’s my response in a nutshell:


One of Jonathan’s often used anti-fracking arguments has been the risk of corrupt practices in the shale gas industry.

Transparency International’s “Corruption Perceptions Index 2013” rates 177 countries and territories from least to most corrupt. South Africa, at position 72, is one place below Italy, a country where mafia involvement in renewable energy has been widely reported for many years.

Last year about a third of Sicily’s 30 wind farms, in addition to several solar power plants, were seized by Italian authorities. Politicians and businessmen, “tenderpreneurs” in South African terms, were among those arrested for renewable energy linked corruption. One reason the mafia focussed on the renewable energy sector was the sector’s generous subsidies. In fact, it is arguable that subsidised industries, like renewables, are particularly susceptible to corruption.

It is foolish, at least, to think renewable energy, or any industry, is exempt from the danger of corruption. More importantly, corruption is an entirely irrelevant consideration when establishing which form of energy would be the least environmentally harmful. Corruptly owned mafia wind farms are financially as filthy as coal, but the energy they produce is as environmentally clean as that of wind farms financed by legitimate means.

Government competence

Drawing attention to examples of ministerial error could become South Africa’s national sport. Of course Jonathan can point to examples related to fracking; we could all do the same in just about any field regulated or financed by government. Nevertheless, even the most inept Minister of Energy will not miraculously morph into a model of efficiency and saintly honesty if fracking disappeared from the equation, leaving a choice between renewables or coal. Does Jonathan honestly believe these same ministers speak learnedly and authoritatively on means of generating energy besides shale gas?

When Jonathan refers to incapable politicians, it reminds me of those same politicians kissing babies or handing out food parcels. It’s a direct appeal to our emotions, regardless of the topic at hand. The fact that incapable politicians hold ministerial positions is no more relevant to which form of energy is the least environmentally damaging than it is to whether permitting lion hunts aids or harms conservation or whether our fish stocks require more conservative commercial line fishing quota rights.


Perhaps the greatest environmental benefit of wind and solar energy is that, after the infrastructure has entered service, it can be pretty much left to do its thing. There is no need for a continuous supply of fossil fuels. There is no need for thousands of miners to dig up those fossil fuels either.

Jonathan has drawn attention to shale gas proponents’ dubious employment statistics. He has a point. But it is an irrelevant one. No matter what the truth of those statistics, it is a safe guess that during their operational phases, substantially more employees will be needed to generate the same quantity of power at a coal-fired power station than at a solar plant.

Saving jobs is not an argument for environmentalists to rely on in this debate. Coal could be one of the better choices, if your prime concern is maximising employment, but not if your prime concern is lowering carbon emissions.


Jonathan refers to the part TKAG funded review of Econometrix’s “Special Report on Economic Considerations Surrounding Potential Shale Gas Resources”. From what Jonathan has said, it appears that the review of the Econometrix report is the only study in which TKAG has financially invested.

Unsurprisingly, as the Econometrix’s name suggests, the initial report and TKAG’s response to it do not look at the environmental impacts of our energy choices, but at the economic case for fracking. The strength of the economic case for shale gas is immaterial to the relative environmental impacts of extracting that gas.

Moving forwards

Jonathan has suggested we hold a public debate. I will be back in Cape Town in late March and I am hopeful that a debate in person rather than online might mean I can focus the debate on what really matters – the environmental impacts of all our potential energy choices. Anyone concerned about the environment in the Karoo as well as other places needs a markedly more mature response than the narrow nimby anti-fracking case of TKAG.

So I will accept the invitation, and will let you know when debate practicalities are settled.


1.     “Sting operations reveal Mafia involvement in renewable energy” Washington Post, 23 January 23 2013.

2.    “Italy makes ‘Mafia’ arrests over Sicily wind farms” BBC Online, 15 February 2013.

3.    “Analysis – Is the Italian mafia turning green?” Wind Power Monthly, 17 April 2013.

4.    “German homes, offices searched in mafia wind farm probe” Reuters, 19 November 2013.

5.    “Corruption Hit as Italy Cleans Up Wind Sector” Renewable Energy World, 10 June 2013.

6.    Corruption Perceptions Index 2013, Transparency International.


I had hoped to continue dialogue with David, focused more on the issues than on the literary and tactical idiosyncrasies, of he and I. David’s opinion insofar as it pertains to me personally, and his advice on career choice, while perhaps being sincerely motivated by a desire to see me in politics are thus dismissed for the purposes of this discussion. I too, am becoming bored with re-stating the same points for the fourth time. Thus in the interests of being very clear, I discard the application of brevity in this reply.


Now. I cannot but agree wholeheartedly with David that: “The most effective approach to limiting the negative environmental effects of energy development is based on a scientific analysis of all generation options and their effects. This offers us an objective basis to debate, on environmental grounds, which kinds of energy should be preferred overall or in a particular area.” A scientific analysis of all generation options is expected, by TKAG, within the context of shale gas mining – in South Africa – to mean exactly that. It must include the full spectrum of scientific endeavours – basic science, applied science, engineering, technology, economics, social sciences, and statistics – as stated in my first article in response to David. For the life of me, I cannot understand firstly how David feels that I disagree with him on this point; and secondly how David can be unaware that the efforts employed by the South African Government to produce a scientific analysis that will stand up to world standards of scientific analysis can be viewed as anything but inadequate.

The fact remains: Science in countries where shale gas mining is fully developed is unsettled, with for example, the US EPA heading towards an investigation that will last six years before they are willing to commit to Congress on their definitive findings on the process of shale gas mining. On the basis of three years of debate in South Africa, at least half of which has been lost to inefficiency, and having regard for the fact that the Government Departments invited to be on the task team excluded key players, it is trite that a scientific analysis, cannot be said to have been completed in South Africa to a level that can justify the issuing of licences for exploration .

‘Environmental impacts of specific energy technologies and our ability to choose’

It is untrue that TKAG are uninterested in discussing the environmental impacts of alternatives to shale gas. Firstly, David is raking over old coals when he refers to ‘as long as the Karoo is saved’ – he knows full well from my previous responses that this involves the whole of South Africa. To put it plainly – if fracking were to be banned or relinquished in the Karoo but still faced in KZN or other provinces, our involvement would not diminish. I trust that after the fourth time it is now crystal clear: fracking is a South African national issue – not a Karoo issue.

David’s argument around ’a choice of energy options’ would imply that we are sitting at a great meeting of elders – with no current energy generating technologies in place – and the question under discussion is “Elders, what energy options shall we choose?” Now David knows full well that the other options have all been chosen and are implemented and committed to in varying degrees. This is not a question of “shall we choose coal over nuclear or fuel oil over wind or gas over coal?” The country is already heavily invested in coal – not only in energy generation but also in export revenues and local jobs.


It is inaccurate to say that one of my often-used anti-fracking arguments is the risk of corrupt practices in the shale gas industry. I have been abundantly clear on the fact that the oil and gas industry is proven to be criminal in their practices. David points to Italian Mafia and renewable energy as an example, but the Mafia on their best day, cannot compete with the largest companies in the world – on any timescale. And in any event – the example is irrelevant because we are speaking of an additional and new technology that is not yet licenced or practiced in this country. In terms of corruption, the geographically closer example of Nigeria is a case worth considering. Royal Dutch Shell has behaved criminally in that country. I am also on record of stating, as I do again here today that Shell have been dishonest in their campaign on shale gas in this country. This is not a risk it is a reality.

Speaking of generous subsidies, the oil and gas industry worldwide, despite posting record profits, enjoys substantial subsidies that have been in place so long that they can be said to be an intrinsic part of the business. I make no guarantees that renewable energy operators are more honest than fossil fuel pedlars. Eskom, some would say, at the heart of our energy debate, currently transfers to BHP Billiton; a subsidy calculated to eventually cost South Africans R11.5 billion. The point is that until our energy environment is holistically controlled in a business-like way, it may be short-sighted to accept at face value, Eskom’s lamentations about energy delivery capacity.

Government competence

I take David’s subtle point on the inefficiency of Ministers and his reference to their lack of learnedness and authority when making decisions on other energy sources. The question is thus: Do you believe David, based on your view (about a lack of Ministerial perspicacity) that the same team who has lead South Africa into its current energy dilemma should be trusted to guide the country through a decision on shale gas?

David raises my comment on ‘incompetent politicians’ as if we are back at the ‘choice table.’ The truth is that there are significant and reasonable questions about many aspects of shale gas mining being raised by diverse communities on different continents. Moreover, those questions and the activities of many of those communities, sometimes in direct defiance of their legislators cannot be said by David, or anyone else in this country, to have been satisfactorily addressed to the point that it can be argued that the issuing of licences is justified under the current circumstances.


Juxtaposing employment with carbon emissions makes no sense to me. The reference by TKAG to jobs is based on two solid points. (1) The oil and gas industry bases its most emotive marketing on the creation of jobs. So their claims demand a like response. (2) The jobs claimed (routinely) by the industry – in any continent ignores displaced jobs – the industry simply uses ‘blue sky’ economic theories to sketch a veritable employment Xanadu – and they have the money to push those claims in world media and the hallowed halls of politics.


Finally, I get David’s point. The Economic benefits of shale gas are immaterial when considered within a discussion that is exclusively focused on the environmental impact of extracting that gas relative to the environmental impacts of extracting or producing energy from other sources. TKAG invested specifically in a review of the Econometrix report because it is that report which has been adopted by the South African government. This can be proved by a review of public quotes by South African Ministers. Therefore, we decided that a vast expense for TKAG and its supporters was justified. The results stood up to three peer-reviews – something to which the Econometrix report – and its ambassadors – have not been subjected.

The elimination by David, ‘of the strength of the economic case’ from this discussion, whilst being novel, simply obliterates three of the four pillars on which the shale gas proponents rely.

Moving ahead

David’s closing view contained at least one bright spot – that is his reference to the ‘environment in the Karoo and other places’ – it appears that he has at last accepted that this is beyond treasuring the Karoo. Were I tempted, to label David and his ilk, in the hackneyed fashion that TKAG has been labelled, I most likely would bestow the rank of FATFIFA – Frack Ahead The Future Is Fracked Anyway.

SA shale gas delay allows the truth out
Much to the chagrin of Royal Dutch Shell, other applicants for shale exploration licences and their friends in government and industry in SA, the ongoing delay in settling the question of shale gas extraction in SA is working to the benefit of the nation.


Simply because the lack of information, transparency, effective public information and consultation in SA, has created a situation in which licences would have been issued in a virtual vacuum of information. This is not to say that the government is necessarily uninformed, but rather that certain pro-gas players in the government were and are prepared to overlook the global issues connected with shale gas mining. It is not in the interests of the nation to be committed to a decision of this magnitude simply on the basis of the marketing hype of the oil and gas industry.

What does a delay in the issuing of licences mean?

It is providing a real opportunity for important facts about shale gas  mining in other countries to reach South Africans. On a daily basis the media and various organisations are publishing reports in connection with shale gas, and the news is overwhelmingly negative. The Oil and Gas industry is spending significant amounts of cash on lobbying governments and industry but appear to be failing in their bid to counter negative information about the controversial practice of shale gas mining.

What is a topical example of the ‘negative reports’ referred to?

Here are three:

1. At least 210 bans, moratoria or restrictions on the holistic shale gas mining process or on sections of it are recorded as being in place and enforced in various countries, regions, states, cities and towns around the world. These are increasing, as many legislative anti-fracking measures are still under consideration at the request of local communities.

2. A recent report ( published by Associated Press has alleged contamination of water in four US States. This report is being widely redistributed via global media.

3. By way of example of the volume of media reports on shale gas mining, I have recorded via a media monitoring service 9447 consolidated reports mentioning fracking. A rough average of the number of media articles per report is around four. That is somewhere in the order of         40 000 articles on fracking in an eleven month period from February 20 2013. I am not forwarding this as a claim that there are 40 000 negative articles about shale gas mining, merely making the point that this is indicative of the volume of information and perhaps disinformation connected to the technology. It establishes in my view, a clear requirement for the commencement of a planned Strategic Environmental Assessment of the technology in South Africa.

The government and the applicants are well aware that to give effect to the perhaps ill-timed promises of various Ministers and officials ‘to push ahead with shale gas’ without taking heed of international developments will expose them to significant risk of lawsuits.

It really is time for the SA Government to step up to the plate and stop being led around by the nose by Shell.

Colorado River shrinks in 14 year drought while Fracker’s play on its banks

A recent article by the exposed director of Fracknation in which he made a mockery of anti-fracking claims about the amount of water used in fracking, flies in the face of fact in more than one way. While he jests about water and fracking, communities in the South West may be bracing for a shortage of water for basic living.


Phelim McAleer posted a story ( exposing what he claimed are the ten biggest lies told by the anti-fracking lobby. Here is what he said about the supposed lie that fracking uses a lot of water:
8) Fracking uses a ton of water
Even fracking fans have a hard time swallowing the water stats for fracked wells: the EPA estimates that fracking used between 70 and 140 billion gallons of water in 2011. That sounds like a lot of H2O. Unless you have a lawn.
Americans use 20 times more water on their lawns than they do on fracking.

Colorado River Drought Forces a Painful Reckoning for States

To help the Colorado, federal authorities this year will for the first time reduce the water flow into Lake Mead, the nation’s largest reservoir, created by Hoover Dam. JIM WILSON / THE NEW YORK TIMES
January 5, 2014

LAKE MEAD, Nev. — The sinuous Colorado River and its slew of man-made reservoirs from the Rockies to southern Arizona are being sapped by 14 years of drought nearly unrivaled in 1,250 years.

The once broad and blue river has in many places dwindled to a murky brown trickle. Reservoirs have shrunk to less than half their capacities, the canyon walls around them ringed with white mineral deposits where water once lapped. Seeking to stretch their allotments of the river, regional water agencies are recycling sewage effluent, offering rebates to tear up grass lawns and subsidizing less thirsty appliances from dishwashers to shower heads.

But many experts believe the current drought is only the harbinger of a new, drier era in which the Colorado’s flow will be substantially and permanently diminished.

Faced with the shortage, federal authorities this year will for the first time decrease the amount of water that flows into Lake Mead, the nation’s largest reservoir, from Lake Powell 180 miles upstream. That will reduce even more the level of Lake Mead, a crucial source of water for cities from Las Vegas to Los Angeles and for millions of acres of farmland.

A connector will link the existing water infrastructure to a tunnel being built under Lake Mead.


Reclamation officials say there is a 50-50 chance that by 2015, Lake Mead’s water will be rationed to states downstream. That, too, has never happened before.

“If Lake Mead goes below elevation 1,000” — 1,000 feet above sea level — “we lose any capacity to pump water to serve the municipal needs of seven in 10 people in the state of Nevada,” said John Entsminger, the senior deputy general manager of the Southern Nevada Water Authority.

Since 2008, Mr. Entsminger’s agency has been drilling an $817 million tunnel under Lake Mead — a third attempt to capture more water as two higher tunnels have become threatened by the lake’s falling level. In September, faced with the prospect that one of the tunnels could run dry before the third one was completed, the authority took emergency measures: still another tunnel, this one to stretch the life of the most threatened intake until construction of the third one is finished.

These new realities are forcing a profound reassessment of how the 1,450-mile Colorado, the Southwest’s only major river, can continue to slake the thirst of one of the nation’s fastest-growing regions. Agriculture, from California’s Imperial Valley to Wyoming’s cattle herds, soaks up about three-quarters of its water, and produces 15 percent of the nation’s food. But 40 million people also depend on the river and its tributaries, and their numbers are rising rapidly.

The labyrinthine rules by which the seven Colorado states share the river’s water are rife with potential points of conflict. And while some states have made huge strides in conserving water — and even reducing the amount they consume — they have yet to chart a united path through shortages that could last years or even decades.

“There is no planning for a continuation of the drought we’ve had,” said one expert on the Colorado’s woes, who asked not to be identified to preserve his relationship with state officials. “There’s always been within the current planning an embedded hope that somehow, things would return to something more like normal.”

Unfortunately, the Colorado during most of Lake Mead’s 78-year history was not normal at all.

Studies now show that the 20th century was one of the three wettest of the last 13 centuries in the Colorado basin. On average, the Colorado’s flow over that period was actually 15 percent lower than in the 1900s. And most experts agree that the basin will get even drier: A brace of global-warming studies concludes that rising temperatures will reduce the Colorado’s average flow after 2050 by five to 35 percent, even if rainfall remains the same — and most of those studies predict that rains will diminish.

Already, the drought is upending many of the assumptions on which water barons relied when they tamed the Colorado in the 1900s.

The Colorado basin states tried in the 1920s to stave off future fights over water by splitting it, 50-50, between the upper-basin states of Utah, New Mexico, Colorado and Wyoming and the lower-basin states of Arizona, Nevada and California.

In fact, the deal underestimated how much water the fast-growing lower-basin states would need. During most of the wet 20th century, however, the river usually produced more than enough water to offset any shortage.

Now, the gap between need and supply is becoming untenable.

Lake Mead currently stands about 1,106 feet above sea level, and is expected to drop 20 feet in 2014. A continued decline would introduce a new set of problems: At 1,075 feet, rationing begins; at 1,050 feet, a more drastic rationing regime kicks in, and the uppermost water intake for Las Vegas shuts down. At 1,025 feet, rationing grows more draconian; at 1,000 feet, a second Las Vegas intake runs dry.

Lake Powell is another story. There, a 100-foot drop would shut down generators that supply enough electricity to power 350,000 homes.

The federal Bureau of Reclamation’s 24-month forecasts of water levels at Powell and Mead do not contemplate such steep declines. But neither did they foresee the current drought.

“We can’t depend on history to project the future anymore,” Carly Jerla, a geological hydrologist and the reclamation bureau’s Colorado River expert, said in an interview. The drought could end tomorrow, she said — or it could drag on for seven more years.

That raises questions that the states are just beginning to sort out.

The river’s upper-basin states are worried that they might have to curb their consumption to meet their obligations downstream. But the thorniest problems are in the lower basin, where a thicket of political and legal deals has left Arizona holding the bag should the Colorado River continue to diminish.

In the 1960s, California’s legislators demanded first dibs on lower-basin water as a condition of supporting federal legislation to build the Central Arizona Project, a vast web of canals irrigating that state’s farms and cities. Should rationing begin in 2015, Arizona would sacrifice a comparatively small fraction of its Colorado River allotment, while California’s supply would remain intact.

Painful as that would be, though, it could get worse: Should Mead continue to fall, Arizona would lose more than half of its Colorado River water before California lost so much as a drop.

That would have a cascading effect. The Central Arizona Project would lose revenue it gets from selling water, which would raise the price of water to remaining customers, leading farmers to return to pumping groundwater for irrigation — exactly what the Central Arizona Project was supposed to prevent.

“By going back to the pumps, you’ll have made the decision that agriculture will no longer be an industry in central Arizona,” David Modeer, the project’s general manager, said in an interview.

Even Californians doubt Arizona would stand for that, but no successor to the 1960s agreement is in place. And California has a vital interest in holding on to its full allotment of water. The Southern California region using Colorado water is expected to add six million people to the existing 19 million in the next 45 years, and its other water source — the Sierra Nevada to the north — is suffering the same drought and climate problems as the Colorado basin.

“The basic blueprint of our plan calls for a reliable foundation that we then build upon, and that reliable foundation is the Colorado River and Northern California water,” said Jeffrey Kightlinger, the general manager of the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California. “To the extent we lose one of those supplies, I don’t know that there is enough technology and new supplies to replace them.”

There may be ways to live with a permanently drier Colorado, but none of them are easy. Finding more water is possible — San Diego is already building a desalination plant on the Pacific shore — but there are too few sources to make a serious dent in a shortage.

That leaves conservation, a tack the lower-basin states already are pursuing. Arizona farmers reduce runoff, for example, by using laser technology to ensure that their fields are table flat. The state consumes essentially as much water today as in 1955, even as its population has grown nearly twelvefold.

Working to reduce water consumption by 20 percent per person from 2010 to 2020, Southern California’s Metropolitan Water District is recycling sewage effluent, giving away high-efficiency water nozzles and subsidizing items like artificial turf and zero-water urinals.

Southern Nevada’s water-saving measures are in some ways most impressive of all: Virtually all water used indoors, from home dishwashers to the toilets and bathtubs used by the 40 million tourists who visit Las Vegas each year, is treated and returned to Lake Mead. Officials here boast that everyone could take a 20-minute shower every day without increasing the city’s water consumption by a drop.

Moreover, an intensive conservation program slashed the region’s water consumption from 2002 to 2012, even as the area added 400,000 residents.

Even after those measures, federal officials say, much greater conservation is possible. Local officials say they have little choice.

“The era of big water transfers is either over, or it’s rapidly coming to an end,” said Mr. Entsminger, the southern Nevada water official. “It sure looks like in the 21st century, we’re all going to have to use less water.”

Contaminated controversies attack Opportunistic claims

It has been stated that ‘one by one’ the major claims of anti-frackers have all fallen apart. Here is an article by Associated Press concerning water contamination from gas drilling activities in four American States.

Now of course, the pro-fracking lobby (if indeed, any of this is true) will adroitly retreat behind their hackneyed distinction “But we weren’t fracking at the time”. As if it makes any difference at all at which point of the entire process of shale gas extraction the (alleged) contamination occurred. Bear in mind that the pro-fracking lobby, including international companies such as Royal Dutch Shell and the director of the film Fracknation publicly claim that they are unaware of even 1 case of water contamination in 1 million (Shell) and 2.5 million (McAleer) fracked wells.

So where does that leave us? Well, I have no intention of holding this article by Associated Press up as proof of water contamination. All that I am doing is asking: “In the light of this report, is it factually correct to say that ‘the major claims of anti-frackers have all fallen apart, one by one?” and to further claim that there is ‘no evidence of water contamination from fracking?”

So this is not a ‘loony green’ position, simply a question based on what has been stated and on what is reported by the Associated Press. Perhaps those who allege ‘no contamination’ and deride the claims of the anti-fracking lobby would care to weigh-in on this?

The Big Story


— Jan. 5, 2014 6:07 PM EST

PITTSBURGH (AP) — In at least four states that have nurtured the nation’s energy boom, hundreds of complaints have been made about well-water contamination from oil or gas drilling, and pollution was confirmed in a number of them, according to a review that casts doubt on industry suggestions that such problems rarely happen.

The Associated Press requested data on drilling-related complaints in Pennsylvania, Ohio, West Virginia and Texas and found major differences in how the states report such problems. Texas provided the most detail, while the other states provided only general outlines. And while the confirmed problems represent only a tiny portion of the thousands of oil and gas wells drilled each year in the U.S., the lack of detail in some state reports could help fuel public confusion and mistrust.

The AP found that Pennsylvania received 398 complaints in 2013 alleging that oil or natural gas drilling polluted or otherwise affected private water wells, compared with 499 in 2012. The Pennsylvania complaints can include allegations of short-term diminished water flow, as well as pollution from stray gas or other substances. More than 100 cases of pollution were confirmed over the past five years.

Just hearing the total number of complaints shocked Heather McMicken, an eastern Pennsylvania homeowner who complained about water-well contamination that state officials eventually confirmed.

“Wow, I’m very surprised,” said McMicken, recalling that she and her husband never knew how many other people made similar complaints, since the main source of information “was just through the grapevine.”

The McMickens were one of three families that eventually reached a $1.6 million settlement with a drilling company. Heather McMicken said the state should be forthcoming with details.

Over the past 10 years, hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, has led to a boom in oil and natural gas production around the nation. It has reduced imports and led to hundreds of billions of dollars in revenue for companies and landowners, but also created pollution fears.

Extracting fuel from shale formations requires pumping hundreds of thousands of gallons of water, sand and chemicals into the ground to break apart rock and free the gas. Some of that water, along with large quantities of existing underground water, returns to the surface, and it can contain high levels of salt, drilling chemicals, heavy metals and naturally occurring low-level radiation.

But some conventional oil and gas wells are still drilled, so the complaints about water contamination can come from them, too. Experts say the most common type of pollution involves methane, not chemicals from the drilling process.

Some people who rely on well water near drilling operations have complained about pollution, but there’s been considerable confusion over how widespread such problems are. For example, starting in 2011, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection aggressively fought efforts by the AP and other news organizations to obtain information about complaints related to drilling. The department has argued in court filings that it does not count how many contamination “determination letters” it issues or track where they are kept in its files.

Steve Forde, a spokesman for the Marcellus Shale Coalition, the leading industry group in Pennsylvania, said in a statement that “transparency and making data available to the public is critical to getting this historic opportunity right and maintaining the public’s trust.”

When the state Environmental Department determines natural gas development has caused problems, Forde said, “our member companies work collaboratively with the homeowner and regulators to find a speedy resolution.”

Among the findings in the AP’s review:

— Pennsylvania has confirmed at least 106 water-well contamination cases since 2005, out of more than 5,000 new wells. There were five confirmed cases of water-well contamination in the first nine months of 2012, 18 in all of 2011 and 29 in 2010. The Environmental Department said more complete data may be available in several months.

— Ohio had 37 complaints in 2010 and no confirmed contamination of water supplies; 54 complaints in 2011 and two confirmed cases of contamination; 59 complaints in 2012 and two confirmed contaminations; and 40 complaints for the first 11 months of 2013, with two confirmed contaminations and 14 still under investigation, Department of Natural Resources spokesman Mark Bruce said in an email. None of the six confirmed cases of contamination was related to fracking, Bruce said.

— West Virginia has had about 122 complaints that drilling contaminated water wells over the past four years, and in four cases the evidence was strong enough that the driller agreed to take corrective action, officials said.

— A Texas spreadsheet contains more than 2,000 complaints, and 62 of those allege possible well-water contamination from oil and gas activity, said Ramona Nye, a spokeswoman for the Railroad Commission of Texas, which oversees drilling. Texas regulators haven’t confirmed a single case of drilling-related water-well contamination in the past 10 years, she said.

In Pennsylvania, the number of confirmed instances of water pollution in the eastern part of the state “dropped quite substantially” in 2013, compared with previous years, Department of Environmental Protection spokeswoman Lisa Kasianowitz wrote in an email. Two instances of drilling affecting water wells were confirmed there last year, she said, and a final decision hasn’t been made in three other cases. But she couldn’t say how many of the other statewide complaints have been resolved or were found to be from natural causes.

Releasing comprehensive information about gas drilling problems is important because the debate is no longer about just science but trust, said Irina Feygina, a social psychologist who studies environmental policy issues. Losing public trust is “a surefire way to harm” the reputation of any business, Feygina said.

Experts and regulators agree that investigating complaints of water-well contamination is particularly difficult, in part because some regions also have natural methane gas pollution or other problems unrelated to drilling. A 2011 Penn State study found that about 40 percent of water wells tested prior to gas drilling failed at least one federal drinking water standard. Pennsylvania is one of only a few states that don’t have private water-well construction standards.

But other experts say people who are trying to understand the benefits and harms from the drilling boom need comprehensive details about complaints, even if some cases are from natural causes.

In Pennsylvania, the raw number of complaints “doesn’t tell you anything,” said Rob Jackson, a Duke University scientist who has studied gas drilling and water contamination issues. Jackson said he doesn’t think providing more details is asking for too much.

“Right or wrong, many people in the public feel like DEP is stonewalling some of these investigations,” Jackson said of the situation in Pennsylvania.

In contrast with the limited information provided by Pennsylvania, Texas officials supplied a detailed 94-page spreadsheet almost immediately, listing all types of oil and gas related complaints over much of the past two years. The Texas data include the date of the complaint, the landowner, the drilling company and a brief summary of the alleged problems. Many complaints involve other issues, such as odors or abandoned equipment.

Scott Anderson, an expert on oil and gas drilling with the Environmental Defense Fund, a national nonprofit based in Austin, notes that Texas regulators started keeping more data on complaints in the 1980s. New legislation in 2011 and 2013 led to more detailed reports and provided funds for a new information technology system, he said.

Anderson agreed that a lack of transparency fuels mistrust.

“If the industry has nothing to hide, then they should be willing to let the facts speaks for themselves,” he said. “The same goes for regulatory agencies.”



FRACKNATION co-director exposed by anti-fracking lobby group

Phelim McAleer, co-director of pro-fracking film, FrackNation published an article of what, in his view, constitute the ten biggest lies about fracking. Not one to mince his words, McAleer, drawing on his personal experience of fracking during the production of FrackNation pointed at those opposed to fracking as liars.

His viewpoint was quickly endorsed by some, including local Opinionista Ivo Vegter, who had the following to say on Twitter about McAleer’s article:

Vegter McAleer alliance

Treasure Karoo Action Group has responded to McAleer’s article and by default to Mr Vegter’s assertion that the article contains ‘substantive points that the TKAG can’t answer‘. We assert that McAleer himself is either a poorly informed filmmaker, who may have followed an industry-created script or a liar. We assert too that any person, having sufficient knowledge of shale gas mining to write and debate on the topic, who aligns themselves with McAleer’s article is either misinformed, or also a liar. We assert finally, that the TEN BIG FAT LIES published by McAleer have been answered.
In closing, we share a Tweet by McAleer on December 6 2013.

McAleer Mandela Joke





Click on the link below to read McAleer’s lies and TKAG’s response.