Read the opening statement of SA law firm Webber Wentzel’s Pulane Kingston in a May 30 debate on national radio in South Africa. Kingston is a partner in the Oil and Gas practice of the firm. The debate motion (hosted jointly by WWF South Africa and SAFM – a national radio station), pitted two teams of ‘experts’ against one another. The formal motion was ‘FRACKING THREATENS OUR WATER RESOURCES’, and debaters were afforded 2 minutes for an opening statement.
Referencing ’emotional and alarmist statements’ [about shale gas] as something to avoid, Kingston embarked on an opening statement, that apart from failing even once to obliquely reference the debate motion, was materially inaccurate and curiously muddled for a legal professional and so-called expert on fracking. Basing her argument on obsolete figures of speculative shale gas reserves already slashed by South African scientists and referencing industry commissioned (Royal Dutch Shell) reports based on shale gas reserves 13 times greater than current best estimates, Kingston was apparently so taken with her calculation of 310 years of energy for South Africa out of speculated Karoo reserves that the issue of water, and the motion of the debate against which she was expected to argue, appeared to evaporate like a drop of water on a hot Karoo tin roof. A sober review of Kingston’s 310 year claim could be said by those with a more pragmatic approach to the speculative land of milk and honey, to earn first place in the joint categories of ’emotional and alarmist’. I have to conclude that if this position reflects the understanding and expertise of shale gas mining to be found in the top legal minds of South Africa, it demonstrates that the country is in a dire situation with regard to understanding the issues intrinsic to shale gas mining. A rigorous and structured follow-up debate with Kingston sans radio adverts, news reports and audience participation will be welcomed.
The opening statement can be viewed on Youtube at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OXeSEPdu9xc and is here in text: (begins 14 minutes and 10 seconds into the debate)
“Shale gas presents an incredible opportunity with tremendous economic benefits overall. In the context of the shale gas reserves total which are estimated at 390 tcfs, there are two points that I would like to make. The first is that in terms of energy security it is estimated that the reserves that are available can meet our energy requirements for the next 310 years. That is significant. Secondly, in the context of job creation, they would create at least 850,000 jobs according to a report by Econometrix. The second point I would like to make is that as responsible citizens in this country, we need to really move away from emotion and alarmist statements that ultimately detract from our ability to focus on the risks in a sober minded manner and to ensure that those risks are appropriately attended. It is incumbent of all of us to do this in order that we end up at a place that is the correct conclusion. To my mind the fundamental issue here lies in the government creating a regulating framework that ensures the success of fracking in the Karoo which is done in a sustainable and responsible manner. The definition here for me as well is that monitoring shale gas fracking is ultimately what is important and should be what we are focusing on at all times.”