AGANG takes the lead in the fracking debate


TKAG MEDIA STATEMENT

Economics and Environmental Affairs – April 29 2014

AGANG TAKES THE LEAD ON FRACKING

 

“One of the greatest challenges facing political leaders is the choice between unrestricted development at any cost, and sustainable development that truly looks past short term benefit,” this according to TKAG ceo Jonathan Deal, in a radio interview yesterday.

Deal went on to say that the 3-year debate that had been conducted in South African media had done little to settle the facts from a scientific viewpoint, and he pointed to the inept manner in which the South African government had approached the entire question of shale gas mining as the underlying reason for the present state of affairs.

“Our government has done a shocking job of investigating this technology – which is not something that can be put into a geographical box – as in the Karoo – or attached to the timeline of an election – as the ANC promised to do. As an organisation with a solid grounding in the facts of shale gas mining, underpinned by personal and detailed inspection of fracking in the United States, we are much encouraged by the bold leadership of Agang in taking a firm stance against fracking under the current circumstances.”

“TKAG has walked a fairly lonely road in public opposition to fracking (despite the existence of various stakeholders who are preparing to oppose the issuing of licences) and it is significant to us that Agang has taken note of the research and global opposition – from ordinary communities – to arrive at a position that so unequivocally supports our view.”

“For once, it appears that the ordinary people in the street are being considered over the interests of big business and political contacts.”

“I believe that were it up to Agang, the process of public consultation over fracking, long promised, but never delivered by the ANC would have been properly planned and underway. The fact that President Zuma on TV, literally promised that South Africans will have jobs and economic benefits from fracking shows that the ANC have made up their minds without consulting the public – just like in the Etoll debacle.”

ENDS/

Jonathan Deal                                                                                             Jeanie Le Roux

CEO: Treasure the Karoo Action Group                                                         Director – operations

Landline: 023 358 9903                                                                                072-959-1818

E-mail: jonathan.deal@treasurethekaroo.co.za                                               research@treasurethekaroo.co.za

 

Public consultation the ANC way. ‘We tell – you listen.’


Mining

Author: Mike Cohen, Bloomberg|

20 March 2014 15:21

Mining law risks challenge if public not consulted

All nine provinces must have sufficient time to consult the public.

South Africa’s amended mining and energy law could be thrown out should the country’s nine provinces have insufficient time to consult the public, the opposition Democratic Alliance said.

The National Council of Provinces, given just 12 days to pass the changes rather than the required six weeks, “are going to open themselves up to constitutional litigation,” Elza van Lingen, leader of the party on the council, said today.

The ruling African National Congress is “hell-bent on getting this bill through,” she said by phone from the city of Port Elizabeth. “The provinces are saying we can’t do it.”

Amendments to the 2002 Mineral and Petroleum Resources Development Act, which include allowing the state to take a free, 20% stake in all new energy ventures, were passed by the National Assembly on March 13, before being referred to the NCOP, parliament’s second chamber. The law is backed by the ANC, which seeks a bigger role for the state in the economy.

The provincial legislatures are “in injury time,” Freddie Adams, the chairman of the NCOP’s Select Committee on Economic Development, Energy and Mineral Resources, said today by phone. The NCOP’s planned adjournment in a week’s time gives it little time to hold public hearings on the bill, according to Adams, who said it does have the option of calling an additional session after the normal parliamentary schedule ends March 27.

“We can always make a request to the presiding officers of parliament to have a special sitting” to pass the amendments, said Adams, an ANC lawmaker. Still, processing the bill before the May 7 general elections is going to be “very tight” and “will depend on the legislatures.”

The amended law would also enable the mines minister to declare some minerals strategic and force companies that produce them to sell some output locally. The bill has been opposed by groups including the Offshore Petroleum Association of South Africa, whose members say the law will deter investment.

©2014 Bloomberg News

 

“MPRDA AMENDMENTS COULD BE LAST MINUTE VOTE GATHERING”


TREASURE KAROO ACTION GROUP

MEDIA STATEMENT : ENERGY AND GOVERNMENT

For Immediate Release

March 7 2014

“MPRDA AMENDMENTS COULD BE LAST MINUTE VOTE GATHERING”

“The lack of strategic management of the oil and gas industry by the Department of Mineral Resources appears to be exacerbated by impulsive and uncoordinated direction from the executive government. While we do not support the wholesale extraction of all available minerals, we do understand the need for a controlled and structured mining industry in South Africa. Every country needs its resources developed and distributed in a responsible way and in most cases this is achieved via the private sector in concert or partnership with government. We do not support the latest proposed amendments.”  This is the view of TKAG leader, Jonathan Deal referring to media reports on proposed amendments to the Minerals & Petroleum Development Act, (MPRDA). According to a Business Day report, African National Congress (ANC) MPs on Wednesday proposed that the state be entitled to take over the entire operations of any future offshore and onshore oil and gas ventures.

The idea, which was said to have ‘surprised’ DA MP James Lorimer, was contained within the proposed amendment of clauses 86A (1) and (2), which, if passed as they presently stand, would give the state, through a designated organ, a right to a 20% free carried interest on all new exploration and production rights of oil and gas. The ANC’s proposed changes to clause (2) say that in addition to the free carry interest, the state is “entitled” to further participation of up to 80%. Currently the clause imposes a ceiling on the state for an additional acquisition of 30% of the venture. According to the DA, if this proposal is adopted, it could clear the way for the State to effectively nationalise the mining industry. DA MP James Lorimer pointed out that if the amendments were voted on and adopted, the Bill could come before the National Assembly next week (March 1o-14) and then soon after at the National Council of Provinces, and practically law before the May 7 national elections.

TKAG commented that this latest move by the ANC served to highlight the confused and confusing approach of the State to addressing the management of the country’s mineral resources. Recent months have seen uncoordinated utterances by Cabinet Ministers, in conflict with Government Gazette notices and speculation on final regulations for oil and gas activities indicating a last-minute change of legislative direction.

“This activity by the ANC, appears to have left the Oil and Gas Industry reeling and other stakeholders bewildered. Stakeholders consulted by TKAG are of the opinion that much of this activity could be viewed as a ‘last-minute’ attempt by the ANC to garner votes. Whatever, the motivation, the fact is that this state of affairs clearly highlights the lack of a sensible, coordinated and transparent approach to managing South Africa’s mining affairs.”

ENDS/

 

Contact Jeanie Le Roux 072-959-1818 or Elzane Grobbelaar 021-824-2935

Links as references:

http://www.bdlive.co.za/business/energy/2014/03/05/sas-energy-sector-set-for-big-opportunities

http://www.bdlive.co.za/business/mining/2014/03/06/anc-overrides-opposition-to-minerals-act-amendments

http://www.miningweekly.com/article/final-fracking-regulations-will-take-account-of-public-input-2014-03-04

 

SA Public Investment Corporation set to gamble with state pensions


TREASURE KAROO ACTION GROUP

PRESS STATEMENT

IMMEDIATE RELEASE

 

SA’s Public Investment Corporation set to gamble with State Employee Pensions

27 February 2014

 

The senior investment officer for the PIC, Dan Matjila told Reuters “Shale will be a game changer here and we will be the biggest investor.”

The PIC manages 1.4 trillion rand of South African public employee retirement funds.

Treasure Karoo Action Group CEO, Jonathan Deal, said “We challenge the PIC to defend its choice of shale gas in South Africa as an investment for the pension funds of South Africa’s state employees. We are prepared to state categorically that the PIC has not done their homework on this issue. They see it as an opportunity to make money, but we see it as an opportunity for them to lose the hard-earned savings of the people that they are supposed to protect.”

“Shale gas losses in the United States between 2011 and 2013 ($6.8 billion) have cost just 3 multinational corporations including Royal Dutch Shell the dollar equivalent of R68 billion rands. Moreover, unless there is some secret document from which the PIC has developed its bullish appetite for shale gas, we have strong cause to believe that the PIC has relied on the infamous Econometrix report paid for by Shell and released in March 2012. If indeed the PIC has another, and more credible source of information, they must make it public – as they are working with public funds. We suspect moreover, that Challenger Energy, one of the applicants to mine shale gas in South Africa which has been making a noise about looking for partners and which is represented by a highly placed local BEE businessman, could become part of this investment.”

According to Head of Environmental Affairs at AfriForum, Julius Kleynhans, the proposed high risk investment may pose an even bigger risk on water resources. “Political pressure ‘similar to the case of e-tolls’ may pose detrimental risks to valuable natural water resources. The Karoo is a semi-arid area and it is evident that water resource management is not nearly up to standard throughout South Africa – with substantial negative economic consequences. One cannot risk this critical resource ‎for short-term economic gain.  Having regard for the status quo around water issues in South Africa – including what it is presently costing the country to deal with water pollution and shortages, we are not confident that the Departments of Minerals and Water Affairs have the necessary infrastructure to manage responsible utilization and development in the country,” argued Kleynhans.

TKAG concluded that “To gamble with the pensions of teachers, policemen and policewomen, nurses and other state employees smacks to us of the same attitude that lead to the investment in the Etolls. In 2013 the biggest bank in the Netherlands made a principal decision not to finance shale gas or lend any money to any company involved in fracking. TKAG is not a financial organisation, but our research on shale gas is solid, and we believe that the PIC is taking a very big gamble, and that the holders of those pensions need to stand up and put a stop to it – if our government can’t do their sums.”

CONTACT JONATHAN DEAL 023-358-9903/076-838-5150

JEANIE LE ROUX 072-959-1818

JULIUS KLEYNHANS 082-829-9182

While SA’s leaders spread ‘feel good’ job figures from FRACKING


State inflates fracking-related jobs numbers

Report shows decline in gas-drilling jobs and overstates the number of workers supporting natural gas industry.

New York State Mulls Limited Fracking In Southern TierHydraulic fracturing, or fracking, of shale for natural gas has boosted local economies in South Montrose, Susquehanna County, (pictured here) and across the state. (SPENCER PLATT, GETTY IMAGES / June 19, 2012)
By Steve Esack, Call Harrisburg Bureau9:24 p.m. EST, February 23, 2014

HARRISBURG — As executive director of the Wellsboro Area Chamber of Commerce, Julie VanNess was front and center when energy companies descended on Tioga County to secure drilling leases on pristine land around Routes 6 and 660 through Pennsylvania’s Grand Canyon.

“I don’t have a negative feeling for the industry,” VanNess said.

The industry was accommodating and respectful of the community’s needs and understood the importance of its tourism industry, VanNess said. It fixed long-neglected back roads to handle rigs, rerouted drivers away from Wellsboro’s tony downtown and kept trucks away from schools during class time, she said.

“You can’t tell they were even here,” VanNess said. “If you drive through the countryside you will not know something happened. Once the wells are drilled, capped and the pipelines in, you don’t notice them.”


 

That was about two years ago.

With leases signed and wells operating, the companies have pulled back resources amid what had been until recently a downturn in natural gas prices. Many of the out-of-town workers who filled hotels and restaurants in and around Wellsboro have left, too.

“Right now it’s on kind of a hiatus,” VanNess said. “It’s slowed down significantly here. I expect that will pick back up again. Right now you see very little activity.”

It’s the same story in many of the 32 other counties where drilling began in 2004 to extract natural gas trapped in the underground Marcellus and Utica Shale formations: Fewer jobs and less overall economic activity, despite a record amount of gas — 3.1 trillion cubic feet — produced in 2013.

The industry has declined, Williamsport Mayor Gabe Campana said, but it’s still alive. Without it, the unemployment rate in his third-class city of 35,000 would be 10 percent and he wouldn’t have four new hotels downtown.

“It’s made a difference in the overall economy,” Campana said. “But it has receded. Talk to the guys in the field and they’ll tell you there’s ebbs and flows. It has picked up in the past two, three months and we are encouraged by that.”

Gov. Tom Corbett praises the natural gas industry as a key cornerstone of the state’s economy.

“It’s lifting up entire communities, creating and supporting many thousands of jobs well beyond gas production,” Corbett said in his Feb. 4 budget address.

But state records show the gas industry has not created as many jobs as state officials have claimed. In addition, the state’s estimates of ancillary job growth have been inflated to include employment in places drilling isn’t even taking place, further skewing the impact the natural gas industry has had on employment.

The number of jobs directly associated with Marcellus Shale’s six “core industries,” including drilling, extraction and pipeline construction, declined by 29 percent to 29,926 between the fourth quarters of 2010 and 2013, according to the state Department of Labor and Industry’s January labor report. The report is based on employer surveys collected for federal unemployment data and has been produced using the same analysis since Gov. Ed Rendell‘s administration.

The number of core gas jobs accounts for less than 1 percent of the state’s nearly 5.8 million jobs.

Corbett spokesman Jay Pagni defended the administration’s record on jobs in the shale industry and its training efforts. He said the state and governor support all forms of industry equally, and has numerous programs to help train workers in the event of a downturn in the local economy or job sector.

“The commonwealth and the governor support local communities in not only the Marcellus industry but in all industry,” Pagni said in an email. “Activities abound in attracting new business to the state, ensuring that services are available to companies while they manufacture, produce, create, etc. and support the workforce through job training and retraining efforts should a company choose to leave.”

All industries go through a natural cycle, Pagni said. The workforce and activities associated change and adapt, he said.

“If a well is not being drilled, jobs continue to flourish in the trucking and transport because it is still producing,” Pagni said. “These activities will continue to provide economic benefit to communities as the industry moves from flow to ebb.”

While the core Marcellus Shale jobs are declining, the Labor Department claims the number of ancillary jobs indirectly tied to the natural gas industry has increased 8 percent to 212,000.

But that increase is not based solely on employment trends in the counties where more than 7,000 wells are permitted to be drilled.

The report includes statewide employment trends in trucking, engineering, highway construction and about two dozen other career sectors. So jobs in the Lehigh Valley, Philadelphia and other areas where there are no wells have been counted as ancillary gas jobs.

Labor Department spokeswoman Sara Goulet defended the report, saying the data on core jobs show a concentration of drilling, extraction and construction jobs has increased in the state’s northern tier and southwest corner, where drilling is being done.

But trying to quantify the ancillary jobs data is hard, Goulet said, because the number of ancillary jobs has increased in the drilling regions, too. But since there is no way to determine if the jobs are tied to the gas industry, she said, it makes sense to list statewide employment numbers.

“Employers don’t state, ‘That’s a Marcellus Shale construction job’ in the employer survey that counts jobs,” Goulet said. “It is not a perfect science, but it does give a fair picture of those ancillary industries’ growth as it pertains to [Marcellus Shale] and the time period when those industries started to experience significant growth.”

The shale industry is creating support jobs statewide even if they are in Delaware County, said Kravis Windle, a spokesman for the Marcellus Shale Coalition, a trade group in Pittsburgh.

“As President Obama‘s energy secretary stated last week, responsible shale development is creating ‘economic prosperity’ across Pennsylvania and beyond,” Windle said in an email. “Not only are tens of thousands of good-paying jobs being created at well sites and pipeline construction projects across the commonwealth, but with Pennsylvania now the nation’s second largest shale-producing state — accounting for nearly 20 percent of all U.S. natural gas production — many other support industries are realizing these benefits.”

There is no question the drilling industry has had a positive impact in communities, said Mark Price, a labor economist with Keystone Research Center, an economic policy group with ties to several labor unions. The Labor Department report on core drilling jobs does a good job of capturing that impact through its employment report of the gas industry, he said.

But the ancillary report is bloated and useless, Price said. The shale industry has led to more engineering and trucking jobs, he said. But it’s hard to believe every engineer or trucker in the state is working in the gas industry as the Labor Department reports, he said.

“The ancillary is gobbledygoop,” he said.

The Labor Department cannot publish a county-level jobs report because of privacy issues, Price said. The report would be so narrow it would be easy to identify companies by name, which would violate private unemployment rights, he said. With that legal difficulty, Price said, the state should not publish a statewide ancillary report because it cannot accurately track which jobs support the shale industry.

steve.esack@mcall.com

717-783-7305

Copyright © 2014, The Morning Call

Read more:http://www.mcall.com/news/nationworld/pennsylvania/mc–marcellus-shale-jobs-20140223,0,7323897.story#ixzz2uDatva8o
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US team facilitates SA fracking discussion


Treasure Karoo Action Group

Environment and Energy

 

Media release

February 14 2014

IMMEDIATE RELEASE

 

US team facilitates SA fracking discussion

 

Stakeholders in the South African shale gas debate met in Pretoria, February 10 and 11 to consider the issues surrounding the advent of shale gas mining in South Africa. The workshop, hosted by the Departments of International Relations and Cooperation, Water Affairs and Environmental affairs provided a forum for stakeholders from government, industry and civil society to air their views on fracking under the Unconventional Gas Technical Engagement Program.

 

The US delegation, under the auspices of the US Department of Interior was headed up by Joseph Figueiredo of the Bureau of Energy Resources with support from the US Bureau of Land Management as well as the US Environmental Protection Agency and other US officials with knowledge of shale gas mining legislation and policy. Figueroa made it clear that the US delegation was not in SA to promote fracking but rather to assist by sharing experiences connected with the technology in the United States.

 

Representatives from Environment, Water Affairs, CSIR, Department of Science & Technology, Department of Minerals, Petroleum Agency of SA, amongst others, formed part of the SA government delegation. Royal Dutch Shell, Chevron, Baker Hughes, SRK Consulting, Sasol and others represented industry. Presentations on the Civil Society perspective were delivered by Centre for Environmental Rights (CER) and TKAG.

 

In an announcement in Johannesburg after the event, TKAG CEO Jonathan Deal said that the engagement was the most positive development that TKAG  had experienced in more than three years of frustrating dialogue around fracking in South Africa. “Finally, we have a commitment from engaged government agencies to develop a strategic environmental assessment around the issue of shale gas mining. This is what we have been asking for since May of 2011.”

 

Complimenting the Department of Water Affairs for its proactive and accessible approach to the debate, Deal remarked “We can only hope that by some process of osmosis, the Department of Minerals will follow this example and engage appropriately with all of the stakeholders in this decision.” “In the light of this dialogue, we experience the seemingly uncoordinated announcements by Minister Shabangu (Mining Indaba and government Gazette) in connection to shale gas as perplexing. It will be a sad day if the DMR must be opposed by South African citizens in pursuit of their rights,” concluded Deal.

 

Meanwhile, the DMR published two notices in the Government Gazette, one inviting comment on placing a restriction on granting new reconnaissance, technical cooperation permits and exploration rights for the next two years and another notice, restricting licences that may be granted from applications received prior to February 2011 over a designated area, from using hydraulic fracturing in the exploration phase until the regulations around the process are finalised.

 

The engagement closed after the adoption of a set of principles presented by Prof Gregory Scott of DWA. Facilitator, Mr. Aniel Singh – Deputy Director General of Water Affairs stressed DWA’s commitment to continue the process with the inclusion of all stakeholders.

 

 

ENDS/

 

Jonathan Deal

CEO

Treasure Karoo Action Group

Cell: 076 838 5150

Landline 023 358 9903

 

Elzane Grobbelaar

Treasure Karoo Action Group

Phone Office: 021 824 2935

Email: admin@treasurethekaroo.co.za

 

Jeanie Le Roux

Treasure Karoo Action Group

072-959-1818

email: research@treasurethekaroo.co.za

 

Did anyone expect JZ to come out AGAINST shale gas?


A READ A DAY KEEPS THE IGNORANCE AT BAY
14 FEBRUARY 2014 05:49 (SOUTH AFRICA)
OPINIONISTA JONATHAN DEAL

Fruit of the poisoned tree

  • JONATHAN DEAL
  • 14 FEB 2014 01:54 (SOUTH AFRICA)

Our government hasn’t adequately done its duty in researching the implications of shale gas. In election year, it is up to citizens to decide whether they want to continue eating the fruit of the poisoned tree.

A dilemma of extraordinary proportions confronts world leaders as they wrestle with ‘the fraternal twins of peril and opportunity – typically the choice between economic growth and sustainable progress. This article intends to make a case for cautious investigation (critical thought)– a science-based analysis of the actual experiences that must ultimately inform policy – it is not a blanket statement that proponents of shale gas mining are wrong or that the converse applies.

Spanning cultures and continents, shale gas is typified by a commonality of benefit and risk. Energy, jobs, revenue, and the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions are four key areas that arrest the attention of any government. Stacked against the elephant in the room – the risk of environmental, and ultimately economic damage – these considerations project shale gas into a ranking as the most widely debated fossil fuel in more than two hundred years. Four primary areas define the broad environment in which we approach a discussion on shale gas: community, environment, development and sustainability. Interdependent and universal, each is of itself and in relation to its counterparts, undeniably central to the survival of humanity.

It follows logically that a review of shale gas mining commences with acknowledgement of the dynamics driving its development.  Barely ten years ago shale gas was unknown in the realm of many governments and in the minds of a majority of people – speculation over Peak Oil and the end of the fossil fuel age was endemic, and oil and gas companies were turning to ever more expensive and risky sources of carbon – colloquially labelled extreme energy.

Economics, climate change, science, politics and corporate goals

Author and expert on natural resource issues, Michael T. Klare puts it thus: “The pursuit of untapped oil and mineral reserves in remote and hazardous locations, is part of a larger, more significant phenomenon: a concerted drive by governments and resource firms to gain control over whatever remains of the world’s resource base.”

If economics informs government opinion, the touchstone of the ‘prosperity’ argument is development, with the measure of GDP naturally pegged as the definitive gauge of the health and wealth of a people. Economists predominantly calculate growth projections on what has been, and remarkably – even in the face of the global resource debate – still produce reports that refuse to even acknowledge the environmental and social costs of specific developments. Despite the advent of environmental economics based theory and supporting documents penned from within the economist community, modern economics in practice appear to have had little effect in modifying the GDP-based clarion call of ‘upward and onward.’ A 2009 report from Boston University, states: “GDP is dangerously inadequate as a measure of quality of life,” yet within the context of shale gas in South Africa it is largely the anticipated contribution of shale gas mining to GDP that has elected officials already revising GNP, jobs and economic growth forecasts. Vast numbers (R80-R200 billion) and substantial percentages3.3%-9.6% of GDP abound. Unsurprisingly, the government appears to accept, apparently at face value, the predictions of economists paid by oil and gas multinationals. Meagre attention seems to have been expended on the base model applied to develop such numbers, and divergent opinions generated by well-published economists are greeted with silence.

The notion that exponential global growth, fuelled by traditional energy sources, will meet the needs of humanity is ingrained and commonly accepted to the extent that it is claimed by some that the world is not running out of resources.

A malady of pessimism, as undesirable as such may be, should not be countered with unrestrained optimism. Gore writes “Our natural and healthy preference for optimism about the future is difficult to reconcile with the gnawing concerns expressed by many that all is not well, and that left to its own devices the future may be unfolding in ways that threaten some of the human values we most cherish.”

Climate change

One of the key arguments promoted by environmentalists is anthropogenic climate change. Whether or not human activities cause or affect climate change is probably the most central issue in the debate, which itself, (climate change) is underwritten by hundreds of thousands of articles and studies. The climate change debate is relevant to shale mining inasmuch as it is claimed by big oil and gas that a change from coal to shale gas will deliver a great reduction in carbon emissions. Avoiding a discussion around the merits of shutting down a global coal industry and the naïve assumption that unburned and accessible coal will be left in the ground, and referencing again the claim of cleaner burning shale gas lowering overall emissions, consider this report by the Guardian quoting BP chief economist, Christof Ruehl: “Shale gas – previously inaccessible because the exploitation of these resources requires technology only recently perfected(sic)– will account for a rising proportion of the growth in energy in the years to 2035, but its use will not cause a decline in greenhouse gases.” Prefacing the report is the astonishing strapline: “BP study predicts greenhouse emissions will rise by almost a third in 20 years – Energy firm’s analysis finds switch to other fuels like shale gas will do little to cut carbon emissions.”

Professor Emeritus of Earth Sciences at the University of Melbourne, Ian Rutherford Plimer, credits the greatest carbon emissions as emanating from Australian brush fires and active volcanoes. Denouncing efforts to address anthropogenic causes of global warming – and in fact the holistic concept, Plimer gives the idea that there is little that we can do except sit back and enjoy the ride.  ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson is ostensibly of the same mind about the outcome in his statement, “What good does it do to save the planet if humanity suffers?” Tillerson is reported to have said, “We can’t pull up, we’re going in, brace for impact” – an analogy of the language that would be used by the captain of an airliner in a terminal dive. Making Tillerson’s statement even more baffling are reports that ExxonMobil as an organisation has invested heavily in climate change denial. Asserting that nine out of ten ‘top’ climate change deniers are or alleged to be linked to ExxonMobil, the report reviews the efforts of big industry, including the Koch Brothers to cement climate change denial.

Pointing to 938 papers cited in an article by Carbon Brief , the text reveals that 186 of the articles were written by only ten men, and foremost among them was Dr Sherwood B Idso, who personally authored 67 of the articles. Idso is the president of the Center for the Study of Carbon Dioxide and Global Change, an ExxonMobil funded think tank. The second most prolific was Dr Patrick J Michaels, a senior fellow at the Cato Institute, who receives roughly 40% of his funding from the oil industry.

Whatever the ultimate conclusion of the climate change discussion, two facts are undeniable – one – climate change is a convenient issue for both sides of the shale gas debate to use to their advantage; and two – big industry can throw tens of millions of dollars at it as long as it suits them to do so.

Science

Granting the last two points, (economics and climate change) are grounded in science, it is necessary to examine the term ‘science’ holistically, and with specific reference to shale gas in South Africa. An assessment of the shale gas debate in South African media will establish that both sides make use of ‘scientific’ reports that suit their viewpoint. Plato, in Republic wrote, “When the mind’s eye rests on objects illuminated by truth and reality, it understands and comprehends them, and functions intelligently; but when it turns to the twilight world of change and decay, it can only form opinions.” The nexus with shale gas in South Africa is evident: the world’s scientific community cannot reach consensus on the claims raised by both sides of the shale gas argument. AGreen Paper on the importance of “scientific evidence-based policy-making” published by Janez Potočnik; Commissioner for Science and Research at the United Nations describes a resilient method for approaching policy decisions, especially on large scale. Potočnik writes “… ’Bridging the gap’ between science and policy is not a technical issue. It is a political, economic, social and cultural issue. It is about an encounter between politicians and scientists, often with the necessary help of citizens themselves.” The United States Environmental Protection Agency affords scientific policy appropriate gravity in its ownScientific Integrity Policy affirming, “Science is the backbone of the EPA’s decision-making.” The EPA also describes ‘science’ as an expansive term that references the full spectrum of scientific endeavors – basic science, applied science, engineering, technology, economics, social sciences, and statistics.

I don’t believe that South Africans can, at this juncture, be shown that the government policy on shale gas has been scientifically informed to the extent that a decision on a technology of the scope and scale of shale gas ought to be. Writing on the claims of climate change believers, a local journalist pronounces “This is simply bad science, conducted by scientists whose careers are on the line, paid for by investors with a stake in the outcome and politicians who want the moral cloak of playing saviour in a crisis. Clinging to received (sic) dogma, by repeating hoary arguments unilluminated by new facts demonstrates an abdication of critical thought that is not conducive to credible science.” On the basis that this statement applies equally to climate change deniers and their allies in governments – I agree wholeheartedly.

Politics and corporate goals

Gore in his book The Future writes “The idea of making truly meaningful collective decisions in democracy … is naïve, even silly, according to those who have long since placed their faith in the future not in human hands, but in the invisible hand of the marketplace.” He continues, “By tolerating the routine use of wealth to distort, degrade, and corrupt the process of democracy, we are depriving ourselves of the opportunity to use the ‘last best hope’ to find a sustainable path for humanity through the most disruptive and chaotic changes civilization has ever confronted.” Of the US Congress, he says, “Its members are still ‘representatives’, but the vast majority of them now represent the people and corporations who donate money, not the people who vote in their congressional districts.”

According to the SA government, shale gas extraction can be done safely and economically, will bring great riches and prosperity to South Africans, and concurrently solve our energy and carbon emission challenges. I don’t believe that our leaders have properly discharged their duty to the citizens of this country in arriving at their public decision on shale gas – and I submit that in election year it is time for you to think critically about whether to pick more fruit off the poisoned tree – or stop watering it. DM