>> For an update on the fracking situation in South Africa, click here.
Yesterday I went to two meetings. The first made me really excited about the where South Africa could be. The second was a completely different experience. I left it frustrated and concerned about an alternative future we could face.
I'll start with the second meeting: a public debate on the whole issue of fracking in the Karoo. The motion debated was about the recent moratorium -- should it be permament or simply scrapped altogether?
The four speakers -- two in favour of the moratorium, and two against -- each presented their views and spoke about numerous aspects of the fracking technique: the chemicals used, the water it would require, impacts on the karoo environment, job creation, and the apparent lack of trust South Africans have for large corporations and the state. (Although invited, neither Shell nor Sasol -- a South African energy company -- came to the debate; Sasol simply said it did not wish to talk about the issue in public)
What I found frustrating was that the debate seldom went further than the fracking method itself, and whether it could be done safely and with sufficient regulations. The underlying narrative was that if we could get the technique right, there would little reason for us not to go ahead.
To their credit, the side in favour of the moratorium did refer to shale gas as a fossil fuel. One of the speakers even spoke about it as the last 'dregs' of fossil fuel available to us.
I think that's the crux of the issue.
As the world's population grows, and we endeavour to electrify and power more and more of the planet, we are being driven to new extremes in order to feed our burgeoning demand for energy. As the demand for energy increases and traditional supplies are no longer able to satisfy this demand, so other energy reserves -- previously too costly, or too risky -- suddenly become attractive opportunities.
The tar sands in Canada are one example: rising oil prices mean it has become financially viable to literally obliterate entire landscapes in pursuit of oil. The movement of oil companies into the fragile Arctic ecosystem, are other examples of how rocketing energy demands are driving us to ludicrous extremes to power our economies and cars.
The same applies to fracking. We 're looking for a quick fix to the situation where oil sells for over $100 a barrel, and our short-sightedness means we aren't looking beyond fossil fuels. And while the proponents of fracking rightly talk about energy security and our need to get off coal, switching from one fossil fuel to another is not energy security, it's shortsighted.
That for me is the heart of the issue. Fracking is about so much more than the method -- it's about us desperately needing to shift off fossil fuels in favour of clean, renewable energy. We need a new energy system that replaces dirty fossil fuels with power we can use sustainably -- and shale gas is not that.
You'll remember I went to two meetings. Well the first was the launch of Greenpeace Africa's new 'Advanced Energy [R]evolution' scenario. It's a practical blueprint for how South Africa can make the transition to renewable energy, an actual roadmap that avoids catastrophic climate change in favour green jobs, energy security, and a much brigher future.
To find out more about this scenario and exactly what it entails, click here.