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South 2 North

The price of energy

Is fracking for shale gas an environmental risk or could it be the golden ticket for Africa?

Last Modified: 11 Aug 2013 12:51
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No subject is off limits - Redi Tlhabi talks frankly to inspiring and intriguing personalities from across the world.

Is fracking for shale gas an environmental and social risk or the golden ticket to energy freedom that could lift Africa out of centuries of energy dependence?

The arguments and evidence against fracking have been so convincing that hydraulic fracturing for shale gas has been stopped in Luxembourg and the Netherlands. In Bulgaria and the Czech Republic, a six-month moratorium on exploration work is in place.

But the pro-frackers are adamant that the risks are containable and the advantages indisputable. Environmentalists, however, are equally adamant that fracking is dangerous.

This week on South2North Redi speaks to three players in the fracking game - Bonang Mohale of Shell South Africa; Professor Gerrit van Tonder from The Institute for Groundwater Studies at The University of The Free State; and Saliem Fakier from the World Wildlife Fund.

Redi asks Bonang if shale gas would pose the same problem as other raw materials in Africa, which are extracted at a low cost and then exported for manufacturing.

"We need to be very awake and conscious to the fact that we cannot let the majority of South Africans not benefit, the same way that they did not benefit from mining. Because this is how big shale gas is, by the way, for us, shale gas would be like discovering gold all over again," explains Bonang.

Gerrit van Tonder believes that the water sensitivities in South Africa make water contamination the most dangerous aspect of fracking in the Karoo desert and explains the process to Redi with a model.

Gerrit believes that many companies bribe the landowners whose wells are contaminated by fracking on condition that they sign a gag order.

“It is a gas bonanza, it is a game-changer for South Africa, but we must do it correctly, not the way they are doing it in the United States at the moment.”

Redi asks Saliem Fakier if in a country like South Africa, a decision has to be made about maximising economic growth or protecting the environment.

“There are many oil and gas rich countries, which have a huge endowment of resources. There is good work done by the IMF and the World Bank that shows that resource extraction and its relationship with economic development ... that is not an automatic relationship. So I don't buy the public relations stuff that's being put out there that Shell gas is going to be the answer to our economic problems. This is a very glaring reality.”

South2North can be seen each week at the following times GMT: Friday: 1930; Saturday: 1430; Sunday: 0430; Monday: 0830.

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Source:
Al Jazeera
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