Drill, Baby, Drill!: The chant of the political naif

Publication Type:

Web Article




Magiric (2011)







From Magiric, Blog by South African freelance writer, Donald Paul.

Donald Paul

Recently, the righteous voices of reason stepped into the fray regarding the use of hydraulic fracturing technology in prospecting for shale gas in the Karoo, One of the voices is journalist Ivo Vegter, who assumed the role of Devil’s advocate. Such a role requires a modicum of intellectual rigour otherwise you end up playing God’s advocate, endorsing that which you supposedly set out to question. It’s an easy back slide and reveals a penchant for controversy over a desire for coherency.

Lewis Pugh, a critic of environmental degradation and a spokesman for Treasure the Karoo Action Group (TKAG), challenged Shell—and other gas and oil companies—about its plan to frack in the Karoo and in so doing made a speech that was widely reprinted and replayed on various digital channels. For some it was rousing. For others, it was “propaganda” and “alarming”. The latter determined that what Pugh was saying was that there would be war over water...

The voices of reason fail to acknowledge the human rights dimension of this debate being more intent of disparaging—but not refuting—the arguments of those opposed to short-term corporate gains at the expense of the future...

The proponents of fracking cannot in any way show that fracking will not contaminate the Karoo aquifers. What they do say, repeatedly, is that there is “no known link” between fracking and aquifer and groundwater pollution. And they cite only their own expert testimony.

...The naivety continues. Vegter cited reams of outdated research regarding “signed statements from state officials representing Ohio, Pennsylvania, New Mexico, Alabama, and Texas, responding to these allegations [water contamination]. As a result of our regulatory review and analysis, the GWPC concluded that state oil and gas regulations are adequately designed to directly protect water resources”.

This is so staggeringly naive it’s unbelievable. It is also shoddy research. These legislators were making a political argument, not a scientific one—in other words, they were covering their backs. The reason why the USA’s Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is re-opening the debate on the use of hydraulic fracturing—hearings are being conducted as this is being written—is because whistle-blowers within EPA confirmed that political pressure had been brought to bear on the original reports. As Wes Wilson, one of the E.P.A. whistle-blowers, said in a recent interview about that report, five of the seven members of the study’s peer review panel were current or former employees of the oil and gas industry.

Numerous complainants petitioned the USA government to get the EPA to review the earlier decision on hydraulic fracking. One of them, from Neil Zusman, Ithaca, NY, is particularly poignant:

I have read widely on this topic and it is of personal interest to me. I am not a scientist. I observe the events along the historical timeline that includes civil rights, anti-war protest, and the environmental movement....

Donald Paul is a freelance writer from South Africa.

See: Aragom Eloff.  Ivo Vegter vs. the Fracking Fringe. 2011-04-18.

See: Julienned DuToit. Fracking the Karoo - The People Say No! 2011-01-31.

See: Lewis Pugh. Frack Off, Shell!. 2011-04-05

See: Robert Brand. South Africa Endorses Plans For Karoo Gas-Drill Freeze, Ending Shell Hopes - Bloomberg. 2011-04-21.