What are the merits of fracking?

By: Jeremy Westgarth-Taylor

Test results indicate that at least one common fracking chemical has contaminated drinking water in the town of Pavillion, Wyoming.

How strange it is that a department DEA (Department of Environmental Affairs) which ironically shares a ministerial portfolio with Water Affairs (DWEA) should suggest that fracking be given a chance and saying that there was “merit” in carrying out some hydraulic fracturing.  There were no merits in what was reported though the report did mention one demerit in what they had said viz – “the avoidance of the contamination of fresh water resources” in the Karoo.  So what in fact are the merits of fracking?  As there were no meritorious things mentioned we have a chance to look at some of the negative things.

 

  • Shell’s employees are on record as having said that they wish to burn the methane gas produced from fracking wells on their pad sites.  These pads will be on somebodies farmlands, and they plan to generate electricity from the burning of the gas thus sending millions of tons of carbon dioxide per annum into the air.  This will supplement the CO2 already generated in South Africa from the burning of coal.  The question should be asked why use fossil fuels to generate electricity? Have they not heard that economists agree that it is now less expensive to generate electricity with renewables such as from photo voltaic panels i.e. solar energy than by using fossil fuels.  Continue reading

Annual $2 trillion damage to oceans

Greenhouse gases are likely to result in annual costs of nearly $2 trillion in damage to the oceans by 2100, according to a new Swedish study.

Rising sea levels will boost the risk of flood damage around the coastlines of Africa. Photo: Dulue Mbachu/IRIN

The estimate by the Stockholm Environment Institute is based on the assumption that climate-altering carbon emissions continue their upward spiral without a pause.

Warmer seas will lead to greater acidification and oxygen loss, hitting fisheries and coral reefs, it warns.

Rising sea levels and storms will boost the risk of flood damage, especially around the coastlines of Africa and Asia, it adds.

Projecting forward using a business-as-usual scenario, the Earth’s global temperature will rise by four degrees Celsius (7.2 degrees Fahrenheit) by the end of the century, says the report, “Valuing the Ocean.”

On this basis, the cost in 2050 will be $428 billion annually, or 0.25 percent of global domestic product (GDP).

By 2100, the cost would rise to $1,979 billion, or 0.37 percent of output.

If emissions take a lower track, and warming is limited to 2.2 C (4 F), the cost in 2050 would be $105 billion, or 0.06 percent of worldwide GDP, rising to $612 billion, or 0.11 percent, by 2100.

“This is not a scaremongering forecast,” says the report. Continue reading

Choking the oceans

Posted by: Saving Water SA (Cape Town, South Africa) – partnered with Water Rhapsody conservation systems – 17 February 2011

Tons of throw-away plastic and massive runoff from chemical fertilizer are choking the world’s oceans, the UN’s environmental watchdog warns.

Just how much plastic has been discarded into the sea in unknown.

Taken together, the two sources of pollution threaten biodiversity, harm water quality, poison fish stocks and undermine coastal tourism, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) said in its annual Year Book report.

Released ahead of a key meeting next week of environment ministers in Nairobi, the report highlights the need to protect marine environments already rendered fragile by over-exploitation and acidification caused by climate change.

Only better waste management and a coordinated shift towards cleaner engines of economic growth can insure the future health of the planet’s aquatic commons, it said.

“The phosphorus fertilizer and marine plastic stories bring into sharp focus the urgent need … to catalyze a global transition to a resource-efficient Green Economy,” UNEP executive director Achim Steiner said.

Recent research suggests that both problems are more widespread — and deleterious — than once thought.

In the United States alone, for example, the costs associated with phosphorus pollution are estimated at more than two billion dollars a year, with the global tally in the tens of billions. Continue reading

Ocean acidification affects important nutrients

Posted by: Saving Water SA (Cape Town, South Africa) – partnered with Water Rhapsody conservation systems – 20 December 2010

Increasing acidity in the sea’s waters may fundamentally change how nitrogen is cycled in them, say marine scientists who published their findings in this week’s issue of the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

Ocean acidification will have widespread effects on marine ecosystems. Credit: iStockphoto/Dirk-Jan Mattaar

Nitrogen is one of the most important nutrients in the oceans. All organisms, from tiny microbes to blue whales, use nitrogen to make proteins and other important compounds.

Some microbes can also use different chemical forms of nitrogen as a source of energy.

One of these groups, the ammonia oxidizers, plays a pivotal role in determining which forms of nitrogen are present in the ocean. In turn, they affect the lives of many other marine organisms.

“Ocean acidification will have widespread effects on marine ecosystems, but most of those effects are still unknown,” says David Garrison, director of the National Science Foundation (NSF)’s Biological Oceanography Program, which funded the research along with NSF’s Chemical Oceanography Program.

“This report that ocean acidification decreases nitrification (the amount of nitrogen) is extremely important,” says Garrison, “because of the crucial role of the nitrogen cycle in biogeochemical processes-processes that take place throughout the oceans.”

Very little is known about how ocean acidification may affect critical microbial groups like the ammonia oxidizers, “key players in the ocean’s nitrogen cycle,” says Michael Beman of the University of Hawaii and lead author of the PNAS paper. Continue reading

On track for the second worst coral bleaching on record

Posted by: Saving Water SA (Cape Town, South Africa) – partnered with Water Rhapsody conservation systems – 08 December 2010

The once-vibrant coral reef shielding these sun-soaked beaches from the wrath of the sea is withering away under the stress of pollution and warmer water.

Coral bleaching - a “hideous” sight for veteran scuba divers

It’s not likely to get much help from world governments meeting in Cancun for talks on a new climate pact. Their so-far elusive goal to limit global warming to 2 degrees C (3.6 F) is too little too late, says coral expert Roberto Iglesias.

“That represents the end of the coral reefs in the world,” says the Mexican scientist, who works at a marine research station in Puerto Morelos, about 20 kilometres south of the beach resort hosting the annual UN climate conference.

Coral reefs are like underwater jungles that host 25 percent of marine species and provide food and income to hundreds of millions of people, mostly in the developing world. They also serve as shock absorbers to storm surges whipped up by hurricanes.

But many reefs, including the one off this hotel-packed coastline, have been damaged by water pollution and overfishing, leaving them vulnerable to a warming ocean that “bleaches” corals and sometimes kills them, Iglesias said.

This year, preliminary reports show global coral bleaching reached its worst level since 1998, when 16 percent of the world’s reefs were killed off, said Mark Eakin, a coral reef specialist at the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

“Clearly, we are on track for this to be the second worst (bleaching) on record,” he said. “All we’re waiting on now is the body count.” Continue reading