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Coal Seam Gas? No fracking way!

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Nick G.

Despite recent announcements about expansion of renewable energy generation and storage, the South Australian government remains committed to destructive coal seam gas ventures.

This is despite overwhelming community opposition.  A parliamentary enquiry has confirmed this, saying CSG has no “social licence”, i.e. no community acceptance.

The Labor state government was a strong supporter of the abominable plan by Marathon Resources to mine uranium in the Arkaroola Wilderness Sanctuary.  A people’s campaign, rather than parliamentary common sense defeated the plan.

The same government pushed strongly for an international nuclear waste storage facility.  A people’s campaign, rather than parliamentary common sense defeated the plan.

This government, which parades its credentials as a world leader in renewable energy, is bankrolling efforts to impose fracking on the state’s South East. This will also eventually be defeated by a people’s campaign, rather than parliamentary common sense.

Fracking harms humans and nature

Fracking -  the process of coal seam gas extraction – uses chemicals that can contaminate aquifers or return to the surface as contaminated waste water which has to be stored. The chemicals include tetramethyl ammonium chloride, minimal doses of which can poison large amounts of water; the neurotoxins diethylene glycol or methanol; butoxyethanol, a life-destroying substance; and nonylphenol, which is carcinogenic and harms fertility. Among the lifeforms killed by these toxins are many of the microorganisms whose activities help seal tiny rock fissures, thus accelerating the release of poisoned waters to the surface.

Doctors are among those concerned by the effects of fracking on human health.  Dr David Shearman AM FRACP is Hon. Secretary of Doctors for the Environment Australia and Emeritus Professor of Medicine University of Adelaide. He cites US studies that reveal major concerns associated with fracking.

“Between 2009 and 2015 at least 685 papers were published in peer-reviewed scientific journals that were relevant to the effects of unconventional gas development. Eight-four per cent of public health studies indicated public health hazards, elevated risks, or adverse health outcomes; 69 per cent of water quality studies contain findings of potential, or actual water contamination; and 87 per cent of air quality studies showed elevated air pollutants,” he said.

“The inhabitants of the gas fields in the US,” he added, “suffer increased eye problems, respiratory irritation, and headaches.”

Farmers reject incentives to destroy environmental and human health

The state Liberal Opposition, playing to its traditionally conservative electoral base in the South East, announced a ten-year moratorium on fracking. State Treasurer Tom Koutsantonis deplored the move, alleging that it had caused an “investment strike” on gas projects in the state.

In response, the state government offered local farmers an “incentive” of ten percent of the royalties of any productive CSG well on their property.

But even offering thirty pieces of silver could not induce farmers to betray their livelihood or the interests of their community.  It did the opposite.

Lorraine Robertson is one of many dairy farmers in the south-east of South Australia who saw their profits decimated when Fonterra and Murray Goulburn announced they were retroactively cutting milk prices.

She said it resulted in about $150,000 being clawed back from her farm, and although she was in a desperate financial situation, it was not enough to allow gas exploration on her property.

"We're on the bones of our ass and I still wouldn't accept it — I don't know any farmers that would,” she said.

Her views were echoed by Tantanoola farmer Peter Altschwager, who said the majority of South-East farmers opposed fracking and, until companies showed unconventional gas extraction was safe, the State Government’s new royalties plan was unlikely to win support.

Paying monopolies from the public purse

Frustrated by the refusal of farmers to be bought off, the Labor government has gifted Adelaide-based gas producer Beach Energy $6 million or half the cost of establishing a 4 kilometre-deep gas well on state forestry land just outside of the South-East town of Penola.

The company plans to have the gas well operational by September.

According to regional newspaper, The Border Watch, the drilling site will be located near the boundary of the world-famous Coonawarra wine district and adjacent the new $80m Union Dairy Company processing plant.  Local farmers and vignerons are furious.

For a complete ban on CSG

CSG extraction places humanity and nature on opposite sides of an antagonistic contradiction.

They should not be so opposed: both human labour power and nature are sources of wealth, but under capitalism both are exploited in the pursuit of private capital accumulation.

Both suffer the destructive impact of such exploitation.

It is possible to temporarily stop this or that form of the destructive exploitation of nature, but like the destructive exploitation of human labour power there can be no permanent protection under capitalism.

When the working class comes to power, when the immediate and selfish interests of private capital are brought to an end, the workers will rise to the challenge of restoring the essential unity of humanity and nature, ending both its own exploitation and the destructive exploitation of its only life environment, the Earth.


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