Across Australia (and indeed across the world), there has been a movement fighting the establishment and development of various forms of mining and energy production, including what’s known as ‘fracking’, which is a form of mining for oil and gas. It’s been a very strong movement in Gippsland in recent years, with a moratorium placed on any such mining for the time being by the state government, which has not reduced the feelings within the communities in Gippsland. Signs are on properties everywhere.
Also, the extent of apparent mining licenses is staggering. The blue outlines in the screen shot from the State government website represents the areas covered by potential mining licences for a large part of Victoria.
However, a closer look shows that not all the licences shown on the State Government website detailed in ‘Mining Licences Near Me’ are about fracking or that they are active and/or approved. The following screen shots of the Mirboo North area clearly show that licenses have expired or have not been issued. That’s not to say that other areas don’t have active licenses, or that new ones can’t be issued.
I’m anything but an expert on these matters, but I’m always concerned when protests about anything verge on the hysterical and more so when radical political groups become involved. The debate then becomes one not of reasonable scientific discussion, analysis and the like, but more about ideology, where everything that doesn’t conform with that ideology is rejected outright. That said, it still behoves governments to do the right thing and to be seen to be doing the right thing, before any approval is given to potentially damaging activities. Until that is the case, the right to be concerned about new technologies and industries that have a potential to cause harm, is certainly valid.
Now considering that the same political groups believe that we are able to modify and adjust the planet’s climate at will, then I would think that there should be a reasonable chance that we could better understand the effects of such activities like fracking, before dismissing them outright. One of the arguments against fracking is that is it pollutes the water table; but is that the case, or even a potential likelihood, everywhere? In our region, I’m not sure where we draw our water supplies, but I hope that it’s not from the likes of the Tarwin River West Branch, which at the best of times looks like a toilet bowl after a bad curry. And when was the last time any of our water courses were checked for fertiliser and pesticide run-off, if water quality is of concern?
But what also concerns me are the alternatives, which are all too often presented as an ‘absolute’ by those same political groups, despite the clearly known issues that they often present. Wind farms are an option that is nearly always advertised as the ‘future’, yet so often don’t appear to deliver the results that are promised. Not only don’t they deliver on the purported energy outputs, but they are often the cause of significant unintended consequences. Ironically, those unintended consequences include the negative environmental aspects of manufacture, maintenance and installation (Bald Hills?), and the risk to many species of birds and bats, including endangered ones from their operation. They also have significant health impacts to nearby residents, affected by the sub-sonic noise that wind farms generate, but those concerns are often ignored. What I also find disturbing is the fact that these wind farms are a blight on the countryside. Pristine landscapes are suddenly overgrown with ugly, indolent, structures – what look like modern day forests after a bush fire.
But even a real forest after a bush fire is more pleasing to the eye and environment, and eventually will yield to new growth and return back to the soil. I have read comments from some that the windmills look beautiful, but I wonder if the same sentiment would be expressed if instead of generating electricity, they were pumping oil?
Australia is a country that has an abundance of natural resources for producing plentiful, cost effective and efficient power, and we indeed once had the cheapest electricity in the world. But Australia is now one of the most, if not the most, expensive countries for power in the world, so you have to wonder what happened? It’s very similar to one of my previous articles about the cost and quality of food; once we were world leaders with the best and cheapest food available and now we’re one of the followers. Obviously many have a vested interest in arguing their case, but the reality most certainly sits somewhere in-between and it’s not a good thing for Australians in general, with the way that we are headed.
The unavoidable truth is that the world depends on power (electricity) for everything that we do. Turn the power off for a day (as we appear to experience just about every second month where we live) and everything stops; we are ostensibly back to living in a cave. And as power costs escalate, the cost of everything else that’s dependent on power escalates, and so the social costs escalate in lock step (it’s already a major concern for the less well off). Do we really want to return to the caves, even if we could? If you think that you can, go to your power box and flip the mains switch and see how long you can go without it turned on. Turn your power off and set an example for everyone else to follow.
Now this subject is controversial to say the least and I by no means advocate open slather when it comes to mining companies and the like (I’ve dealt with large corporations for many years and, metaphorically, were you to shake their hand, you’d want to count your fingers afterwards to make sure they were all there, but I could say the same about political groups). However, I’m not blind to the realities of what modern life requires in order to sustain the things that we are used to enjoying and, more importantly, depending on for our very existence. When milk, bread or petrol prices rise a few cents, everyone rages, but when power bills go up 20+%, it all goes very quiet. At what point do we question whether we’re doing ourselves justice by demanding the closure of mines, coal and gas fired power stations, banning the development of new sources of energy etc and denying ourselves cost-effective and efficient power?
And I’ll leave this topic with something interesting that’s happened in the US under the Obama administration; US to become world leader in oil and gas thanks to fracking, ironically raising concerns that US fracking boom puts West African oil economies at risk.