Let me just preface this article by offering this disclaimer: I am by no means a fractivist, but I am not pro-fracking either. In any worldly issue, I like to view all sides of the story. As for hydraulic fracking and shale gas drilling anywhere, we have the technology to drill sustainably, however, the companies responsible for doing so tend to do it in the most cost-effective manner for their bottom line, which rarely includes sustainability. So while I believe drilling for natural gas is one of the better ways to obtain a valuable energy source until we can make renewables more reliable and efficient, there are so many regulatory improvements that need to be made to make hydraulic fracturing environmentally and socially safe.
I recently read this article by The Guardian regarding fracking in Kgalagadi Park in Botswana, 36,000 square km between Botswana and South Africa. The government of Botswana has sold rights for natural gas exploration in well over half of the park. The Kalahari Karoo basin and the Kgalagadi desert hold unknown quantities of available shale gas. No drilling has yet to take place, but according to park officials (as reported by The Guardian), they were not informed about this exploratory license.
Although there have been multiple exploratory licenses (including a prospecting license in the Kalahari Game Reserve) issued throughout the country’s parks, no mining licenses have yet to be issued. If the rumors are true and a license for commercial drilling in Kgalagadi Park has been issued, there are bound to be problems for the black-maned lions, gembook, eland, hundreds of species of birds, and all of the other species of Kgalagadi.
It’s sad that the government of Botswana feels this is necessary. Why must they agree to commercial drilling on land that is already economically lucrative as a tourist attraction for a short term (likely very profitable) economic gain that will most definitely destroy the area as a future tourist attraction? Drilling on what should be protected land will destroy the habitat for wildlife, which is the reason tourists are attracted to the area anyway. This seems only to lead to future economic destruction (loss of steady income, loss of jobs, etc.), rather than gain. Not to mention the “boomtown” trend that occurs with shale gas drilling. (Good read: Mason, C.F., Muehlenbachs,L.A., & Olmstead, S.M. (2014). The Economics of Shale Gas Development. Resources for the Future.) We (as a global society) have to stop making decisions that benefit us (globally, for the most part) in the short-term and destroy any long-term success?
If you’re interested in learning a bit more, check out this documentary: The High Cost of Cheap Gas. Remember to keep an open mind and don’t take words as fact. If you want to learn more about the impacts of natural gas development and hydraulic fracturing, check out additional sources. If you want another place to start, feel free to contact me and I will give you some peer reviewed sources.