Strolling through the village, as you do on a sunny winter’s Saturday morning, is a real treat. It is a privilege just to take in the bustle of folk going about their weekend business — buying the paper, greeting a neighbor or settling down for coffee with friends serenaded by a teenager with a guitar and dreams of fame and fortune from his songs. This is why we are so fond of community.
Abruptly my reverie was rudely broken.
“No thank you,” I said to a brusque individual who ambushed me from behind the ‘vote green’ placards that were cluttering the pavement. The pamphlet purveyor was most indignant at my refusal and gave me the death stare. If that had happened in the playground it would have been called bullying.
I strolled on by and observed both the wave of annoyance that passed over me, and the slogan on one of the placards that read ‘ farming not fracking’.
For the uninitiated fracking is the controversial process of getting gas from coal seams by injecting fluid into deep rock layers to fracture them. This releases the pressure that holds onto the gas. Once free the gas can be piped to the surface. It is similar physics that happens when the seal is broken on a soda bottle and bubbles start to rise.
The Greens are on to fracking because it is another nasty resource exploitation process that results in burning of yet more fossil fuels, risks pollution of groundwater or local subsidence, and worst of all, will displace farmers from the land. Not all land, but the land gas companies might buy to exploit the gas reserves beneath the paddocks.
No matter that in greenhouse gas terms natural gas is cleaner than the coal that will be burnt instead to meet growing energy demand, that boreholes have always coexist with farming, and that legislation already prevents anything nasty being used as the lubricant.
As a slogan ‘farming not fracking’ is just silly. It is not even the issue.
Deliver it with a ‘holier than thou’ look on your face and even your supporters will cringe. Everyone else will tell you to take a hike, probably far less politely.
How about this instead?
We don’t like fracking or exploitation of coal seam gas so we have come up with this solution.
The energy that would have come from gas can be generated from alternative sources [solar, wind, wave, geothermal] plus some savings from improved energy efficiency. Both initiatives could be resourced from a small but compulsory ‘no fracking’ investment of say $500 from every household in the country — this one-off payment from everyone would raise roughly $4 billion.
The return on investment is twofold. Cheap energy in the long run as alternative sources would get over the commercial hump and there will be environmental benefits from avoiding pollution risk. Plus, there would be lower greenhouse gas emissions from the soon to be necessary shift to alternative energy sources again saving money on transition costs.
All this for the annual expenditure to households of one weekly coffee and cake in the village.
The pamphleteer would probably look at me aghast and blurt out, “You mean to ask people to give up their Saturday morning coffee and cake, what are you thinking?”
Then he would spontaneously take up the chant “farming not fracking, farming not fracking…”
And no doubt the young songwriter could weave it all into a lyric.