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Fracking in the Northern Territory: simply a stupid idea

First, some background: A lengthy and thorough inquiry into fracking in the NT was completed in 2018.

The Gunner ALP government, elected in 2016, had agreed, prior to the election, to a moratorium on fracking, pending the outcome of the report. When it was tabled, it came with a rigorous and lengthy list of conditions which were to be met before fracking could commence.

The Top End of the NT differs from the rest of Australia in not referring to the seasons of Winter and Summer, instead replacing them with the Dry Season and the Wet Season, respectively. The latter is normally distinguished by having at least one intense monsoon spell, ensuring that water is seldom a problem in the Top End.

That is, until global warming and climate change rear their heads.

While we are admittedly short of the end of the official Wet Season on 30 April, reports from the Bureau of Meteorology are disturbing. To catch up to the average rainfall we would need to be drowned in the next few weeks!

Many years ago, before climate change became the elephant in the room, an earlier NT government agreed to allow one of the two major dams in the Top End to be made available for water sports. Consequently, Manton Dam ceased to provide water for use in Darwin and the supply source was reduced to the Darwin River Dam.

Over the intervening years there has been an increasing number of rural residents, whose water supply comes from bores they themselves sink and maintain. In more recent years, PAWA, responsible for water and sewerage in the Top End, has added bore water to the supply for Darwin, and there is now discussion on the need for another dam to ensure an adequate supply, possibly reclaiming Manton Dam.

And this is where fracking comes in.

Both Santos and Origin Energy plan to commence work in the coming Dry Season, and have lodged applications for grants for new water extraction licences.

Most governments in Australia share an alarmingly high degree of scepticism over global warming and governments everywhere tend to have the ability to ignore the implications of the effects of policies which might eventuate after the end of the current electoral cycle.

We have two choices it seems: we can ignore the likelihood of our actions affecting climate change and risk going to hell in a hand basket, or we can accept that we really do need to curb emissions to contain the rate of rising temperatures and, hopefully, eventually succeed in halting and reversing those rising temperatures.

The fact that the Gunner government has a massive debt is obvious motivation to support any activities which might put money in their coffers. The need for their actions to not be damaging to the future of the NT is being ignored.

For those who believe that global warming, accelerated by mankind’s activities, is for real and we have little more than a decade to take drastic action, the thought that we are still talking about new sources for oil, gas and coal is downright lunacy. For us in the NT to not only allow fracking, but risk having our water supply diminished and polluted, suggests criminal levels of stupidity.

I have lived in the NT for 48 years and I know the climate is changing. I have 3 great grandchildren ranging from just over 1 to nearly 9 years old and I genuinely fear for their future – although you do not need to be an octogenarian to be concerned for the future.

The crazy thing is that we have energy in the form of sunshine going to waste, when we could be establishing solar farms! We could be developing wayside service stations where electric cars and trucks (and their passengers) could recharge, so making distance a less negative factor for their introduction.

We could be using that power to supply the necessary mechanisms to recycle everything that is currently polluting both land and water.

OK – first response is usually that it is not economically viable.

Right – then tell me how much is being spent, all round the world to restore facilities destroyed by extreme weather events like wildfires, floods, cyclones, hurricanes, landslides and, in due course, rising oceans?

Add to that the health costs, financial and personal, of polluted air and water and do you still believe recycling is not viable? Because if that is the case, why are we not curtailing the use of the sources of the pollution?

How many more catastrophes must occur around the world before people come out of their bubbles and realise this is a truly global problem and we cannot wait any longer to act for change?

Let’s get the kudos of being first to take really effective action in the Southern Hemisphere!

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  1. whatever

    Barnaby was on Radio National today, he blamed recent QLD bushfires on the Greens.
    Any environmental or renewable energy policy is now considered part of some kind of ‘World Domination’ plan launched by the United Nations.
    The Right have gone totally AltRight.

  2. RomeoCharlie29

    Agreed RJ but what you propose requires courage and neither the Gunner Government, nor the LNP show any signs of that. TheGunner Government is between a rock and a hard place, a falling population, a slowing economy, falling GST revenues and a massive housing slump. Not only is there the lure of income from onshore gas ( mostly illusory in my opinion) there is the very overt threat from the Feds of more revenue cuts unless the gas is developed. This a relatively unsophisticated Government, with little appetite and fewer skills to stand up to the twin evils of a hostile federal government and the enormously powerful oil/gas industry. Like you I am a longtime Territorian and am amazed that so little has been done with solar. 40 years ago I worked for the newly formed NT Electricity Commission led by a visionary named Max Dryer. Under him the organisation looked into the development of solar farms and several new locations for dams with hydro potential but timid governments did nothing. Instead going to gas. Regarding the “wet”, my own records show that with just one month to go, I am at two thirds the level of last year, 1026 mm cf 1647, and 1979 at this time in 2017. I realisethatfor some parts of Australia these are rainfalls that can only be dreamed about but in the local context they do not bode well for those reliant on bores for their water supply, and that is a good percentage of the Darwin population. No wonder the government is running TV commercials urging people not to make too many cups of tea,

  3. Josephus

    Experts are now warning that temperatures will quickly rise to over 4 degrees, too high for human comfort, even survival. Meanwhile mining continues, while farmland/forests are built over or fracked. Democracy has this fatal flaw, that elections happen every few years, so to get in rulers must appeal to the grossest instincts. Alas, dictators are greedy and selfish too. The Enlightenment faith in benevolent rulers was based on a meliorist view of human nature that Hobbes and many Christians did not share. We have multiplied far too quickly at the expense of other species, and self destruction looms. The apes may just re- start a slow evolution to so called homo sapiens, unless clever whales, octopuses or crows get there first… but there is no longer time for these creatures to survive and change, as we did. That’s my thought for the day!

  4. guest

    Climate change is about more than carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. It is about the extraction processes for coal, gas and petroleum and the way these products are used.

    Cameron Muir writes in the Griffith Review #63 Writing the Country (p 212) about the effects of plastic, a petrochemical product:

    “Plastic is so aesthtically clean and pure we forget its dirty origins and harmful by-products: fracking,wastewater spills, groundwater contamination and depletion, greenhouse gas emissions, localised air pollution and toxic waste from processing plants.”

    He goes on. “Sociologist Rebecca Altman writes that since her father began working at Union Carbide in 1962, ‘all living organisms have absorbed the products of twentieth-century petro-chemistry’ “(p 213).

    And more. “A torrent of plastic is coming. More plastic was produced in the last fifteen years than in the previous fifty. Production is now set to triple in the next thirty years and we will release four times more waste than all the waste we’ve made up to now”. (p 214)

    This is in the context of his article about birds feeding their chicks with plastic

    Read this article and cry your eyes out.

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