Someone at the Sentinel-Times needs to be congratulated on a fine pick up in last week’s edition (What the Frack!)
The journalist involved, unfortunately with no by-line, pointed out that the upcoming State Government sponsored information sessions regarding Coal Seam Gas mining have been labelled ‘Natural Gas Community Information-Gippsland Open Days’.
So well done to whoever was responsible for an astute piece of work which offered some particularly easy lines to read between.
The inference which I read into this was, of course, that the government has deliberately shied away from using the term Coal Seam Gas.
So kudos to our local paper for effectively opening what I feel is an important debate.
For while the article made this point and then left it at that, I for one feel that the issue deserves more discussion.
And the obvious point, which wasn’t addressed, is why they would do this. Because if this industry is deemed to be worth considering, then surely it must be worth considering under its common name, Coal Seam Gas Mining, even if technically this name has now become a generic term which also covers a few other very closely related processes as well.
To call it ‘Natural Gas’ is to muddy the waters to a very shabby and unacceptable extent, given that this is the generic term commonly given to an entirely different and long established industry, with a positive image in most people’s minds.
So why do this? The only thing which stands to reason is that the name Coal Seam Gas Mining has become inextricably linked to a very dirty word, and that word is ‘Fracking’.
So what is at issue here is why this word has such a grubby and alarming profile as to discourage associating with it to this extent.
Go back a few very short years to when the word was unknown. At that time I heard a respected radio commentator on the ABC giving a brief run down on a new process which to his mind very cleverly allowed the extraction of a resource while leaving the ground above untouched.
So what could be wrong with that and why should anyone object, he suggested.
Come forward to the present and a huge chorus from all over the world, particularly from Queensland and a swathe of states in the US, would answer him in no uncertain terms.
Plenty, that’s what’s wrong with that!
Enter a raft of serious medical complaints from gas flair-offs, contamination of ground water with fracking chemicals and toxic compounds formerly locked up in coal seams, a litter of irremovable tailings dams containing the same, and methane gas percolating up from river beds and finding its way into reticulated water systems.
And that’s just the start of it.
In Britain it was even causing serious earth tremors!
So it is people’s hard experience of this industry which has sullied its name from a harmless and clever idea to a living monster quite capable of ruining those same people’s lives.
And how does the industry defend itself against these damning first hand testimonies? Easy. Just trot out the tobacco defence and stick to it through thick and thin.
“There is no concrete proof that any of this was caused by the industry, so therefore the industry gets off scot free.”
And governments buy into this defence and leave it to private individuals to painstakingly find the evidence to prove the case against, with no credence given to the fact that none of these things existed before the industry came along, and that they exist in abundance since.
So what are we going to hear at these euphemistically named ‘Natural Gas’ sessions, and will the tobacco defence get an airing? Could anyone dare be so shamefaced? Over to all of you on that one; but, given the naming strategy, I’ve got a horrible feeling.
And I’m thinking that we need to be there in numbers, or else we might be up the same proverbial creek as our countrymen to the north. And from all reports, it’s a very sick creek.
So thankyou once again to the Sentinel. You earned your name on that one.
South Gippsland sessions are at Inverloch Hub, June 17, 2pm to 8pm, and Mirboo North Shire Hall, June 18, 2pm to 8pm.
Roger Thorrowgood, Inverloch.