It began in 2010: whispers of “shale gas”, “game changer”, “fracking” and “Karoo”. They issued from boardrooms, diplomatic quarters, government circles and the quiet corners of sleepy towns and soon infiltrated conversations all around South Africa.
By 2013, this murmur had turned into a cacophony of contestation, thousands of newspaper centimetres and hours of television time. Should South Africa frack the Karoo Basin, where there was an estimated 485 trillion cubic feet of technically recoverable shale gas?
There was little room for middle ground in the fracking debate: you were either with us, or against us. (“Us” was either the “protectors of South Africa’s environmental and cultural heritage” or “pragmatists trying to push economic development and energy security”. Them was, respectively, “greedy, self-serving capitalists” or “dirty hippies”.)
It took five years for the government to say, “Wait a minute, let’s ask the experts.”
For more, find the analysis — first published by Independent Newspapers — here.