With fracking stopped and gas locked under ground, coal is being used to meet South Africa’s energy needs. Indeed, coal power plants generate about 90% of South Africa’s electricity today and may well continue to do so.
“Fracking Debate Wracks South Africa” was the headline in yesterday’s WSJ article by Devon Maylie. Maylie reports that environmentalists won a moratorium in April 2010 on fracking in South Africa, and the nation is building two new coal plants to help close a gap between electricity demand and supply.
Saying no to gas means saying yes to coal and oil in South Africa, America, and around the world. And what’s the carbon result? The carbon emissions from South Africa’s new coal plants will be more than twice what they would be had the plants run on gas.
One needs not read any further to understand why the world is loading its atmosphere with record amounts of carbon dioxide, with the exception of America, where massive new gas production is slashing carbon pollution. Yet, in the minds of some, banning or stalling gas development is a victory for the environment.
South Africa has potentially 486 trillion cubic feet of recoverable natural gas. That is a huge amount, roughly similar to the Marcellus gas reserve, and would be enough to power South Africa for a couple hundred years.