What Is Fracking?

This video posted today by Get Up! got me thinking about “fracking”.

What is this “fracking” that I’ve been hearing so much about lately? It’s something I’ve been meaning to pay more attention to.

According to this excellent site put together by the ABC, “fracking” is short for “hydraulic fracturing”. It’s all about “coal seam gas” (CSG) or “coalbed methane” as it’s known outside of Australia. CSG is methane gas that’s trapped deep down in the earth under layers of coal. The objective is to drill down into the layers that contain the CSG and bring it up to the surface. Mining CSG is a fairly recent phenomenon and there are lots of environmental concerns about how it is extracted, the amount of water the process requires and what happens to the water afterwards. It is estimated there will be 40,000 coal seam gas wells in Australia – mostly in QLD.

So what is “fracking”? According to the ABC:

In the process known as ‘fracking’, a mix of water and chemicals is pumped at high pressure down the well and into the coal seam. This process creates a network of cracks in the coal, releasing the gas and water trapped inside it. Not all wells need to be fractured. In some places, the coal is permeable, meaning it already has lots of natural cracks. In others, gas companies drill horizontally into the coal seam as an alternative to fracturing.

So is that a good thing or a bad thing? The answer is – we don’t know. There is a lot of debate between the various interested parties. The CSG industry claims the water that is extracted during the process will be available for irrigation but first it will have to be decontaminated and that’s a costly process. The environmentalists and farmers (nice to see them on the same side for once) are worried about the effect this entrance of this water will have on our water ecology. The bottom line is that this is a new industry that the mining companies are rushing into and I’m betting the majority of Australians have given little thought about what the long-term effect is likely to be on the country. A lot of money is likely to be made by a relatively small number of companies in the next couple of decades – but what will the long-term cost be to the country? To the farming industry? To the health of the people? As water is already a precious commodity in Australia, it’s something that needs serious debate and discussion before the government just hands out CSG licenses.


Seth MacFarlane To Bring Back COSMOS!

I can’t tell you how excited I am about this news!

I’m a huge fan of the original COSMOS series by Carl Sagan. It had a huge impact on me as a kid when it first aired on TV in Australia and these days I own a copy of the series on DVD. Sagan paved the way for people like Brian Greene and Neil DeGrasse Tyson and for podcasts like Radio Lab and SGU.

We desperately need the younger generation to truly understand and appreciate science and the power of the scientific method. Hopefully Seth (who I’m also, of course, a huge fan of) can make this happen, although FOX seems like a very strange network to try to get it up on. He obviously has a good relationship with them, but c’mon – the network of O’Reilly, Glen Beck, Roger Ailes and the network who killed Firefly? Are they really going to get on board with promoting science?

(Source: Universe Today)

Shared Sacrifice

Le Candidat

(Photo: Philippe Moreau Chevrolet)

French President Francois Hollande’s new Socialist-led government adopted a 30 percent pay cut Thursday, a gesture of shared sacrifice by leaders who must now reduce the country’s massive debts and tackle spiraling unemployment. (AP)

Can you imagine the Australian government cutting their own pay by 30%?

On the contrary, they recently awarded themselves a massive pay rise.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s pay will soar by $90,000 to about $470,000 – more than either US President Barack Obama or British PM David Cameron are paid.

I appreciate that we need to offer reasonable compensation for people who devote many years of their life to public service, but surely their pay packets should be in line with the salaries of people in private enterprise. In 1999, PM John Howard had to survive on a paltry $289,270. It’s amazing that he could even get by.
It seems to me that we should have salary caps for our politicians and executives from private enterprise. How much is enough?