Looking at the risks associated with coal seam gas, as perceived by a random celebrity
Over the next few blog posts, I plan to start investigating the risks associated with coal seam gas, including issues such as actual risk to health and the environment, perceived risk, communicated risk and acceptable risk. To get started, I’ve chosen an article which details one person’s perceived risk of coal seam gas extraction.
The cold hard fracks, written by Olivia Newton John, was published in the Opinion section of The Age last weekend. This article was probably read by a large audience and, for many people, might be the only source of information they use to form an opinion about coal seam gas. I should probably dismiss the article because it was written by someone who isn’t ‘credible’, but I think it’s important to understand where the general public get their information from and what that information is.
The article raises a number of concerns, including:
- Lack of information
- Risks to human health and environment
- Lack of regulation for chemicals used in fraccing
- The large extent of existing gas leases in Australia
- Legal rights of land owners during gas exploration and
- Contamination of the drinking water supply.
These wide ranging and serious concerns are consistent with issues raised in the Gasland documentary as well as other articles I’ve read lately. I must admit, if everything I knew about coal seam gas came from this article, I’d be pretty worried.
Based on personal experience, I would guess that the first issue in the list above is the biggie: lack of information. This is driving the public sentiment, which seems to be dominated by fear. People are afraid that the extraction process is unregulated, that decisions about their future (and the future of the environment) are being made for them and that faceless, evil mining companies are stealing land from salt-of-the-earth farmers. I don’t necessarily believe these are valid fears, but I do believe they are the public’s perception of risks associated with coal seam gas extraction.
Next up: Fraccing Chemicals