What the frack is going on?

As someone who drives a lot I find it hard to take a high moral high ground on the way we rape the earth for hydrocarbons. As someone who rides a bike I of course feel obliged to annoy the hell out of anyone who will listen to my mindless bleating protests about what they are doing to our earth.

So here goes.

The latest craze to hit the hydrocarbon industry is coal seem gas. Apparently we’ve already burned up all the readily available hydrocarbons and now we’re preparing to go harvest the rubbish that’s left over. Enter coal seem gas, a dirty hydrocarbon gas now available to power a swimming pool and air-conditioning unit near you.

Coal seem gas also powers the moral outrage of the whiny urban car driving eco-worriers that like to bore us with their conscience. The car sticker junkies. The right-on and righteous. The somehow do-nothing-but-with-a-clear-conscience-because-they’re-blaming-The-Man.

A brief description

The way my mind sees it, there’s a seem of coal and that coal gives off a stinky gas that will ignite. You can extract the gas, pipe it away to a power station, burn it, run a turbine and make electricity. Then you and I turn on our TV and take advantage of the cheap energy it provides.

What could possibly be wrong with that?

Like all things in life coal seem gas is not without its consequences. Part of the problem with coal seem gas is that it also pumps up a shit-load of water, much of it contaminated with heavy metals and radioactive substances. No-one is yet capable of properly treating such vast quantities of water and in the US, where this coal seem gas industry is more developed than in Oz, there have been spillages and contaminations of clean water supplies. Artesian water has been contaminated.

This is where the fun starts. Check out this video of flammable tap water below.

I know, you want some too huh?

Obviously not everyone gets to enjoy the benefits of flammable tap water. Ideally the gas company would like to keep all the gas for themselves. But it’s not a perfect world.

What the frack?

We reserve our highest levels of high-pitched outrage for fracking. A quick survey of friends showed that no-one new what the frack fracking was but were reserving their right to ardently protest about it. And that’s when I thought I’d do a little research. Clearly someone in my group of friends had to know enough about coal seem gas to be able to mouth off about it.

Coal seem gas isn’t your first choice for energy. Ideally the earth would be filled with a bottomless pit of oil. Mostly we behave like it is but there is considerable evidence to the contrary. To wit: the earth is not infinite and neither therefore are any of he/she/its resources. What the earth has is a bottomless pit of consumers but while we squabble over such meaningless terms as “peak oil” we’re moving ever closer to the day when this stuff runs out. And that is something that all but the most crazy skeptics can agree on.

So you look elsewhere. You look at the hard options. You look under your bed, under Alaska and then you look at coal seem gas (CSG). You pump the CSG until it becomes hard to extract and then while (hopefully) no-one is looking you go off on a spot of fracking (all the while whistling innocently to yourself). Only a small proportion of coal seem gas is extracted with the aid of fracking.

Fracking is the process of pumping yet more stuff into the rock to fracture it and release more of the burnable goodies inside. So you’re pumping more inert/highly dangerous stuff (depending on whom you ask) into the ground so that you can get more of that burnable stuff (and the contaminated waste)  to the surface as well as fracturing the ground and hoping that all those reassuring noises you make to the public have a ring of truth to them.


This subject makes for great conversation over soy-based mugaccinos (Guatamalan fair trade of course) but cheap talk doesn’t get you far in the real world. My understanding is that Energex use CSG (and please don’t sue if I’m wrong, a simply correction will suffice) and so every time I turn on a light I’m culpable. This comes as a shock to most people who seem to think the whole argument has the kind of shiny academic glow about it that makes it all the more juicy to oppose due to its lack of urgency. Not so unfortunately.

Are pandas real, just men in suits or our next energy resource? all creatures 

My advise is this…what with CSG being an energy resource of last resource (not excluding shale oil and squeazing the fat out of pandas) you can prevent its use by being frugal with those resources that are more attractive (the shit you pump into your car). Or to put it in my usual way, the way to save the world as we come to know it (on its knees and begging for mercy) is to ride a fixie.

Our savior…again. ffffix!

PS: if you own a pool and an air-conditioner you’ve got to drink a massive amount of fair trade coffee to free that conscience of yours. You might want to invest in a bamboo fixie and a Yogi Oki Doki video too. 

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