THE retreat of Shell fracking officials back to their eyrie in The Hague is symbolic of the loss of confidence in SA’s chances of producing shale gas on a profitable basis.This may be extremely good news for the Karoo. As fracking is unlikely to fly (until, says Shell SA CEO Bonang Mohale, the oil price rises again to $60-$80 a barrel) we meanwhile have a chance to get a number of issues right.Fracking would have placed a great deal of strain on the Karoo.Finding extra amounts of fresh water, disposing of huge amounts of hazardous and radioactive waste, threatening agricultural jobs, contributing to social dislocation, accelerating climate change, contaminating precious aquifers — all of these matters would have compromised future development.For fracking, job creation would have privileged foreign expert workers and only a few Karoo locals.Without the spectre of fracking, the debate on Karoo development should begin in earnest.How do we shift from colonial landholding patterns?How ...

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