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Responsible fracking could mean more renewable energy and lower carbon emissions for SA
31 January 2014

Pretoria, South Africa – With responsible ‘pro-fracking’ policy initiatives, South Africa could adopt more renewable energy and produce lower carbon emissions by 2050 than if the country does not frack at all.

This is according to a recent paper of the African Futures Project, a joint initiative of the Institute for Security Studies (ISS) in Pretoria and the Frederick S. Pardee Center for International Futures at the University of Denver. The paper, Fracking for Shale Gas in South Africa: Blessing or Curse?, explores the long-term economic and environmental effects of various levels of shale gas production in the country.

Although the South African government appears poised to move forward along the fracking route, it still faces several environmental hurdles, say the paper’s authors, Frederick S. Pardee Center Research Assistants Steve Hedden and Jessica Rettig, and Associate Director Jonathan Moyer. The hydraulic fracturing techniques used in shale gas production could be ‘devastating’ to the nation’s water-scarce Karoo region, where the bulk of South Africa’s reserves are located.

However, as a nation that is now almost wholly dependent on coal, South Africa could see long-term increases in economic growth and environmental benefits if it engages in responsible levels of shale gas production moving forward. ‘The South African government could both limit the negative environmental impacts of fracking and use the revenue it gains from the process to jumpstart the use of renewable energy,’ the authors wrote.

Using the International Futures (IFs) integrated modeling system, the authors created three potential scenarios . The ‘Base Case’ scenario assumes no shale gas production, while the ‘Shale Boom’ scenario forecasts high levels of shale gas production through hydraulic fracturing. The third scenario, called the ‘Blue Bridge,’ forecasts limited shale gas production and the adoption of a tax to promote renewable energy.

In the third scenario, the authors forecasted that a gradual ‘transition tax’ on shale gas production – beginning at R0.05 in 2017 and ramping up to R0.30 per million cubic feet of gas produced by 2050 – would be invested in renewable energy production and infrastructure. ‘With this tax in place, the annual investments in renewable energy could drive production up to over 1.6 BBOE by 2050, making it a larger source of South African energy than even coal today,’ the paper states.

This paper is the third in a series of three that examines South Africa’s National Development Plan (NDP) 2030. The first analysed the feasibility of the NDP’s GDP growth target of 5,4 percent average, and the second reexamined the NDP’s long-term estimates of South Africa’s population and migration. The series is funded by the Hanns Seidel Foundation.

For media interviews and further information please contact:

Jonathan Moyer, Associate Director, The Frederick S. Pardee Center for International Futures, Phone:  +1 303 871 2443, email:

Julia Schuenemann, Senior Researcher and Project Leader, Institute for Security Studies, Phone: +27-12-346 9500, email:

About the Institute for Security Studies

The ISS is an African organisation which aims to enhance human security on the continent. It does independent and authoritative research, provides expert policy analysis and advice, and delivers practical training and technical assistance.