A picture is worth a thousand words—or at least that’s the idea behind the actions of Jeremy Buckingham, a Greens Party member of the Australian Parliament.
The politician recently set the Condamine River in southwest Queensland on fire to protest nearby fracking (also known as hydraulic fracturing), the process of blasting water mixed with sand and chemicals at high pressure deep underground to fracture subterranean shale rock in order to release and then extract petroleum resources, such as oil or natural gas. Methane—a colorless, odorless and highly flammable gas—is the primary component of natural gas. Wherever there are fracking operations, there is the potential for it to leak out of production wells and enter the surrounding environment, including surface water, groundwater and the air. Since the surface of the Condamine was fizzling with bubbles of methane, all Buckingham had to do was lean over the side of the boat with a lighter. The river was immediately set ablaze.
Coal seam gas is 95 to 97 percent methane. However, Origin Energy, one of three Australian energy companies operating coal seam gas wells in the region, points out that methane seeps could be due to several factors other than hydraulic fracturing, such as natural fissures, faults, drought and flood cycles, and other human activity, such as water bores. It claims that fracking is safe and a vital part of the energy mix as the world looks for cleaner fuel sources.
Buckingham admits that his recent stunt isn’t concrete evidence of wrongdoing by the three energy companies. He does, however, reference reports of increasingly bubbly water after the fracking operations began in the Queensland area and the fact that locals say the river has never bubbled like this historically. Also, the fire he set remained alight for more than an hour, a fact not consistent with a naturally occurring methane seep. He’s calling for the gas industry to halt fracking in Australia until the source of the methane can be unequivocally determined.
Watch Jeremy Buckingham’s short video here, from the AFP News Agency, published on April 24, 2016. Whatever the cause for the methane gas in the river, watching a large body of water catch on fire so quickly and easily does make you wonder what’s going on.
Here’s to finding your true places and natural habitats,