Guest essay by Eric Worrall
An Aussie Green politician has attracted publicity, by “setting fire” to water in an Australian river, as part of a propaganda attack against local gas fracking operations. But CSIRO scientist Damian Barrett has been quick to dismiss the scare, stating that methane seeps are well known in the area, and that the methane in the video is likely from natural sources.
River on fire in Greens MP’s video is natural, not fracking, says CSIRO
Jeremy Buckingham says scientists ‘making excuses’ for CSG industry after footage shows him touching off sheet of flame on the Condamine river.
The CSIRO has defended its independence after a Greens MP, whose footage of burning methane on a Queensland river went viral, accused the government-funded research body of “making excuses” for the coal seam gas industry.
Jeremy Buckingham, a member of the New South Wales parliament’s upper house, posted the video, which showed him lighting the surface of the Condamine river with a barbecue lighter and sending flames licking around the boat, on his Facebook page on Friday. By Sunday it had been shared 13,000 times and had 2.2m views.
The CSIRO began studying methane seeps in 2012 in the Condamine river, which is near Chinchilla, about 300km west of Brisbane, after locals reported seeing bubbles. The gas is most evident at an area called Pumphole where the video was filmed. It is just over 5km from the gas field but there is a gas well within 900m, according to Buckingham.
Speaking to Guardian Australia, Buckingham said it was “implausible” that the gas flow was not linked to the coal seam gas industry, which expanded in the area in 2011.
“It would be the most remarkable coincidence that the very thing that we warned would happen has happened in the middle of a gas field and it’s totally unrelated,” he said.
But Professor Damian Barrett, research director of the CSIRO’s onshore gas programme, insisted it was “unlikely” that the gas seep was linked to fracking in the region.
Barrett said there were naturally occurring fissures in the rock in that part of the Darling Downs where, owing to the coal beds being less than 100m from the surface, methane had been known to leak out. At least four of those fissures are in a 3km stretch of the Condamine river, including Pumphole.
When even the über green Guardian dismisses an environmental scare story, that story is busted.
The video of the “burning river” publicity stunt: