Thursday, August 27, 2015

Not Quite Fracking, but Close Enough

Cuba: Not Quite Fracking, but Close Enough
August 26, 2015
Rogelio Manuel Díaz Moreno

HAVANA TIMES — Some days ago, I wrote a post dealing with the use of
non-conventional techniques in the extraction of oil at Boca de Jaruco.
There, oil prospecting is being conducted by a joint operation
undertaken by the Cuban State company CUPET and the Russian consortium
Zarubezhneft. The piece had been prompted by a Cuban news report on the
application of a novel extraction technique that seemed very alarming to me.

From the exchange that followed the publication of my post, it became
clear to me that the procedure in question is not the notorious
fracking. It has some similar characteristics, such as the process of
injecting high-pressure water into the crust's' deep strata in order to
make fossil fuels flow out of them. The geological characteristics of
the soil, however, are not the ones typically involved in fracking, and
there are other operational details that are different.

I must acknowledge my mistake, even though I consider it more than
forgivable. If I were to put it in poetic terms, it is not a rose, even
though it has round red petals, thorns and the smell we expect from a
rose. It merely grows in a slightly different soil and the thorns are
subtly different. Any layman would get confused, particularly when the
gardeners tend to speak to us in a deceitful manner.

The vagueness of the report was cause enough for distrust. The expert
said they had to work with much caution, as the techniques in use "had a
bad reputation around the world." At no point did they go to the trouble
of explaining the technique was not fracking. In another official report
I came across, officials declared that "there are no saintly techniques,
all of them have pros and cons."

We can imagine what they mean by this. In societies with certain legal
guarantees, such as freedom of information, the ability to engage
government powers and elective mechanisms designed to approve or reject
certain policies, a public company cannot simply do as it pleases. In
such a context, if a controversial technological leap is about to be
made – be it the implementation of GMO agriculture, stem-cell research
or fracking – one has to work public opinion into the equation. That,
however, is far from our case.

If the executives of the CUPET-Zarubezhneft venture find nothing
intrinsically wrong with fracking, if a kind of sister procedure was
implemented in the Boca de Jaruco area, would anything have stopped them
from applying fracking techniques, if conditions allowed it? What
mechanisms, what channels, what "appropriate time and place" can people
in this country resort to in order to protest such a measure? This is of
course a much broader issue, as those people who are trying to raise an
ecological awareness in response to the use of transgenic crops, might
remind us.

I therefore want to answer the potential question as to whether I may
have gotten ahead of developments by condemning the use of fracking at
Boca de Jaruco. If we limit ourselves to the strict technical definition
of the term, the answer would be yes. However, this "injection of water
without fracking" will still cause adverse collateral effects. We still
face the question as to how severe these problems will be and who they
will affect.

If we do not limit ourselves to the narrow technical definition, if we
rather ask ourselves how Cuban public companies are administered and
run, how the population can have any say in the drawing of the
risks-benefits balance, the answer changes: we aren't getting ahead of
ourselves in the least. Quite the contrary: cases like this one reveal
just how far behind we are.

Source: Cuba: Not Quite Fracking, but Close Enough - Havana -

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