Thursday, February 27, 2014

TNB finds the source of the City of Cape Town's Logo Inspiration

The new city of Cape Town logo that was approved yesterday despite fierce public opposition appears to have had a precedent in the form of a simple stationary company.
Waltons supplies Summit stationary, the box of which was sitting upon my desk. I wonder if the marketing company behind the new City of Cape Town logo had a box of seedbags sitting on their desk?
The logos of the City of Cape Town with a stationary logo on the right overlaid.
Prices below reflect the estimated concept and design cost.
I took the liberty of overlaying the Summit logo over the City logo and found a remarkable fit. 97.3% fit to be exact. By scientific terms the probability of that happening by chance is almost inconceivable! I'm totally kidding of course. But here are some thoughts on the issue.

I don't think I'm mincing my words when I say the logo conjures up images of looking down a  meat-grinder.

The logo resembles cogs. Is Table Mountain just another cog in the works? A money making machine for the city? The former logo was flowing - more natural. This is hard, angled and engineered. Is there no room left in the new city dispensation for nature any more, or is nature going to only be allowed to survive if its planned and engineered soon?

Recalls to mind a scene I passed on the highway into town. The city cutting back the unruly sour figs that were spilling over the side of the wall and daring to encroach on the sharp lines of the brickwork. Actually it reminds me of the last vestiges of my guerilla gardening of some 20 rare species that were finally brushcut to non-existance two weeks ago next to the highway.

The steam-rolling out of the new logo at least is in keeping with their new motto - "Making progress possible. Together". It seems though that they forgot to ask a crucial question: is the progress is desirable, and at what cost - financial and otherwise?

So what does The Naked Bloganist think about the new logo? It doesn't matter what I think, because the logo was approved yesterday, the roll-out of the new logo will happen, and all the sheeple will be part of the governmental meat grinder, proudly sporting their new logo on uniforms, stationary, websites, banners, billboards... at a currently estimated cost of R7 million.

Twitter: @TNBloganist

Sunday, February 23, 2014

"Bridge Fuel" - Careless Talk Costs Actual Lives

When the current set of coal-fired power plant updates are completed in 2017, it is estimated that South Africa will derive 94% of its energy from coal (, and wrest the position from Australia as 7th highest producer of CO2 from power-generation in the world. Our award winning line-up includes a suite of mammoth coal-fired plants ranging from 4100-4800MW, including two of the 4th biggest coal-fired power plants in the world. Each of these plants produces more energy and pollution, and consumes more coal than America's largest power plant, the 3520MW Scherer Power Plant. This power plant is currently under investigation for for coal ash pond leeching, drinking water contamination, and air pollution (

A study in the USA by the Clean Air Task Force estimated that pollution from coal-fired power plants accounts for more than 13,000 premature deaths, 20,000 heart attacks, and 1.6 million lost workdays. The cost of this: an estimated $100 billion annually. This is about 1/4 of the annual GDP of South Africa. So unlike the air around these power plants, it is clear that the power-generating parastatal Eskom and our governmental representatives haven't exactly had our best interests - or at least our health at heart. But now they're looking to the future, in terms of air at least, a cleaner, fracked future. But is it cleaner, or is Susan Shabangu and Zuma doing the people and economy of South Africa another grave disservice by decisively pursuing fracking?

The jury is out. We should no longer condone the use of the term "bridge fuel" when cited in conjunction with fracking. Far from a "sturdy bridge to a cleaner energy future" as stated by the editor of the Wisconsin State Journal (, building an economy based on methane, together with its fracking bedfellow, appears to be an uncontrolled spin away from a healthy environment.

Romm has presented an excellent review of the amount of methane released during fracking, and the impact of that methane on global warming. The article is nothing short of breathtaking. By using fracking to extract methane as a "bridge fuel", the number of years before net climate benefits are achieved rapidly increases above 3% leaking rate. At a leakage rate of 5.4%, it would take 50 years for a full-replacement of coal plants with natural gas plants to show any climate benefits. At the same leakage rate, converting a fleet of either cars or trucks to Natural Gas would be worse for the climate for 140 years. However, given that the natural gas leakage rates from three separate NOAA studies were 4%6-12%, and 17%, its time to get VERY WORRIED about the promotion of natural gas as a "bridge fuel".

Figure: Maximum life-cycle natural gas leak rate as a function of the number of years needed to achieve net climate benefits after switching from coal power to natural gas. The three curves represent: single emissions pulses (dotted lines); the service life of a power plant, 50 years (dashed lines); and a permanent fleet conversion (solid lines). Image and caption from Romm, 2014.
The US is frequently touted as having slashed nearly 80 million tons of CO2 emissions in 2012 by replacing 160 million MWh of coal electricity with natural gas. That is significant, and could even warrant justification South Africa's own fracking pursuits... Were it not for these two offsets—methane leakage, and the replacement of hydro and nuclear by gas. These two offsets together wipe out the entire CO2 reduction from coal-to-gas fuel switching; methane leakage accounts for more than two thirds of that offset (
Romm's message about fracking as a "bridge fuel" is clear: "natural gas doesn’t just displace coal, it also displaces nuclear power, renewable energy, and energy efficiency. So it appears quite safe to say that natural gas simply has no net climate benefit whatsoever in any timescale that matters to humanity."

So, be careful when you use the B-F word. Careless talk costs lives!
Twitter: @TNBloganist

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Zuma's State of the Nation Rent-A-Crowd - An Environmentalists Critique

There was something mildly disturbing watching Zuma's speech. It was difficult to pin point exactly what it was. As his speech came to an end, and the entire crowd spontaneously and instantaneously gave him a standing ovation, it struck me like a cold shower after unprotected sex. Unless the show is outstanding, a standing ovation doesn't usually spontaneously erupt, it spreads with uncertainty. More like the sitting DA representatives who were shown to be looking around them as if to say what the hell are people standing for??? A crowd of overpaid fat cats doesn't just simultaneously and instantaneously rise en masse. For that matter, neither do they clap at 97% of all statements, adding enthusiastic assent to everything that is said. Clapping is hard work and painful. One metes out one's energy when appropriate, not at every haltingly stated sentence and phrase. No, Zuma's speech had the hallmark of a well-primed audience that was either paid to clap, had heavily vested interest in affairs of state, or threatened with something terrible if they didn't.

Zuma's speech was an unsurprising copy-paste of the ANC manifesto. So, what were the most scary statements about his speech? It seems that Zuma and his cronies are gearing up to rape once again. This time to rape the country of its mineral resources, and desecrate its natural resources in the process. This is a cynics take on statements made during the speech to support this argument.

On Priming the Country for Rampant Environmental Degredation

"Arising out of that process, we have now streamlined regulatory and licensing approvals for environmental impact assessments, water licenses and mining licenses. Parliament is finalizing amendments to the law to give effect to this very positive development, which will cut to under 300 days, the time it takes to start a mine, from application to final approvals. The Deputy President of the Republic continues to facilitate discussions between government, mining companies and labour."
i.e. We're going to ensure that EIA's cause no impediment for development, and are granted water and mining licences without due diligence having been done. We're paving the way for a mass takeover of vast areas of land by corporations.

"And more importantly, industrial relations processes are taking place in a manner consistent with the law. "
i.e. we're changing the law so that it is no longer illegal for industry to pollute, take land from people, and be unaccountable for health problems.

Local mining company near Tzaneen found guilty of environmental damage

"Having evaluated the risks and opportunities, the final regulations will be released soon and will be followed by the processing and granting of licenses."
i.e. Having weighed up the economic risks, with opportunities to make money - we will be uncritically granting licenses to oil industries. Has due diligence been done to the environmental and social risks. They cannot have been done, otherwise the government would not be proceeding with fracking with such zeal.

"Close to 1500 kilometres of new roads or lanes have been built."
Out of 362 000 km of South African roads, this is less than 0.5%. i.e. We've prioritised roads to allow access to mineral resources and coastal developments where previously they were undeveloped or developing slowly. Zuma - if you want to create jobs in the green sector that are sustainable AND positive, how about managing our extensive roadsides for biodiversity?

"We have to work more intensively to develop emerging or black industrialists."
i.e. We will be ensuring that key individuals gain financially from industrial operations like fracking, nuclear power stations, dam building, and manufacturing in general.

On Fracking

"We continue to explore other sources of energy, in line with the Integrated Resource Plan for Energy. The development of petroleum, especially shale gas will be a game-changer for the Karoo region and the South African economy. "
Game-change? Game-killer more like it given that the Karoo is a major source of our meat production. Its not Zuma's call to make whether it will be a game-changer. Its too dependent on gas prices and other uncertainties. What is absolutely certain is that it will have a huge and negative impact on the lifestyles of nearly every South African who passes through a fracked area.

With the uglification of vast areas, the release of trillions of litres of volatile toxins and greenhouse gases, the depletion and contamination of unfathomable amounts of water, displacement of people from homes and massively reduced property prices, the increase in meat prices, the loss of tourism to key areas in the karoo, and the increase in STD's to rural areas - few South Africans will remain untouched by Zuma's grand game-changer.

On Power Stations and Nuclear Power

"Construction is continuing at the new power stations, Medupi in Limpopo, Kusile in Mpumalanga and Ingula near Ladysmith, employing more than 30 000 workers. "
This is an example of unwelcome, misdirected development for the sake of jobs and handouts and payouts, at the expense of the rate-payer, the environment and our health.

"We expect to conclude the procurement of nine thousand six hundred megawatts of nuclear energy."
Zuma recently appointed himself as chair of the National Nuclear Energy Co-ordination Committee. And that "The National Planning Commission commissioned a study by the University of Cape Town's Energy Research Centre that recently found investment in nuclear power was unnecessary for 15 to 25 years and was not cost-effective" (

Alternative energy would provide jobs, provide increasingly cheaper and long-term energy, and once installed, provide free energy, not require ongoing input of costly coal or gas, not radically drive up the cost of electricity like the construction of Eskom's new power plants. In the light of these statements and in the face of the ongoing threat from Fukushima and cleanup costs that would cripple this country, it seems rash and foolish to be making bold statements about nuclear energy.

On GMO foods and pesticides
However, Zuma does point out the following:
"The first 88 smallholder farmers in this programme supplied the United Nations World Food Programme with 268 tons of maize and beans to send to Lesotho last month. We expect this number to increase."
Almost all our maize is currently GM. The growing body of evidence of impacts of pesticides and the consumption of GMOs on human health are alarmingly increasing.

On Corruption

"South Africans are united in wanting a corruption free society. Fighting corruption within the public service is yielding results. Since the launch of the National Anti-Corruption Hotline by the Public Service Commission, over 13 000 cases of corruption and maladministration have been referred to government departments for further handling and investigation."

Yes, but how many of these cases have resulted in satisfactory impeachment?
"1 542 officials were dismissed from the Public Service.
140 officials were fined their three month salary.
20 officials were demoted
355 officials were given final written warnings.
204 officials were prosecuted. "
This amounts to 2261 officials who have been removed from office or given a slap on the wrist for corruption. In many countries, fraud is a crime for which people are imprisoned. What is a fine of a three month salary, demotion, and written warning relative to the amount gained by fraud?

In spite of the enthusiastic canned clapping, an audible heckling was heard when when Zuma ironically spoke out about corruption. In light of the massive impacts on peoples lives and health that fracking would incur, combined with the ongoing critical lack of adequate health care, it seems that Zuma's penultimate statement: "South Africa is a much better place to live in now than it was before 1994", might be true - but not for much longer if South Africa's fracking and nuclear potential is allowed to proceed in the wild-west style that Zuma and his band of officials are racing towards.

Twitter: @TNBloganist

Thanks to Zapiro for the cartoons.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

View of Fracking in Cape Town

Citing American successes in the energy industry while downplaying their overt ecological steel-capped bootprint on the planet, South African politicians seem to be rubbing their hands with glee at the prospect of fracking taking place across VAST areas of South Africa. However, is the American model appropriate for South Africa? For your understanding, I have teleported fracking pads, and placed them to scale in the middle of Cape Town. Please, read on.

Last week, the minister of mineral affairs, Susan Shabangu, anounced her decision to "move ahead decisively, but responsibly with the exploration of shale gas" ( Fracking and drilling is now the 2nd biggest contributor to global warming in the US ( Fracking is not a "bridge fuel" but a bog-standard hydrocarbon gas mixture. With the venting and combustion of an estimated 400tcf (thats 450 TRILLION cubic foot) of gas reserves, this is nothing but irresponsible emmissions in the face of global warming.

There are countless reasons why fracking should not go ahead, which I have present below under two headings: confirmed/substantiated; and potential links.
Confirmed / Substantiated claims and direct links to fracking.

  • Fracking and drilling causes earthquakes (,
  • Fracking is linked to contamination of water supplies (, With this interactive map of fraccidents created by
  • Initial frac drilling is linked to release of endocrine disruptors (
  • Fracking releases more greenhouse gases than coal powered plants (
  • Fracking and drilling is the number two contributor to global warming in the US (
  • Fracking has caused a giant sinkhole (
  • Fracking fluids contain highly toxic chemicals that are linked to cancer, organ damage, nervous system disorders and birth defects (
  • Toxic fracking gases cause air pollution (
  • This report shows that regions where fracking takes place is linked to:
    • more social disorder arrests 
    • more cases of sexually transmitted infections
    • increased heavy vehicle traffic and heavy vehicle accidents that
      • have significant economic impacts
      • cause traffic and impact on lifestyles
      • increase response time of emergency vehicles
      • cause damage to roads and infrastructure with associated economic costs

Potential Links

  • Tourettes-like symptoms of 12 scholars possibly linked to fracking rigs in school yard (

But what I as a botanist and conservationist am primarily worried about, it is the desecration of vast areas of landscape through the installation an extensive network of roads, pipelines, fracking pads, and wastewater dams. In the words of an anonymous poster flying over Boulder: "The mountains over Colorado looked like a circuit board with veins interconnecting to blocks "pads". They are butchering the foot hills to the Rockies". This is not the USA with low post-glacial biodiversity. This is not Dakota with over 8000 fracking wells since six years ago, where over 1000 REPORTED accidental spills have taken place in 2011 alone! This is South Africa, land of biodiversity, home to the smallest floristic kingdom in the world, the Cape Floristic Kingdom, home to over 9000 species of which 70% occur nowhere else on earth. Compromising South Africa's biodiversity and lifestyle for something that Shabangu says "could be a game changer to South Africa's energy market" makes no sense.
Permain Basin oilfield, from Texas Oil: Landscape of an Industry. CLUI photo, Center for Land Use Interpretation

Juan Velasco produced this map of Dakota, in which he superimposed every well and its pipeline onto a map. As scary as that map is, as a South African, it is difficult understand and relate to the density of drilling pads. I therefore took the layout of the fracking pads, and superimposed them onto the SW Cape.

Position of well pads and wells from North Dakota superimposed onto the Cape

As you can see, the region from Cape Town to Montagu is barely recognisable. And this is just a small chunk of the extent of the total fracking within Dakota.

But fracking doesn't just affect the rural environment. It has knock on effects to cities too, with an impact on farming, and endocrine disruptors finding their way into livestock, the city food supply will be affect too. I therefore moved the grid so that a portion of it (still to scale) lay over Cape Town, and plotted each pixel within the area.

Pink dots represent Dakotan fracking pads superimposed on Cape Town

Finally, I took a view from Rhodes Memorial, found pictures of fracking pads using google images, and tried to position each well over its position, scaling it to approximately match its visual size at the distance from the photographer. The result gives a fair estimate of what you would see looking across a fracked Cape Flats. Three fracking pads would comfortably fit into Rondebosch Common in the middle of the photograph. Note that this shows only about 90 of the 250 rigs that would be in the line of site on a clear day with flat topography till the Hottentot Holland mountains, some 50km distant.

What if fracking in Dakota was done in Cape Town?

And in case you can't see them well-enough, at light they light up like a christmas tree.
Fracking flares
A fracking rig at night


Hypothetical fracking in the Cape Flats at pseudonightime

In the face of increasing evidence about the health implications of fracking, social cost of a fracking boom, and the economic cost of increased truck traffic, it seems like the government and Susan Shabangu are overly zealous in their pursuit of cheap energy. Cheaper energy and the promise of some jobs (mainly foreign) just doesn't cut it as a good enough reason to destroy the fresh air and sanctity of the Karoo and other areas of South Africa.

Alternative energy is already cheaper than coal and nuclear power in Germany, where they generate 25% of their energy from renewable sources (source: Yet South Africa has far more incoming solar radiation.
South Africa's immense solar potential

Additionally, there are several groups actively pursuing LENR (Low Energy Nuclear Reaction) technology. Last week Andre Rossi, the developer of one form of LENR sold his "intellectual property and licencing rights" and to an American company: Industrial Heat LLC. Should they develop the technology rapidly and responsibly, it has every chance of sounding the death nell for a carbon based economy.

So we need to act hard, and we need to act soon to stop fracking exploration from beginning. Learn from Dakota: within less than seven years, it went from virtual darkness to city-like brightness due largely to the fracking boom.
"That's not a city; and those lights weren't there six years ago"

And if you still think that fracking is an acceptable "intermediary", watch this.

Its time to make a stand! Renew your vow to boycott Shell today until they pull out of fracking in South Africa. 
Contact me on with ideas on what can be done.
Twitter: @TNBloganist