Power play: The energy conundrum facing South Africa — and the world

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South Africa appears to be discovering sources of energy, just as the clamour for migration to renewable energy is gaining momentum. 

The global oil company, Total, has found gas in the area around Mossel Bay and could begin extraction fairly soon. In about 2010, another multinational oil company, Shell, stumbled upon possible gas and oil reserves along the Wild Coast. 

While Total is in the early stage of public consultations, Shell’s efforts have ground to a halt. It got entangled in legal action that was instituted by various stakeholders. All this is happening within the context of the energy crisis, record unemployment and disastrous weather patterns that have wreaked havoc.

The ensuing debate has pitted the dire need to create opportunities for the multitudes of unemployed against protecting the environment to insulate ourselves, and the rest of humanity, against the vagaries of global warming. Which route to follow has become a pressing question that requires urgent resolution. It may well be that the manner in which the debate is framed has also created a false dichotomy. Could it be that we need not choose one option over the other, but simply pursue both these imperatives in a particular sequence?

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