Friday, 25 November 2016

Fracking Explained


            Fracking has become the talk of the moment recently. The debates surrounding it also makes it even more controversial. It is easy to find bad stories related to fracking. According to a report by Al-Jazeera, Barnhart, a town in Texas ran out of water because of its excessive usage of the town’s water supply: 3 to 8 million gallons per frack compared to around 100,000 gallons per drill using conventional wells (Gordon, 2015). The upheaval surroundings the fracking operation in the sacred land of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe has also been an important issue in this year’s U.S. election cycle. Jill Stein, a candidate from the Green Party, visited the protest site in a highlighted manner, pointing out to the lack of presence of president Obama by joining the protesters chanting “Where’s Obama?” (Wright, Watkins, 2016). The Guardian reported that some kids were given a gagging order for lifetime imposed under a settlement reached by their parents with a leading oil and gas company (Goldenberg, 2013). In terms of economic, experts argued against each other. Economists claimed that fracking might lessen the cost of oil production which will then help to ease the dependence on foreign energy source. There are also the risks that the non-production expense – cost outside direct production – such as potential environmental costs and political lobbying efforts might prove to be high enough for the industry. It is easy to get lost between those differing views. In order to fullygrasp fracking, we need to understand how it is operated and its impacts.
            Hydraulic fracturing or fracking is a method used by energy companies to extract gas and oil from shale rock. The first important things to do is to locate shale rocks which contain gas and oil. Next, companies will need to get a permit by settling the terms with the government. After the terms settled, companies will build on-site fracking wells. Fracking moves the resources from the pores of the rocks to production wells. It is done by injecting large volumes of chemical mix, mostly a substance called Brine – Sodium Cloride – down into the shale at high pressure. In order to do that, a huge amount of water needs to be transported to the site. For example, the wells extracting oil from the Haynesville Shale is estimated to use 5.7 million gallons (Nicot, Scanlon, 2012). The pressurized shale will then release the oil or gas trapped below so that it will be lifted by the well above. Lastly, the extracted resources will be transported to a refinery to be processed into use-ready energy sources and then shipped to consumers.
            Fracking could be the answer to the exorbitant trend in the rise of energy prices. For example, a study by The American Petroleum Institute shows that fracking could help reduce U.S.’s dependence on foreign oil by producing 600 trillion cubic feet – nearly 17 trillion cubic meters – of natural gas (American Petroleum Institute, 2014). By increasing production capacity, the revenue percentage of energy consumption might be allocated more towards domestic industry. Fracking could also help the economy by providing jobs. It is estimated by a conservative think tank National Bureau of Economic Research that the fracking industry could help create 640,000 jobs nationwide (Feyrer, Mansur, & Sacerdote, 2015).
            Despite such potential surplus to the economy, there are also big risks or even loss that go along with fracking. The recent plunging of oil prices might hurt the fracking industry. With oil prices standing below the breakeven point – $50 to $80 per barrel according to Fadel Gheit, a senior oil and gas analyst at Oppenheimer & Co (DiCristopher, 2016) –  at around $40 per barrel as of September 2016 (Kelly, 2016), it might prove a challenge for energy companies to expand. The area surrounding a fracking wells could also be affected negatively. A study in 2010 concluded that houses valued at more than $250,000 and within 1,000 feet of a well site saw their values decrease by 3 to 14 percent (Integra Realty Resources, 2010).
Aside from economical aspects, the case against fracking are also compelling because the use of fracking is extremely rife with environmental and safety concerns. Fracking use a lot of water compared to conventional drilling methods. It is estimated that around 3 to 8 million gallons are needed to perform one frack (ALL Consulting, 2009). Such excessive use of water might dry the surrounding region’s water supply, as shown earlier in the case of Barnhart, Texas. Fracking is also accused of causing earthquakes. The man-made phenomena are called ‘Induced Earthquakes’. The waste water from the injection process is thought to be the cause of minor induced earthquakes. A study by Southern Methodist University found that in Texas, there has been an increasing trend of earthquakes – around 2-12 events per year since 2008 -  that concentrated within a fracking wastewater disposal area (Frohlich, C. et al., 2016).
By studying how fracking works and analysing its effects, we can conclude that the true cost of fracking outweighs the reward it may bring. The high expense and unpopular opinion of fracking might prove to be too heavy for both private investor and government. Fracking in order to be a viable energy source needs to minimize risks, eliminate environmental expenses, and update its safety regulations. If those measures are not taken fast enough, fracking might be replaced by the growing renewable energy industries in the near future.

ALL Consulting. (2009, April). Modern Shale Gas Development in the United States: A Primer. (pp. 80-81). Retrieved September 25, 2016, from
American Petroleum Institute. (2014, July). Fracturing: Unlocking America’s Natural Gas Resources. (p. 2). Retrieved September 24, 2016, from
DiChristopher, T. (2016, January 11). Half of US shale drillers may go bankrupt: Analyst. Retrieved September 27, 2016, from
Feyrer, J., Mansur, E., & Sacerdote, B. (2015, October). Geographic Dispersion of Economic Shocks: Evidence from the Fracking Revolution. (p. 4). Retrieved September 24, 2016, from
Frohlich, C., Deshon, H., Stump, B., Hayward, C., Hornbach, M., & Walter, J. I. (2016, July/August). A Historical Review of Induced Earthquakes in Texas. Seismological Research Letters. (p. 2). Retrieved from
Goldenberg, S. (2013, August 05). Children given lifelong ban on talking about fracking. Retrieved September 27, 2016, from
Gordon, C. (2013, October 15). What happens when the wells run dry in West Texas? Retrieved September 27, 2016, from
Integra Realty Resources. (2010, August). Flower Mound Drill Site Study. (p. 9). Retrieved September 26, 2016, from
Kelly, E. (2016, September 23). Market Update: Oil Crumbles After Saudis Pull the Plug. Retrieved September 27, 2016, from
Nicot, J., & Scanlon, B. R. (2012, March 1). Environmental Science & Technology: Water Use for Shale-Gas Production in Texas, US, 3. Retrieved September 27, 2016, from Scanlon_ES&T_12_SI.pdf

Wright, D., & Watkins, E. (2016, September 7). Stein charged with mischief, trespassing after environmental protest. Retrieved September 27, 2016, from

Tuesday, 11 October 2016

Rembang Melawan, Rembang Menang

Foto: CNN Indonesia
Kawan-kawan yang baik, ada berita menggembirakan datang dari saudari dan saudara kita di Rembang dan Pati. PK (Peninjauan Kembali) yang diajukan oleh masyarakat Rembang dan Pati mengenai izin lingkungan pembangunan pabrik semen PT Semen Indonesia dikabulkan oleh Mahkamah Agung. Pengabulan PK tersebut praktis mencabut izin lingkungan sehingga segala aktivitas pertambangan karst harus dihentikan. Ini merupakan kedua kalinya PT Semen Indonesia dikalahkan di meja hijau, setelah sebelumnya ia digugat oleh warga Samin pada tahun 2009 - yang kemudian memaksanya untuk memindahkan lokasi pembangunan ke kecamatan Gunem, Rembang.
Kemenangan ini tentunya tidak bisa dilepaskan dari perlawanan-perlawanan diluar persidangan, seperti aksi massa dan propaganda secara masif lewat berbagai bentuk dan media. Berbagai kiat dilakukan oleh warga Rembang sendiri, seperti mengorganisir aksi-aksi di Rembang, giat mengisi kuliah di kampus-kampus, mendirikan tenda perjuangan, hingga mengecor kakinya di depan istana untuk memaksa presiden bertemu mereka. Hasilnya: pembuatan Kajian Lingkungan Hidup Strategis atau KLHS (pertama di Indonesia jika terealisasi) atas rencana pembangunan di Rembang. Hal itu menjadi inspirasi bahwa tidak ada perjuangan yang sia-sia.
Pelaksanaan putusan tersebut harus kita kawal dengan sangat ketat. Tentu masih segar dalam benak kita semua bagaimana penggusuran Bukit Duri tetap berjalan kendati proses gugatan di pengadilan belum selesai, atau hal serupa yang terjadi pada kasus eksploitasi bijih besi di Bangka oleh PT PPM. Sebuah putusan MA tak ada gunanya jika legalitas hanya digunakan sebagai alat represi bagi mereka yang kuat. Maka dari itu, pengabulan PK masyarakat Rembang dan Pati oleh MA harus menjadi katalis bagi kita agar lebih bersemangat dalam melestarikan bumi yang kita tempati bersama ini, sebab perjuangan belum selesai disini.


Tuesday, 28 June 2016

Paid Plastic Policy Is Ineffective To Combat Plastic Consumption

Since 21 February 2016, coincidentally with National Trash Day (Hari Sampah Nasional), the government implemented a new policy. Through the Surat Edaran or SE (Form Letter) SE-06 / PSLB3-PS / 2015 about Paid Plastic Policy as an Anticipation Measure on Modern Retails from the Ministry of Environment and Forestry (KLHK), the government officially implemented Paid Plastic Policy throughout Indonesia’s modern markets. The SE was actually signed on 17th December 2015 although only enacted in 2016. With this policy, the government decided to oblige consumers who shop in the modern retail market to pay at least Rp 200, - to get a plastic bag. This policy is applied to reduce the number of plastic consumption in Indonesia. According to a research by sciencemag, Indonesia is one country with the largest number of plastic consumption, which reached as much as 187.2 million tonnes, putting them in the 2nd position globally, after China which reached 262.9 million tons[1]. Of course this is also due to the high population figures, which numbered 255,461,700 based on a data from the Central Statistics Agency (BPS), dated July 1, 2015[2]. There is a correlation between these two things. Large population accompanied by a big consumptive behavior yet low environmental awareness are a strong factor that influenced plastic usage. Although the government implemented Paid Plastic Policy as a measure to reduce the consumption of plastics, it does not actually help much. Instead, it could also create some drawbacks. There are three main reasons why the Paid Plastic Policy is ineffective.
First, Paid Plastic Policy puts emphasis on the costumer, which is a wrong target. The use of plastic at the level of producer and distributor is actually higher than at the costumer’s. It is noted that plastic consumption of domestic industry reaches 3.6 million tonnes annually, and it goes up to 4.3 million tonnes with imported plastic included. In addition, Paid Plastic Policy violates Indonesian Government Regulation (PP) Number 47 of 2012 Concerning Environmental and Social Responsibility of Companies which asserts that social and environmental responsibilities are to be held by producers, not consumers.
Second, Regulation on the policy itself is still unclear. Until today (19/5), there are no rules to regulate the circulation of money made from the sales of plastic bag. According to Deputy Assistant of Waste Management Ministry of Environment and Forestry, Sudirman, since the SE issuance until May, there is no regulation that regulates the flow of funds from the sale of paid plastic bags[3]. On top of that, some local governments have also made some contradictory rules. For examples the mayor of Balikpapan issued his own SE. In his SE (Number: 005/0123/BLH concerning Reducing Plastic Bag Usage and Paid Plastic Bag in Balikpapan) it is mentioned that the government allows retailers to raise the price of paid plastic bags to Rp 1.500. This is a deviation from the SE from the ministry of environment and forestry which is the reference of the SE from the Mayor of Balikpapan itself. The mayor’s SE could also result in plastic bags being commodified, which is in contradiction with the purpose of the policy: combating plastic consumption.
Lastly, Paid Plastic Policy is an overstep because Indonesia still does not have an effective recycle system. Data from the ministry of environment and forestry shows that there is only 5% of waste got recycled[4], which is a very small amount. There are actually several attempts by the government to build a waste-based power plant. The first plan was made in 2012 by a subsidiary of PT Pertamina, but the plan was not even started until now. Earlier this year there was an ambitious plan by PT PLN to build waste-based power plants in seven cities, but there was no progress at all.
All of those reasons proves that Paid Plastic Policy is ineffective in the fight against plastic usage. Not only that, the policy is also unconstitutional because it goes against the law to burden its own constituents. Rather than putting a price on plastic bags, the government should instead go after big players and greatly optimize their waste management first before targeting consumers. It is their responsibility as our representative on a state level to deal with big corporations that use plastic in a very huge amount annually.

[1] (Accessed on May 8, 2016, at 12.46 WIB).
[2] (Accessed on May 8, 2016, at 13.28 WIB).
[3] Based on excerpts taken from the record of a public discussion in Universitas Indonesia held by BEM UI.

Wednesday, 27 April 2016


I'd like to think that my generation still have a shot at repairing this blue little planet that we lived in; both its scarred environment and its flawed society. Yes call me naive, but I love life :))

Monday, 18 April 2016

The Communal Utopia of Marinaleda

Marinaleda is a town located in Spain. Marinaleda supported around 2800 people. Led by the charismatic mayor, Juan Manuel Sanchez Gordillo, the village undergone a collective-coop experience. During the financial crisis in 2008, he organized the people to raid supermarkets and stored it in a newly-established local food bank. He said that “there are many families who cannot afford to eat,” he argued. “In the 21st century this is an absolute disgrace. Food is a right, not something which you speculate.” After that, he initiated the great experiment of collective living. Some media dub it the “communal utopia” of south Spain. There are several reasons why it is called that way. First, there were no unemployment in Marinaleda. Everyone worked in a collective-owned cooperative based on their own choosing such as olive plantations or some restaurants for tourists. Second, there were virtually no crime in Marinaleda. Police were unneeded there because people of Marinaleda relies on self-restrictions and vigorous ethical and principal educations which includes humanism, feminism, and tolerancy. Lastly, they live in a prosperous condition. During the crisis there were 690.000 empty properties, due to bank foreclosures. By now almost all of them has been turned into a productive collective space, mostly for agrarians. On top of that, everyone paid by a minimum wage of 1200 Euros. Marinaleda is a great place to live. It is quite inspiring for me because I realize that there is something wrong with an economic system in which food are plenty but so are the hungry.