Jeff Barbee is in town this week

Frack Free SA has arranged screenings of the fascinating film High Cost of Cheap Gas across the KZN Midlands and Eastern Cape and Jeff will be in attendance to answer all your questions.

The High Cost of Cheap Gas is a story about how the lessons learned in Colorado’s west can help inform smart decisions about how to control hydraulic fracturing as it starts to roll out across the world.  Presented and directed by Colorado native Jeffrey Barbee, he and Producer Mira Dutschke travel around the world in search of the real facts behind this controversial business. From secret drilling operations in Africa’s best protected parks to new information about how fracking affects unborn children in Parachute Colorado this is a hard look at an industry that is globalizing. Distributed through the Basalt-based not-for-profit foundation Alliance Earth, this film shares the hard lessons learned from gas drilling in Colarado’s arid west with the rest of the world.

Mooi River Monday 11 April 17h00 – 18h30 Mooi River Farmers Hall Tony Le Roux 033 263 1404

Greytown Tuesday 12 April 14h30 – 16h00 Town Hall Greytown Bell Street Theresa Edwards 060 672 7240

UKZN – Pietermaritzburg Wednesday 13 April 13h00 – 14h30 Colin Webb Hall, Main Campus, King Edward Avenue Adrian Nel 072 643 8114

Happy Earth Festival – Pietermaritzburg Thursday 14 April 10h30 – 12h00 KZN Botanical Garden Pandora Long 072 692 8124

Matatiele Friday 15 April 11h00 – 13h00 School Children 18h00 -20h00 Community King Edward School, Main Street Nicky McLeod 082 782 6067

Kokstad Saturday 16 April 10h30 Piet Bosman Community Cinema, Kokstad Piet Bosman 071 036 1408

Director Jeffrey Barbee is a journalist from Aspen Colorado, based in Johannesburg, South Africa.  He works for Global Post, the UK Guardian and Reuters. His environmental reporting also appears in the New York Times, NOS Tv Holland, Smithsonian Magazine, RTL News, PBS, Time Magazine, Newsweek and Vanity Fair.

Jeff Barbee

Producer Mira Dutschke has a masters degree in Human Rights Law and 10 years international research experience. Currently she is producing media investigating human rights and environmental issues. She is a also a part-time lecturer at the University of Cape Town, teaching human rights and advocacy for the Masters in Child and Maternal Health.

Mira Dutschke

You are encouraged to ask Jeff questions about the film and fracking when you meet him.  We asked him why he decided to make a film on fracking:

Jeff:  Originally I come from Colorado’s far west, where we have been faced the oil and gas industry drilling for the last 20 years.  When I started hearing about gas drilling here in southern Africa many of the same arguments were being used, almost like they were lifted out of the same phrasebook that was used on my community 20 years ago.  In Colorado we have some of the highest rates of birth defects in the USA now, and many researchers believe gas development is responsible for them.  We also have witnessed the collapse of our farming community, our land prices and the housing market.  The successive booms in drilling have brought in hard drugs, the sex trade and crime to an area that was devoid  of these problems.  Now that the good gas is all drilled the community is left with the mess.  Mira and I made this film because we felt it would be a grave injustice if we did not share this knowledge with the people around the world who are facing gas drilling, so they could make better decisions, informed by the experience of a similar community in the USA.

Jeff Barbee Filiming Drill Rig

South Africa is very lucky in that  there is a long history of conservation here.  People from all walks of life believe that environmental protections are very important, not just for the sake of our health but because they love their Karoo, they enjoy bird watching, hiking in the Kruger, having a picnic by the Limpopo next to a hippo pool, or any one of thousands of ways to experience this beautiful country. Throughout the world there is a rising understanding of the need to move our economies more in-line with preserving the biosphere that gives us life.  I think Southern African should be very proud that here people are already global leaders because they have stood up and fought, and we need to make sure that that narrative is shared, through art, through film, and through real success stories that happen here every day.

Karoo resevoir, farmer and wind pump

A very surprising thing we found from scientists that we met from The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and many others; these massive gas projects are leaking between an average of 7-8% of all the gas they produce straight into the atmosphere, negating the effects of burning natural gas instead of coal to control global warming.  It seems impossible to stop these leaks.

The other main points we make are:

  • Fracking has been happening in Botswana for almost ten years, even inside the Central Kalahari Game Reserve, and is planned or is already happening in Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park and Chobe National Park.
  • The economic benefits of Shale Gas are heavily exaggerated by industry.
  • The gases that escape with the methane  cause cancer and birth defects.Fracking has polluted drinking water in five states in the USA.
  • The gas industry first pollutes the political process before anything else so that it can craft regulations favorable to it.

jeff barbee interview

We have had such a huge interest ever since we released parts of the film to the national media.  People from all walks of life are hungry for good information. Its also very important to point to out that had South Africans not stood up and fought for their Karoo for the last five years, large-scale fracking would probably already be happening.  People here are proud, and value community, water and farming as an honor and a right to pass on to further generations.    Its important to remember that many people in government share this same pride, and know that the dead-end story of the non-renewable petroleum industry is already being eclipsed by some of the most profitable renewable energy plans in the world like the wind and solar plans being built today in the Karoo.

The people of the Karoo and and Kalahari made a profound impact on us. They have shown what it means to find joy and success in our daily survival.  The cycle of life in southern Africa’s deserts is raw, free and open.  The peoples here taught me to judge others on their strengths, their abilities, and their character.  Though poor in rands they are powerful in spirit, and the fact they have successfully stood up to the biggest industrial lobby in the world only reinforces that belief.  I have had the honor of spending lots of time in the Karoo appreciating the world’s most diverse desert.  One evening the sun had set and the strong band of yellow afterglow of her passing sat bright on the horizon fading to black.  The shadow of the earth had come up and glittering stars were popping out in the east above the dark and black dolerite mountains.  In the far distance a group of jackals yipped and howled with their chortling laughter and the evening stretched out into infinity, filled with the scent of budding plants after the first wash of spring rain.  One of our bushmen friends said the sky was no boundary between people, and that evening I understood this a little.  Time seemed to stop. That evening looms as large in my memory.   South Africans are not facing the gas and oil industry alone, we all share this Earth and we are all in this together.  We stand together.
sheep farmer karoo

We don’t think anyone really understands the consequences of fracking.  The late Dr. Gerrit Van Tonder from the University of Free State told me that from his research he believed all of the drills stems will eventually leak gas and chemicals within 50-100 years.  Who will take responsibility for our grandchildren’s water if not us? It is clear that we don’t understand the way groundwater works in the Karoo, or even in Colorado, where we have been drilling for decades.  Our team will continue to work towards making sure that the public, the press, civil society and government are all informed about this industry so that everyone can work to make collective decisions that make us all healthier and happier.

Jeff and Mira raised some funding through social media platforms and we got a portion of the production budget from the Open Society Initiative and Basalt-Colorado based Alliance Earth, an independent not for profit environmental  and scientific reporting initiative. Much of the film was self-funded, so please remember to pop a generous donation in the box at the screenings to help pay for Jeff’s costs in coming to share his experiences and expertise with us.  Perhaps you can help us get the word out, plan screenings, or contribute in some way?  This is a team effort and we welcome everyone’s help. For information on how to arrange a screening of a fracking movie in your community, please email

Learn more about The High Cost of Cheap Gas on Facebook or  You Tube or by the movie from Alliance Earth

high cost of cheap gas


The High Cost of Cheap Gas

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