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South Africa’s advertising watchdog ordered oil giant Shell on July 13 to withdraw its claims in newspapers about its use of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, to explore gas in the Karoo, a semi-desert wilderness.
The Advertising Standards Authority described the adverts as “misleading”. Activist body Treasure the Karoo Action Group (TKAG), which believes fracking will damage the Karoo’s delicate ecosystem, had complained that Shell had underplayed the possible impacts of fracking.
“It is critical that with an issue so important to South Africa as fracking the public is not misled, as Shell clearly intended in its advertising,” says TKAG’s Jonathan Deal. Karoo farmers and conservationists are also concerned about the effects of the process in which drillers blast millions of litres of water, sand and chemicals into underground rock to create cracks for gas and oil to escape.
Bonang Mohale, head of Shell in South Africa, denied trying to mislead the public. “The adverts were a technical statement of our understanding of the implications of shale gas exploration in South Africa,” Mohale said.