It is a sad but well-known fact that the South Durban Basin is plagued by unemployment and impoverishment. The bright hopes of poverty alleviation which the proposed dig-out port once promised, never materialised. Yet now there are voices rejoicing at the closure of the Sapref refinery despite the obvious crushing socio-economic consequences involved.
In recent press articles and in the Caxton weekly of February 25, those endorsing Sapref’s closure cite pollution and health issues. At the same time, however, they are content to suggest that Sapref relocate the refinery. Such a view suggests double standards because the same health issues they condemn would then be inflicted on some other community.
It is also difficult to swallow the standard reference to negative health effects when since the apartheid years the population of the neighbouring communities has grown enormously while property owners have extended and upgraded their homes.
The claim that the refinery is promoting climate change is also a canard. There is no scientific evidence that fossil fuels influence climate change. Two warming periods occurred in the past 2000 years when fossil fuels were not in use: one during the late Roman period the other in the Medieval period. Climate change is a natural occurrence attested to by history.
Steven Koonin, physicist and engineering professor at New York University, undersecretary for Science in President Obama’s Department of Energy, is one of many scientists who rejects as alarmism the theory that fossil fuels are causing global warming. On Fox TV in June 2021 he pointed out that there was no change in the warmest temperatures over the past 60 years.
The opposition to fossil fuels is based neither on science nor history but on a misguided, socio-economically irresponsible agenda. Getting rid of the Sapref refinery will increase the fuel price, which will increase the cost of food and accelerate unemployment and impoverishment.