Panel discussion #3 Fossil Gas is Not Clean

6 - 8 pm

online event, English language

The documentation of the event can be found here

GUESTS: Christopher Basaldú, Rachel O’Reilly, Esteban Servat, MODERATION: Sumugan Sivanesan (Black Earth Kollektiv)

Over the past decade, what is commonly referred to as ‘natural’ gas has come to be framed as a fuel to bridge the transition towards a fossil-free energy future. Because gas produces around half as much CO2 emissions than coal when burned, it is widely framed as a cleaner, alternative source of energy. However, this does not take into account its entire life cycle. ‘Natural’ gas is fossil gas. Its production releases methane into the atmosphere, a far more potent greenhouse gas than CO2. Methane emissions are caused by deliberate venting or flaring, as well as by leakage at all stages of production, storage, transport, and consumption. Liquified natural gas (LNG) involves an especially energy-intensive procedure, as the fossil fuel must be cooled to -160°C to reach its compressed and liquefied form. LNG can be shipped over long distances without pipelines–the tankers used for transport are in turn powered by gas or heavy oil.

Despite its de facto negative climate balance, fossil gas, like nuclear energy, was defined as sustainable by the European Commission at the beginning of 2022. This classification promotes investments in the expansion of climate-damaging fossil energy projects. In order to become less dependent on Russian gas supplies, Germany is now pushing ahead with the completion of import terminals in Wilhelmshaven, Brunsbüttel, and Stade to expand the supply of LNG in the mid-term. What places and lifeworlds lie on the other side of corporate fossil fuel supply chains?

In this panel discussion, common rhetoric around the topic of ‘natural’ gas – also with regard to the transition to fossil-free gases – will be critically examined with a particular focus on the production of unconventional gas, which forms an increasing share of total gas consumption. Hydraulic fracturing (fracking) is an energy-intensive technology that is extremely harmful to human and environmental health. It is banned in most parts of Europe. Still, the European economy benefits from the willingness of other nation-states and energy companies to exploit unconventional gas deposits while completely disregarding highly concerning consequences for land, water, and more-than-human communities in the vicinity. Unconventional gas extraction goes hand-in-hand with ongoing settler-colonial violence, as nation-states such as Australia and the US speculate on energy security concerns and potential export markets. In this panel, attention will be given to the expropriation and misuse of land and water, as corporate power and colonial continuities are confronted by sovereign Indigenous legal systems and calls for climate and environmental justice.

Christopher Basaldú, PhD, is Esto’k Gna (human being), a member of the Carrizo Comecrudo Tribe of Texas. Dr. Basaldú grew up in Brownsville and in Corpus Christi, Texas, before earning the degree of Bachelor of Arts in the Study of Religion from Harvard University. He then earned the degrees of Master of Arts in American Indian Studies and the Doctor of Philosophy in Anthropology, both from the University of Arizona. Dr. Basaldú currently lives in Brownsville and proudly stands with his tribe and community to protect sacred sites, sacred homelands, and sacred waters.

Rachel O’Reilly is an artist, writer, independent researcher, curator, and educator born in Gladstone, Queensland, Australia on the unceded lands of the Gooreng-Gooreng people. Her work explores relationships between art and situated cultural practices, media philosophy, and political economy. In the last decade she has focused increasingly on infrastructures of art and energy, questions of law and governance, and urgencies of planetary survivance. Her artistic research project The Gas Imaginary (2013-2019) used poetry, animation, installation, documentary filmmaking, and public lectures to explain the racial and ecocidal logic of ‘unconventional’ fossil gas fracking expansions in settler colonial space. O’Reilly teaches at the Dutch Art Institute and is a PhD researcher at the Centre for Research Architecture, Goldsmiths, London.

Esteban Servat is a scientist and exiled environmental activist from Argentina. After a decade of working in the Silicon Valley, he returned to Argentina to build a self-sustaining community. When the government brought fracking into the region, which is part of Vaca Muerta, Servat became an activist. As a co-creator of EcoLeaks and instigator of a massive anti fracking movement, Servat became the target of government attacks and was ultimately forced to leave the country. From Europe, he has continued his activism, building networks to connect environmental groups across continents and contexts. He has initiated and helped to build movements and networks such as Shale Must Fall and the Global Coastline Rebellion.

Sumugan Sivanesan is an anti-disciplinary artist, researcher, and writer. Often working collaboratively, his interests include political ontology, activist media, minority politics and more-than-human rights. He is currently developing fugitive radio as a platform for migrant, anticolonial and queer issues and music in Helsinki and beyond. In Berlin, he is part of Black Earth, a collective addressing the interacting issues of racism, gender, colonialism and climate justice. Sumugan earned a doctorate from the Transforming Cultures research centre at the University of Technology Sydney (2014) and was a post-doctoral researcher at the Institute for English and American Studies (Cultural Studies), University of Potsdam (2016) to research Urban Eco-politics of the Anthropocene.

This event is part of the project Fossil Experience by Prater Galerie. More information about the exhibition and program can be found here.

Fossil Experience is supported by Stiftung Kunstfonds, LOTTO-Stiftung Berlin, and the Senate Department for Culture and Europe, kindly supported by Förderband Kulturinitiative Berlin and Schankhalle Pfefferberg.

Media partner: