"As the first country to reverse a moratorium on hydraulic fracturing – more commonly known as ‘fracking’ – South Africa is now poised to move forward with the controversial process, exploring what experts believe to be the eighth largest shale gas reserve in the world. For a country that is almost wholly dependent on coal production, shale gas development could be a game-changer. Yet, the possible environmental impacts could also be devastating. South Africa is poised to frack. This decision will require an evaluation of major trade-offs between economic growth and environmental protection. This brief suggests that fracking can be used to move towards a greener future. But this is far from guaranteed. Difficult decisions about water resources, taxation and investment must still be made. Owing to the potential damage fracking could have on South Africa’s scarce water supply, the brief argues that water use, disposal and possible contamination should be among the primary constraints on shale gas production moving forward. Uncertainties over regulation may also limit private sector investment. In addition, other factors – both positive and negative – undoubtedly exist that we can neither measure nor forecast. It’s important that if the South African government continues to push for fracking within the country, it must do so fully aware of not just the measurable costs and benefits but also the potentially unforeseeable consequences that models like IFs cannot address."