OPINION - As an importer of crude oil, South Africa is subject to the vagaries of market fluctuations in the oil price.

And with demand for petroleum products predicted to increase significantly in the coming decades, our exposure will only become worse.

It is therefore important that the country seeks other energy sources like natural gas, or its own sources of oil.

In this regard, South Africa can benefit immensely from the discovery of gas reserves off neighbouring Mozambique, where international companies are constructing facilities to harvest these reserves.

And there are also moves to explore the waters off KwaZulu-Natal to see if similar riches are hidden here.

However, residents of affected areas and environmentalists are adamant that the real wealth lies not in whatever oil or gas may be found, but in the abundant marine life supported by the Indian Ocean.

They say that even exploratory drilling will have devastating effects on marine plant and animal life.

On the other hand, the government’s “Operation Phakisa” policy, which aims to grow the ocean economy, contemplates developing the oil and gas industry as a key initiative, and could potentially provide much needed jobs.

This is a hugely emotive issue with important, valid arguments on both sides.

Catastrophic accidents in the industry justifiably give pause for thought.

Daily News