The most amazing thing about Josh Fox’s anti-fracking documentary Gasland is that despite valid factual criticisms of the film, he forged ahead and made a sequel. Hollywood loves the war on fracking because at first glance, it looks like big oil getting rich by destroying farmland. Matt Damon made a movie about it, The Stones wrote a song about it, Mark Ruffalo is on a crusade to stop it, and Yoko Ono took out a full-page ad in The New York Times insisting we “Don’t believe the hype.”
Before the sequel, Fox doubled down on his hysteria and pinned breast cancer on natural gas mines, a hypothesis that according to one epidemiologist was “not based on a careful statistical analysis of the data.” However, bleeding hearts don”t like statistical analysis. They want color, and seeing Pennsylvanians light their tap water on fire is all the proof they need. Hey, Debra Winger, Robert Redford, and Mario Batali“naturally occurring methane is what allows people to light their tap water on fire. That’s why the gas companies chose to drill there in the first place, you fools.
The Irish have been accused of “never letting the truth get in the way of a good story,” but Irishman Phelim McAleer has been ramming the truth into Gasland‘s good story since it came out. His new documentary FrackNation carefully exposes the holes not only in the Gasland films but also in the entire debate. Of course there is a risk with fracking. There is a risk with going to the grocery store. But fracking is one of the least dangerous ways to get gas from the ground. That’s why it’s been done since the 1940s all over the country. Fracking is used in about 90% of American wells. You”ve probably benefited from it today. As Obama said while discussing the 600,000 jobs fracking will potentially create by the end of the decade, “We have a supply of natural gas that can last America nearly 100 years.”
Phelim’s documentary is doing well with sold-out shows across the country and rave reviews. But being the fighting Irishman that he is, he is not satisfied with that and keeps confronting Fox and the anti-frackers everywhere they go. In 2011, he confronted Fox at a speech and asked, “Isn”t it true that there were reports decades before fracking started that there was methane in the water there?” In 2012 he asked Matt Damon about the Arab interests who funded Promised Land. A couple of weeks ago, he was ejected from the Gasland sequel for “being disruptive” along with many other journalists and activists who are now planning legal action.
I called one of the protesters who was booted. Chuck Petersheim is a builder in upstate New York on the border of Pennsylvania where this debate is polarizing the community. He admits they got confrontational after being asked to leave but says it was “child’s play” compared to what the anti-fracking movement does. “Their whole movement is based on disruption,” he said, “from town-hall meetings to actual mines. They”re insane.” Chuck started out as an opponent of fracking back in 2008 but says the debate has changed. Chuck’s new take on fracking is not popular with the area’s middle-class weekenders. “The new left seems incapable of nuance,” he says. “I”ve been getting Google alerts on the subject for the past six years and I read them all. If more people just looked it up, we”d have a much more rational discussion, but they can”t. They have their heroes and their villains and they”re too busy to disturb that fairy tale. This is a national opportunity for energy independence, for chrissakes.”