Hollywood’s Fictionalizing Fiction of Fracking
Now that the publicity surrounding the doomsday scenarios surrounding December 21, 2012 have been proven wrong and the holidays are nearly behind us, commercials highlighting the release of the movie Promised Land have been popping up occasionally on television and in certain tag ads on websites. The film stars Matt Damon who plays one of two salesmen who seek to buy drilling rights on the properties of local residents of a rural town adversely affected by the economic downturn.
Promised Land seems to be based on the Oscar nominated documentary Gasland which follows the travels of film maker Josh Fox. In 2008, Fox was offered almost $100,000 for drilling rights on his family’s land. He then decides to travel to different parts of the country where similar fracturing (a.k.a. fracking) is taking place. While doing so, Fox uncovers what seems to be greedy oil and gas companies defrauding people out of their property rights by enticing them to allow natural gas removal on their land. This also includes portraying companies knowingly laying waste to what was pristine scenery while affecting the health and safety of homeowners (including animals).
While the oil and gas industry howled at its claims, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences was supportive enough of Gasland that in 2010 it was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Documentary. Fortunately, the Oscar went to another film. And I say fortunately, not just because (like Ayn Rand) I am a radical for capitalism but that it was later determined that Josh Fox fictionalized and misrepresented (i.e. lied) most, if not all, of the statements he made in his movie.
While doing the research for this essay, I looked up and read claims and counter claims from both Joshua Fox and the oil and gas industry. The best independent source that I could find that confirmed my suspicions about Josh Fox’s claims was from a newspaper you might not expect whose article simultaneously upheld the rebuttals made by the gas industry: The New York Times. The Grey Lady‘s article refuting Gasland is a masterpiece of investigative journalism with point-by-point answers to Josh Fox’s accusations in his leftist cinematic hit piece.
The question of fracturing was taken up in other areas of the world and the practice has been found to be completely safe. A review by England’s Royal Society and the Royal Academy of Engineering determined that overall the practice of fracturing is safe. The report states:
We found that the most common areas of concern, such as the causation of earthquakes with any significant impact or fractures reaching and contaminating drinking water, were very low risk.
When the issue came up in the state of New York due to companies looking to remove oil and natural gas in shales located in that state by using fracking, a University of Buffalo funded peer-reviewed study said the practice is safe due to recent improvements in the procedure’s implementation.
Josh Fox intentionally lied about the issues surrounding fracturing in his movie Gasland. This is evidenced not only by The New York Times review of the issues his movie raises, the conclusion of studies done about the procedure but also due to a recent event that took place in a town where Gasland was filmed. In one segment of his documentary Fox visited the town of Dimock, Pennsylvania in which he interviewed residents of the town who expressed concern about fracking’s affect on their water supply due to foul-smelling, cloudy water townspeople state was coming up since an oil company began drilling. A recent study done by the Environmental Protection Agency states that the town’s water is safe to consume.
Promised Land is a fictionalization of Fox’s fiction and it is small wonder that the movie being financed largely by the United Arab Emirates which is the world’s second largest exporter of oil. Since the United States is abundant in oil and natural gas with the potential to be a major exporter of both resources in the very near future, the U.A.E. must see the enhanced availability of it due to fracking in the United States as a threat to their market share. Consequently, Middle Eastern oil exporting countries attempt to undermine the U.S. corporate efforts to extract oil and gas from shales by financing the means in hopes of influencing public opinion to halt the practice.
In the case of removing oil and gas deposits by fracturing it is a win-win for both sides. But since some sort of financial gain is involved, environmentalists and their liberal allies in the entertainment industry reel against this prospect. It is in a company’s interest to make sure it does not abuse or seriously damage the areas being tapped for oil, gas, or any other resource since said area can contain products that could later be used in the same region. Companies can be held responsible in the public arena by having their reputation tarnished including having torts brought against them in a court of law for violating the property rights of owners in the areas they are conducting operations. In terms of shales being tapped for oil or natural gas property owners are given generous compensation agreements as well as terms by companies to ensure their property is preserved so that minimal damage is done since liability and reputation are major factors.
Both Gasland and it’s sister film Promised Land should be rejected not just for the lies the movie’s transmit but also since their premise is driven by environmentalist hatred of mankind to be able to prosper and live.