Fracking The Movie(s)

The technique of hydraulic fracturing - 'fracking' - is enjoying more than 15 minutes of fame with the release of several documentary films on the subject. So which are worth your time?

Fracking has a bad rep - but should it?
Peter C. Glover
On 21 June 2012 10:07

Just for good measure, hardly anyone has a good word to say for Gasland’s fearmongering. Contrary to Gasland’s assertion that “unregulated chemicals” are being poured into the ground, Truthland shows how 99 percent of fracking fluid is water and sand with the rest made up of, as one expert put it, “household dish detergent”. Moreover we are introduced to the industry’s own FracFocus website where Joe Public is plainly able to key in any well currently being fracked locally to learn the precise make-up of the hydraulic fracking fluid being used.  

Further we find that initial reservations and fears expressed by EPA officials, local farmers and even a community pastor in Texas, have all been laid to rest by energy companies clearly only too aware of the need to bend over backwards to engage with the concerns of local communities. And Truthland introduces us to a handful of the 600,000+ provided with new shale gas and oil jobs, including one gentleman standing in front of a sign on his farm reading “Gas saved our A$$”.  

The EID documentary goes on to show how impossible it is for fracking fluids pumped thousands of feet down to migrate through tons of solid rock to reach drinking water aquifers at 500 feet – pointing out how millions of wells have been fracked over decades without a single documented example of fluid migration to water aquifers. The strength of the reinforced steel used is also made abundantly clear when one engineer sets off explosives in the pipework, failing to even make a scratch.  

But Gasland’s scary image of ‘setting water on fire’ via a domestic faucet displays a gullible naivity in failing to understand how the natural phenomenon was present way before energy companies ever set foot on the land. Just for good measure, one local farmer demonstrates how methane in water is perfectly common and harmless drinking a glass of water from an aquifer where fracking is currently taking place.

When it comes to Fracking The Movie then, you can be sure of two things. First, the average media hack will likely characterize the pro and anti-fracking ‘movies’ as ammunition in a ‘propaganda war’. That may be the case with the anti-fracking movies, but it is far from the case with the pro-fracking responses. The fact is that Fox’s Gasland is replete with gross misrepresentations which both Truthland and Not Evil, Just Wrong have each labored to correct.

Second, don’t expect the upcoming Gasland II to correct the fearmongering of Gasland over flaming faucets, the migration of fluids through solid rock and its patent untruths alleging fracking fluids not being strongly regulated. When those with a hidden agenda – propagandists – are exposed by plain facts and reason they are rarely concerned to set the record straight.  Instead, they simply move on to entirely new sensationalist allegations.

My guess is Truthland – replete with hard facts – will have a tough time getting publicity, as helpful in the public interest as it is. And expect Fox’s as yet untitled Gasland II to major on the role of fracking ‘causing earthquakes’, even though the UK and US governments have already acknowledged that fracking is safe while occasionally causing minor ‘earth tremors’ akin to a heavy truck or subway train passing close by.

But hey, let’s not let facts get in the way of a good story. After all, Fox, Gasland and HBO aren’t in the non-fiction business. Like all sensationalist Hollywood blockbusters, galvanizing the gullible masses via fiction has always been a much easier “sell”.

For further reading: Gasland’s Fracking Nonsense, Ten Fracking Things Everyone Should Know.

Peter C Glover is the co-author, Energy and Climate Wars, Power Politics: The Inside Track On Energy or go to

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