Fracking goes to Hollywood

You can guarantee that when Hollywood signs up to any liberal-left cause celebre, the first casualty will be the truth

Matt Damon's new film, Promised Land, is part-funding by Big Oil
Peter C. Glover
On 22 October 2012 10:43

You can guarantee that when Hollywood signs up to any liberal-left cause celebre, the first casualty will be the truth. Yet even though the liberal-left, urban Hollywood elite want to be perceived as being on the side of ‘small town America’, they consistently end up proving they are the very opposite – and completely out of touch with the real world.  

On that score, Matt Damon’s personal investment in the upcoming anti-fracking (hydraulic fracturing) movie Promised Land, yet again, proves the case.       

Scripted by Damon himself, along with fellow star John Krasinski (Jim Halpert from The Office), the pair billed the movie as about “American identity ... and what defines us as a nation”. So pleased were the Hollywood producers with the concept and script that the project has been promoted as a potential Oscar winner.

But as Damon’s movie was in production, journalist and producer of FrackNation, Phelim McAleer, broke the news that Promised Land was actually an anti-fracking movie. And during shooting, real world events began rolling in, forcing frantic re-writes as courtroom after courtroom and report after report confuted all of the major concerns of the anti-fracking eco-activists.

Worse, they found anti-fracking activists and movies, like Josh Fox’s Gasland guilty of blatant fraud and misrepresentation.

McAleer has further noted how the story of Dimock, Pennsylvannia was almost certainly the inspiration for Promised Land. Eleven Dimock families had claimed that their water and lives had been destroyed by the arrival of the shale gas industry. They insisted that (equally concerned) EPA scientists investigate.

They did – and found no evidence whatsoever of water contamination. Other major concerns – including the common incidence of natural and harmless methane in water which was present before the gas companies arrived – have also proved groundless.

Unfortunately, all this meant that Promised Land was increasingly light on real world facts. Not that that has ever been an impediment to the Tinsel Town fantasy machine.   

So with the central message lacking credibility – and a lot of investment at stake – McAleer has revealed that that the movie-makers had to switch target. Instead of the fracking process per se they came up with a plot-line that suggests sinister Big Energy companies were employing undercover agents to discredit the environmental movement. It seems to me that eco-activist celebrities like Damon are perfectly capable of discrediting themselves without any ‘paid’ help from the energy industry. But again I digress; back to the plot.

In the final movie script, Damon’s gas salesman character finally exposes Krasinski’s character as working as a secret agent for the energy industry to smear its fracking opponents. Ah yes, if you can’t win on the facts, insinuation, innuendo, and propaganda is the time-honoured tradition for ideologues.

The only thing that’s really eco-friendly is the recycled Hollywood plot-line. Young man loses values – then finds them again; commercial industry is always evil; young man saves the day by outing the ‘hidden agenda’ of corporate greed. Yawn.  Conspiracy has always played well at the box office.

But there’s one other thing that prospective audiences should know about Damon’s movie – it is actually part-funded by Big Bad Oil interests. Image Nation Abu Dhabi, one of three production companies backing the movie, is a subsidiary of Abu Dhabi Media, which is entirely state-owned. Abu Dhabi of course, is a major world oil producer as well as the capital of OPEC itself.

Both OPEC and Abu Dhabi plainly have a major stake in undermining the success of shale gas extraction and especially Western public confidence in the fracking technique that makes it possible. Abu Dhabi officials couldn’t care less about the environmental effects of fracking. But they do care a great deal about the 2.7 million barrels of crude the state produces per day, 2.6 of which is for export.

While fracking per se is not, for them, the villain of the piece, the issue of booming US production of shale gas and oil is. Shale gas and oil discoveries in the West are already threatening to put an end to OPEC’s economic and political despotism.  The last thing OPEC’s members want is an enforced cutback in their production – and their income.  It is not hard to see why the non-democratic tyrannies that run OPEC are quite prepared to invest in, and use, naive Hollywood ideologues for their own ends.

The science writer Michael Crichton has observed that, “The greatest challenge facing mankind is the challenge of distinguishing reality from fantasy, truth from propaganda.”  Let’s face it. Hollywood movies have never had much of a track record when it comes to recognising the distinction.

Phelim McAleer gets to the real nub of the distorted eco-propaganda against shale gas production when he notes, “There is a war going on in parts of America between impoverished locals and urban elites. These elites are using fraud, exaggeration and celebrity star power to stop rural communities prospering through gas drilling.” There’s really no argument here. The courts and report after report, even the environmentalists at the EPA, have disproven claim after spurious claim by anti-fracking opponents.  

Of one thing you can be sure, however. Come Oscar night, in any Damon ‘acceptance’ speech, you can bet you won’t hear Abu Dhabi oil money listed among the credits.

Peter C Glover is the International Associate Editor, Energy Tribune and a writer & author on international affairs. For more:

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