Public opinion in the UK has been hugely influenced by the movie “Gasland” which showed inter alia gas coming out of a domestic water tap (or as the Americans say, “faucet”) and being set alight. A dramatic image which has entered the public mind – and is replayed regularly by the BBC.
It was about time someone took a serious look at Gasland’s claims, and an Irish journalist, Phelim McAleer, has done just that. He’s made a film about it. It’s called “Fracknation”, and I saw it on Feb 8th at its Brussels première.
It systematically goes through Gasland’s claims, and knocks them down one by one. And Phelim McAleer also attempted to challenge the producer of Gasland, Josh Fox, who proved extremely reluctant to defend Gasland’s errors on camera. It was a bit like one of those BBC “Cowboy Tradesman” shows where the good guys chase the bad guys, who try to avoid facing the camera or answering the questions.
Take the “Burning methane out of the faucet” line. McAleer provides solid evidence that methane was found in tap-water and well water in the USA long before fracking was thought of. George Washington noted St. Elmo’s fire on the local marshes. The film shows a fountain fed from a well drilled early in the 20th century which has been playing, and burning, for years. This methane-in-water issue can arise either because ordinary water wells cut into gas-rich shale beds, or simply because organic material in the soil decomposes. There is no evidence of gas from fracking getting into water supplies.
Gasland features a household in Dimock, a small town in the Marcellus field in Pennsylvania, who have claimed that their well is polluted. We saw bottles of very murky water, but when Mr. McAleer asked to see some water from the well, it was clear. “Some days it’s dirty, some days it’s not”, they said. Both the State and Federal environmental regulators have checked this well, and both found it clear. But the household has a multi-million lawsuit against the utility company, so the cynic might wonder if they had an ulterior motive.
Meantime large numbers of citizens of Dimock say they’re very happy with the shale gas industry. We saw local farmers who say they might have gone out of business without income from shale. The State had proposed to provide a (very expensive) pipeline to ensure that the good folk of Dimock had a clean water supply, but local people mounted a vigorous and successful campaign against the pipeline, because they didn’t need it, and were perfectly happy with their wells.
Gasland features a rather lovely park in Los Angeles, Baldwin Hills Overlook, where according to Gasland, the air quality is so bad as a result of fracking that people get sick just by breathing the air. But McAleer filmed large numbers of hikers, joggers and tourists in the park, who insisted that the air there was wonderful, fresh and invigorating. Again, regulators have checked the air quality and identified no problems. It just isn’t true.
McAleer also interviewed seismology experts on the question of seismic events related to fracking. There certainly are very small tremors associated with the technique, but they are less serious than those associated with coal mining, or even with geo-thermal (which the Greens love to promote as a low-carbon energy source).
If you get a chance, do see this film with an open mind, and see whether you agree that we can’t afford to turn down the biggest economic opportunity for Britain since the North Sea. Find excerpts here. This is about jobs, and new businesses, and Treasury revenues, and energy security, and a strong balance of payments. This is about economic recovery on a grand scale. And quite possibly lower energy prices as well.
Oh, and in case anybody asks, Fracknation was not funded by “Big Oil”, or by the shale gas industry. It was funded by small donations from many thousands of concerned citizens (it’s called “crowd-funding”), who are quite rightly concerned that black propaganda from the Greens is threatening the prosperity of all of us, and making us too reliant on imports from politically unstable countries.