It’s difficult to underestimate the damage done to American energy policy from the 2010 documentary, Gasland. In the Oscar nominated film, director Josh Fox makes a number of allegations against the industry that have since been roundly disproven. His iconic shot of a Colorado homeowner lighting tap water on fire was fully investigated by the State of Colorado Department of Natural Resources, which ruled out natural gas development as a cause of methane migration into the well.
Now comes a response in the same media as the allegations. Controversial filmmakers and husband and wife team Phelim McAleer and Ann McElhinney have announced plans to produce a new documentary, called FrackNation, which seeks to tell the real story behind natural gas development and how it’s positively impacting our nation, our economy, and our environment. To jump start the project, Phelim raised money on the popular crowdfunding site, Kickstarter.com.
To gain Phelim’s insights, we recently caught up with him for an interview:
Editor: Phelim, tell us a little about FrackNation and what motivated you to make it?
Phelim: It started when I went to a Q&A session with Josh Fox and asked some difficult questions. He admitted he knew that people could light their drinking water on fire out West, well before fracking came to the area. When I asked him why he didn’t include that fact in the film, he said it was irrelevant. I posted the video of his admission on YouTube and he got his lawyers to take it down. He censored me. I realized there was a good story here that could be told through a documentary.
Editor: Why do you think your documentary is important?
Phelim: People want to know the facts and they do not like to be deceived. In my opinion, Josh Fox distorted the science and the facts, which opens the door to a truthful telling of the story of this vast, clean energy source here in the U.S.
Editor: What’s your opinion of Fox’s Gasland?
Phelim: What’s amazing is that it’s a great scare story, with little science behind it. Josh Fox admitted that he knew facts that contradicted his narrative. By his own admission, it’s deceptive.
Editor: Why do you think natural gas development has become such a flash point?
Phelim: First, fracking fundamentally changes the economics of energy, because it threatens renewables. It’s going to provide energy for hundreds of years, offering a cleaner, cheaper alternative and that ruins the plans of many environmentalists. They see it as a major threat.
Second, fracking is just now arriving in regions that have not had much exposure to energy development. So that’s jarring to many people.
Third, it’s now being done close to major media markets, where many New Yorkers own second and vacation homes. So the media can easily do stories by jumping in their cars and heading out to western New York, do a scare story, and be back to Manhattan for dinner.
Editor: How have the activists done such a good job of instilling fear in the public consciousness?
Phelim: The media has not done its job. When you talk about poisoning water, that’s very emotional. It appeals to the most basic emotion in people. Fracking has become the new cause for the environmental movement because of activists’ ability to push the right emotional buttons with people.
Editor: How can the industry do a better job of responding?
Phelim: Well, the problem with the industry is that they have to tell the truth. They are at an immediate disadvantage. If they lie and get caught, industry executives can go to jail. If an environmentalist tells a lie, they can win an award.
Editor: What would you tell people who want to arm themselves with the facts?
Phelim: Watch the movie when it premiers. It will provide the truth.