MDN Reviews New Documentary FrackNation
We won’t keep you in suspense. Run!—don’t walk—to attend a screening, watch on cable television or purchase a DVD of the new documentary FrackNation. This is hands down the most important documentary on an environmental topic made in the last decade or more. It exposes the fabrications found in the documentary Gasland, and tells the truth about what MDN calls the miracle of hydraulic fracturing.
Phelim McAleer is an investigative journalist and documentary filmmaker—someone who speaks truth to power. In Phelim’s case, he’s made a career of challenging accepted environmentalist orthodoxy. He delights in laying bare the misstatements and outright lies told by the so-called green movement. His newest documentary, FrackNation, tackles the hottest environmental topic currently being debated not only in the U.S., but around the world—hydraulic fracturing for oil and natural gas.
Phelim is originally from Ireland, but he’s a citizen of the world having worked for The London Sunday Times, the Financial Times and the Economist. For the past decade or so he’s been a freelance journalist and filmmaker. So how did an Irishman living in Los Angeles come to make a documentary about fracking in Pennsylvania? In the beginning was Gasland…
Like anyone with even a passing interest in environmental issues, Phelim watched the documentary Gasland, created by Joshua Fox and financed by HBO. Haven’t heard of Josh Fox? Think Michael Moore 30 years younger and 200 pounds lighter—that’s Josh Fox—a Michael Moore wannabe. Fox struck gold when he made his documentary—it turned him into a minor celebrity overnight by making claims that “big oil and gas” is intentionally harming the health and well being of individuals and families to make big money from a fundamentally unsafe industrial process—fracking.
Fox’s movie is most known for the image of a flaming faucet, supposedly caused by methane in the water due to nearby fracking. It’s a dramatic turning point in the film, and the impression Fox leaves with the audience is that this will happen to you too—if natural gas drilling comes to your neighborhood.
After watching Gasland and being a curious sort, Phelim turned to the Internet and after 10 minutes of searching found numerous references to flaming water—water that contains methane and can be ignited with a match. Surprisingly, he found references to methane-laced water stretching back more than 200 years—to the time of George Washington and Thomas Paine, when they lit a river on fire.
Phelim was mystified and troubled. Did Fox know about naturally occurring methane in water? Did he bother to find out if the methane in the taps of the people he interviewed was from fracking or natural sources? At a public meeting where Fox appeared to speak about Gasland, Phelim questioned him on that topic and the exchange was caught on tape. Fox admitted that he did know there are natural causes of methane in water supplies, but naturally occurring methane “wasn’t relevant” to his documentary. Huh?
Phelim believed naturally occurring methane is very relevant, so he posted the clip of their brief exchange on YouTube. Within a few days Fox’s lawyers had it pulled down. So Phelim posted it to Vimeo, a private video sharing service. Again, Fox and HBO lawyers had it censored and removed. Big mistake. It was the brute force response of Fox and his desire to cover up his own guilty admission that set Phelim on a course that would result in the FrackNation documentary.
Josh Fox opens Gasland with a yarn worthy of Mark Twain. He claims he received an offer of nearly $5,000 per acre to lease his family’s 20 acres of land in the Catskill Mountain area of northeast Pennsylvania. Phelim starts his own research by talking with Fox’s neighbors. Did they receive the same offer? Who was the driller making the offer? What Phelim found was shocking.
The lease Fox holds up in Gasland—the one he supposedly received as an offer from a driller—was actually a sample lease created by a local landowner group. Fox never was offered money from a driller. No landman ever approached him. He used the sample lease sent to all landowners in the area as a prop—an excuse to go on a vision quest where he would “discover” all of the evil, nasty things gas drillers do to folks.
Could Fox have theoretically been offered such a lease from a driller at some point in the futre? Perhaps. The point is, no such offer was actually made to him or his family as he claimed. In other words, he lied.
When the entire premise of what is supposedly a documentary about the truth is a fabrication—a lie—what does that say about the rest of the film? Exactly. If Fox is willing to play fast and loose with the truth at the outset, why wouldn’t he throughout?
Phelim examines Gasland’s claims closely, starting with the community of Dimock, Pennsylvania, to find the truth about fracking, flaming faucets, air pollution and whether or not there’s a connection between them.
Phelim interviews residents in Dimock, including Craig and Julie Sautner who made the claim in Gasland that gas drilling had polluted their drinking water supply. We won’t spoil the surprise—we’ll just say the Sautners don’t comport themselves with dignity in FrackNation (see the brief clip below).
From Dimock, to the Midwest, to the West Coast and then on to England, Russia and Poland, and in discussions with numerous scientists along the way, Phelim weaves the not-so-complicated story of what’s true, what isn’t, who’s funding the opposition to fracking, and why they want it stopped. Hint: Follow the money.
Phelim uses his brain to investigate and his heart to tell the stories of ordinary people thrust into extraordinary circumstances. He examines how celebrities in the 1% attempt to hoodwink regular people in the 99% into giving up their piece of the American dream. This film will make you cry, it will make you laugh, and it will make you angry that you have been lied to by Fox and his celebrity friends. Phelim lays it all out and leaves no stone unturned.
By the end of the film you’ll say to yourself, “Yeah, that’s about what I expected the truth to be on this issue.” Why? Because the truth is usually simple—and obvious. Phelim goes in search of the truth, he dusts it off, and displays it in full view for all to see. When you see it, you’ll intuitively know it’s the real McCoy.
FrackNation is currently playing on Mark Cuban’s ASX cable network (check your local cable system), and on Dish Network and DIRECTV. You may also purchase a copy on DVD at //fracknation.com.