Three years ago documentary filmmaker Josh Fox shocked Americans with images of flaming faucets in his film “Gasland.” The movie, hailed by environmentalists, criticized by the shale gas industry and nominated for an Academy Award in 2010, exposed some of the potential environmental and health dangers of natural gas drilling or hydraulic fracturing (“fracking” for short).
Fox has quickly become the public face of the anti-fracking community and today, July 8, HBO will broadcast the controversial filmmaker’s follow-up film “Gasland Part II” at 9pm ET. Fox returns to the same communities in Texas, Pennsylvania and Wyoming that were profiled in “Gasland” to see if local residents’ attempts to secure clean water from local governments and the Environmental Protection Agency have been successful. A handful of energy experts are also interviewed including a former researcher for the gas industry who says “fracking can never be done safely.”
Opposition to fracking in the U.S. has increased over the past few years even as the country is experiencing an unprecedented oil and gas drilling boom. Mora County in New Mexico was the first county in the nation to pass an ordinance banning hydraulic fracturing and Pittsburgh became the first U.S. city to outlaw fracking in November 2010. Las Vegas has halted fracking until regulations protecting public health are adopted and more than a dozen cities in the East have passed ordinances restricting or banning fracking activity. Several European countries have also barred the practice and German beer brewers recently urged government leaders to reject fracking over water contamination concerns.
Last month President Barack Obama praised “cleaner-burning natural gas” as a way to address climate change, saying that advances in drilling have “helped drive our carbon pollution to its lowest levels in nearly 20 years,” and “we'll keep working with the industry to make drilling safer and cleaner, to make sure that we're not seeing methane emissions.”
In an interview with The Daily Ticker, Fox compares fracking to deepwater oil drilling and mountaintop removal for coal mining – methods that have been publicly denounced for their hazardous and deadly consequences. He refutes the economic benefits of fracking – “all those job creation statistics are inflated and created by the oil industry,” he says – and touts the financial advantages of green energy jobs: “Every $1 million that you invest in oil and gas creates 3.7 jobs but every $1 million you invest in wind or sun energy creates 9.5 or 9.8 jobs.”
Fracking of course has many supporters – both industry-wide and in communities that have benefited from local investment – and oil and gas companies hold enormous power in Washington. The expansion of nat gas drilling is “happening in concert with protections being rolled back from the government,” Fox says.
“Gasland I was about watching people light their water on fire,” he explains. “Gasland II is about watching the oil and gas industry set our democracy on fire. And that is what’s happening.”
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