By ASHLEY E. ORGAN, Assistant Editor Josh Fox’s “GasLand” – a documentary which aired on HBO on June 21, 2010 – is bringing natural gas into the homes of viewers nationwide, and not in a good way. Had I not been a part of the industry, I probably would have been convinced of Fox’s “findings” – Dick Cheney exempting oil and natural gas companies from the Clean Water Act, the Clean Air Act, the Safe Drinking Water Act, and the Superfund law; the hydraulic fracturing process using chemicals that subsequently poison drinking water; and high natural gas levels igniting water taps. Not to mention, the cinematography is reminiscent of a 1970s horror film much like that of the original “Texas Chainsaw Massacre.” In one eerie scene, Fox is shown standing in a field wearing a gas mask while plucking a banjo. Hank Stuever of The Washington Post wrote, “‘GasLand’ never loses its sense of jaded artistry; it is first and foremost a movie.” And what would a good movie be without a villain? EnergyInDepth, an organization of small, independent producers dedicated to separating fact from fiction about the US oil and natural gas industry, has provided a series of truths to the film’s claims in an article titled, “Debunking GasLand.” An excerpt from the article said: Misstating the Law (6:05) "What I didn’t know was that the 2005 energy bill pushed through Congress by Dick Cheney exempts the oil and natural gas industries from the Clean Water Act, the Clean Air Act, the Safe Drinking Water Act, the Superfund law, and about a dozen other environmental and Democratic regulations." • This assertion, every part of it, is false. The oil and natural gas industry is regulated under every single one of these laws – under provisions of each that are relevant to its operations. • The process of hydraulic fracturing, to which Fox appears to be making reference here, has never in its 60-year history been regulated under the Safe Drinking Water Act. It has, however, been regulated ably and aggressively by the states, which has compiled [sic] an impressive record of enforcement and oversight in the many decades in which they have been engaged in the practice. • Far from being "pushed through Congress by Dick Cheney," the Energy Policy Act of 2005 earned the support of nearly three-quarters of the US Senate (74 "yea" votes), including the top Democrat on the Energy Committee; current Interior secretary Ken Salazar, then a senator from Colorado; and a former junior senator from Illinois named Barack Obama. In the US House, 75 Democrats joined 200 Republicans in supporting the final bill, including the top Democratic members on both the Energy & Commerce and Resources committees. Regarding hydraulic fracturing, the composition of fluids commonly used in the fracturing process comprises of 99.5% water and sand, according to EnergyInDepth. "The remaining materials, used to help deliver the water down the well bore and position the sand in the tiny fractures created in the formation, are typically components found and used around the house. The most prominent of these, a substance known as guar gum, is an emulsifier more commonly found in ice cream," the report said. Addressing the flammable tap water scene, EnergyInDepth wrote: Movie claim: In the film’s signature moment, Mike Markham, a landowner, ignites his tap water. The filmmaker leaves the viewer with the impression the flaming tap water is a result of natural gas drilling, even though he acknowledges that tests of Markham’s well revealed only naturally occurring methane. Truth: The Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission tested Markham’s water in 2008, finding his water well had been drilled into a natural gas pocket. The film leaves a clear – and false – perception that hydraulic fracturing was to blame. This is simply not true. “GasLand” fails to mention that the landowners shown in the testimonials chose to lease their property to the natural gas companies and were informed of the risks involved with exploratory drilling. Fox portrays the opinions as credible, however the witnesses do not possess the scientific knowledge to support their “conclusions.” “GasLand” does not inform viewers that the wells shown are necessary in our efforts to capitalize on domestic resources, nor does Fox provide an alternative solution. According to the Energy Information Administration, 25% of total energy consumed in the US in 2009 came from natural gas. Natural gas heats buildings and water, and is used in cooking, lighting, heating, etc. In 2008, three to four million American jobs were created by the natural gas sector of the energy industry, according to the Natural Gas Supply Association. Houston oilman George P. Mitchell, founder of Mitchell Energy & Development Corp., recently received the Gas Technology Institute’s Lifetime Achievement Award for pioneering hydraulic fracturing and drilling technologies that started the shale gas industry. “I’m truly honored to be receiving the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Gas Technology Institute. I believe that the United States should examine all forms of natural gas in order to ease our dependence on coal and foreign oil. It is my hope that my efforts will aid the search for new and unconventional energy sources that can be used by my grandchildren and great-grandchildren,” Mitchell said. Unfortunately, the mainstream media hype of “GasLand” has cast a shadow over the achievements and progress in our industry. For more information, visit www.energyindepth.org.
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