Gasland II: Another Naive Example of Hollwood's Extremism

By Thomas Pyle

Domestic crude oil production surpassed imports during the week ending May 31, according to an Energy Information Administration report. That’s a milestone that hasn’t been reached in 16 years and underscores the conviction that North American energy security can be realized – if we resolve to achieve it.

In recent years, technological advances that combine safe hydraulic fracturing and innovative horizontal drilling have allowed the United States to take over as the world leader in natural gas production. North America’s total recoverable reserve of natural gas is capable of providing America with 575 years worth of electricity needs at current consumption rates, according to the North American Energy Inventory released by the Institute for Energy Research.

Of course, not everyone wants to see the United States lead the world in affordable energy production. Utilizing Hollywood-style theatrics and baseless propaganda, these activists are dead-set on undermining the energy renaissance that is creating American jobs and strengthening our global position. Avant-garde filmmaker Josh Fox, who rose from relative obscurity in 2010 with his movie Gasland, has blamed shale gas drilling for a host of supposed problems – from flammable drinking water to environmental disasters. Nevertheless, his accusations have been systematically proven as false. Undeterred, Fox will doubtlessly continue to make similar claims in other projects, including Gasland Part II that will air on HBO on July 8.

One of Fox’s favorite theatrical tricks demonstrates a purported danger with hydraulic fracturing when water from a kitchen faucet is set ablaze. The problem is that the stunt is completely unrelated to drilling; rather it’s the result of naturally occurring methane. Apparently Fox comes from the “never let the truth get in the way of a good story” school of filmmaking.

According to Fox’s narrative, shale gas drilling stands accused of methane contamination. But in April, Pennsylvania’s Department of Environmental Protection concluded that naturally occurring shallow gas was responsible for contaminating well water of the three private homes in question. It’s almost enough to make you feel sorry for poor Josh.

Few respected environmentalists seem to be lining up behind Fox’s more extreme conspiracy theories. In fact, hydraulic fracturing has been in use for more than 60 years without any confirmed cases of groundwater contamination. Even the Environmental Protection Agency’s groundwater studies cited by Fox were so deeply flawed that then-EPA administrator Lisa Jackson publicly disputed them.

The American people should not buy into Fox’s fantasies. Fortunately, it doesn’t seem that they are. A 2013 Gallup poll found that while 59 percent of respondents identified themselves either as active participants of or sympathetic to the environmental movement, their greater concern was economic growth over the kinds of policies that stifle growth by limiting access to our domestic energy resources.

Anti-energy extremists delude themselves and deceive the public by perpetuating myths about U.S. fossil fuel development. Domestic energy production is leading to a more secure energy future and economic prosperity here at home. To strengthen our economy, benefit our allies and promote our foreign policy goals, the U.S. should be continuing the trend toward total reliance on domestic sources of energy. Listening to naysayers like Josh Fox – or following their strategies for anemic domestic energy production – presents a threat to peace that should be rejected for what it is: propaganda masked as facts, and geopolitical naiveté disguised as environmental concern.

Thomas Pyle is the president of the Institute for Energy Research.

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