FrackNation is a documentary by Phelim McAleer and Ann McElhinney, journalists from Ireland, in response to Josh Fox’s Gasland. It recently premiered in several locations and now can be seen on Mark Cuban’s cable channel AXS. I watched it this week, and it can be seen again on AXS February 2 at 2:30 pm Eastern time. It is worth watching and has received favorable reviews.
McAleer and McElhinney have previously done documentaries on global warming (Not Evil Just Wrong) and gold mining in Romania (Mine Your Own Business) that challenge conventional wisdom on environmental topics. McAleer got the idea for this new film when he confronted Josh Fox at a press conference in Chicago about scenes in Gasland showing tap water being lit on fire. McAleer pointed out that natural gas has been in well water long before the boom in hydraulic fracturing in Pennsylvania.
McAleer and McElhinney got their funding from Kickstarter, where 3,305 backers donated $212,000 to back the movie. (They’re all listed in the movie credits.)
Kyle Smith of the New York Post writes that “McAleer, a whimsical Irish journalist with a pleasingly avuncular air, explains in a robustly entertaining and informative doc how Fox was wrong to imply fracking is unregulated and proves methane has been in some drinking water since long before fracking.” Kevin Begos writes in USA Today that the film “discredits some of the most extreme anti-fracking rhetoric,” but “it also sometimes goes too far in dismissing legitimate concerns.” The New York Times writes that the film is “no tossed-off, pro-business pamphlet”, and that it is “methodically researched and assembled” and “provocative.” Grover Norquist wrote on the Huffington Post that Fracknation “eviscerates Gasland’s credibility and makes clear that its director knowingly lied again and again.”
One of the most interesting segments of the film is a discussion about the role of popular media in the debate over the safety of oil and gas drilling and its effect on the environment. Mainstream media are justly criticized, in my opinion, for failing to adequately investigate claims made by radical groups on both sides of the debate before giving them credence by including their views in their publications. Josh Fox has made a business out of his movie and has become a media celebrity. His film was nominated for an academy award, and he has appeared with Hollywood celebrities. Fox is now working on a sequel for HBO, Gasland 2. In part as a result of this media frenzy, a moratorium was imposed on hydraulic fracturing in the State of New York. It is impossible for the general public to separate fact from fiction. Where is Walter Cronkite when we need him? The whole debate is in dire need of serious investigative journalism – but that costs money, and it doesn’t sell adds.