That is what Phelim McAleer’s new film FrackNation offers and what so many in the debate over hydraulic fracturing lack. Hydraulic fracturing, more commonly known as fracking, is an unnecessarily controversial method of oil and gas extraction. FrackNation sets the record straight.
Instead of Matt Damon’s Promised Land’s completely untrue visuals of pastures of dead cows, McAleer shows cows that are continuing to live on family farms because of the extra income families collect from natural gas production. Instead of journalists pretending to have roots in a small community rich with natural gas, McAleer doesn’t pretend to know how to ride an ATV and talks with the people who do.
McAleer set out to discover the truth about this practice made controversial by the debunked yet popular film Gasland, which has to this point largely driven the negative narrative on fracking, especially the notion that fracking contaminates drinking water, which it never has.
FrackNation examines fracking from every angle, from both the individuals who have natural gas wells on their farms and those who have sued drilling companies to the journalists, drillers, academic experts, government officials, and environmental quality technicians playing a part in the battle of information surrounding fracking.
In talking with the experts, the legislators, and the people affected by their decisions, McAleer found answers to the myths that fracking leads to flaming faucets, earthquakes, toxic chemicals underground and in water, higher cancer rates, polluted air, and more. He also discovered the consequences of such untrue claims and red herrings.
Many anti-fracking apologists claim to be giving a voice to small-town folk who cannot compete in a David versus Goliath battle against big business. When McAleer goes to talk with these people in Pennsylvania, New York, Texas, and California he finds the exact opposite. These people are having a hard time competing with Hollywood “philanthropy” and leadership from distant governments. Further, irresponsible journalism, rather than uncovering victims, has created them and the consequences are very real.
The residents of Dimock, Pennsylvania, successfully blocked a $12 million dollar state project to build an unneeded water pipeline but still face the false public image of being a wasteland, gasland community. Extra income from fracking is allowing some farmers to stay on their family farms, while some New York farmers are struggling to hold on to their land as they wait out the state’s moratorium on fracking.
The message from these people was loud and clear: Fracking is not a threat to their way of life; it is helping them continue it. It’s a process that has been safely regulated by states for decades and has helped lower energy prices, create jobs, and revitalize America’s manufacturing base.
McAleer also makes a stop in Poland, where Russia’s monopoly on Europe’s gas supply is threatened by the prospect of countries like Poland being able to cheaply and safely access their own natural gas. The stranglehold makes for a handy tool in Russian “diplomacy,” but it means for at least one pensioner with whom McAleer speaks that more than half of her pension is spent on heat and electricity. Americans easily take for granted that readily available, relatively cheap energy means people live longer—and live well.
The uninformed, misinformed, and dishonest journalists, politicians, and activists—McAleer’s film shows that there are all of these types working to block fracking and that it is having real and grave consequences. It is clear that the crisis is not in fracking—it is in the quality of media coverage surrounding the decades-old technology.
As discouraging as this may be, what is most memorable about FrackNation is the exciting power of individuals to work together, solve problems, and make their lives better, whether that is in a community’s effort to use fracking as a means to hold onto their way of life, or an endeavor to find out the truth and make a film about it.
This piece originally appeared in The Daily Signal