Watch out, because greedy businessmen might start fracking under your neighborhood, making your drinking water flammable and causing earthquakes.
The popular, animated satire “The Simpsons” made fun of hydraulic fracturing on its November 2 episode. More commonly called fracking, hydraulic fracturing is a process used to extract natural gas from shale buried deep underground. However, the show portrayed it as the dangerous venture of devious capitalists.
In real life, even Obama administration officials have admitted the practice is far more environmentally friendly than other forms of drilling. The two primary negative effects of fracking portrayed in “The Simpsons” episode, earthquakes and flammable tap water, were falsely linked to fracking in the 2010 documentary “Gasland” by liberal filmmaker Josh Fox.
These assertions were “completely overblown phenomena,” said Nick Loris, The Heritage Foundation’s Herbert and Joyce Morgan Fellow. Flaming water predates fracking, while earthquakes are rare and caused not by fracking, but other types of extraction.
Although tongue-in-cheek, “The Simpsons” strayed awfully close to becoming one of the “liberal TV shows” Homer Simpson himself denounced for lazily choosing fracking “as an easy bad guy.” Just like its animation, the episode’s depiction of fracking was completely two-dimensional.
Lisa, the Simpsons’ middle child, suspected something was wrong when the water from the family’s bathroom faucet lit on fire. Based on watching “Gasland,” she was quick to conclude, “I think someone’s fracking under our neighborhood, and I know who.”
After discovering energy magnate Mr. Burns’ covert fracking facility down the street, Lisa enlisted the help of Maxine Lombard, a liberal politician and the “first female speaker of the state assembly.” Lombard hauled Burns before a committee hearing and asked, “Do you have no regard for the life and health of your fellow human beings?”
Burns pledged “to find a way to shatter that shale,” prompting Lombard to demand, “What makes men like you think you can do whatever you want to our planet?”
He then slyly maneuvered to continue his fracking operations by hiring Homer Simpson to tell his neighbors that fracking is safe and economically beneficial. “You don't know anything about hydraulic fracturing. You've just been brainwashed by liberal TV shows who use fracking as an easy bad guy. But it can save this country,” Homer told his wife Marge.
At the climax of the episode, during an earthquake caused by Mr. Burns’ fracking, Marge persuaded Homer to “turn off that horrible machine” by reminding him that “our water was on fire.”
Homer then had an epiphany, albeit a cynical one. “Wait, I finally get what you're saying. Fracking is great, but the only place it should happen is in other people's towns,” he said.
Yet fracking is not to blame for either earthquakes or flaming tap water. Loris said that the process of fracking in no way caused the tremors, and many residents were able to light their water on fire decades before fracking occurred near their homes.
The natural gas industry released a seven-page document in which they listed many errors and misleading statements in “Gasland,” some of which even The New York Times has conceded in an article on February 11, 2014. The Times also reported in January 2013, that a leaked analysis by the New York State Health Department found “hydrofracking could be conducted safely in New York.”