‘FrackNation’ Documentary Exposes Shoddy, Anti-science Journalism

January 22nd, 2013 6:15 PM

Explosions and fires are a common feature of today’s fictional movies as heroes dodge bullets and conflagrations in pursuit of justice. That might explain why opponents of hydraulic fracturing (or fracking) have decided to dramatize their case against scientific progress by lighting water on fire and then falsely blaming fracking for the blaze.

Thanks to a new film called FrackNation (watch it tonight at 9 pm ET on the AXS cable channel), Americans who have been subjected to such shady journalism will finally get a chance to see the full picture.

fracknation-poster2.jpgIn the film, the husband-wife team of Phelim McAleer and Ann McElhinney closely examine the rhetoric and factual claims made by fracking opponents, particularly that of another filmmaker, Josh Fox, and his 2010 documentary Gasland.

During a press conference held in Chicago after a screening of Gasland, McAleer challenged Fox on the facts standing behind the flammable water he highlighted in his film, which focused on households in Colorado. McAleer called attention to a 1976 study by the Colorado Division of Water found the area in question already had gas in the water and that it was the result of natural forces. The report stated was “troublesome amounts of methane” in the water decades before fracking began.

“Don’t you owe a journalistic duty to show there was a problem with gas in the water before fracking started?” McAleer asked.

He added:

“Most people watching your film would think lighting your water started with fracking. You said yourself people lit their water long before fracking started, isn’t that correct?”

When pressed, Fox acknowledged this was true, but that it was also “irrelevant.”

The exchange between McAleer and Fox can be viewed here.

In an interview with conservative activists hosted by Americans for Tax Reform, McAleer and McElhinney told audience members that the film was made as a rejoinder to unsubstantiated alarmism about fracking and to provide “the other 99 percent” of Americans who have a more congenial view of natural gas development with a voice.

In many respects, “FrackNation” is crafted as a response to “shoddy journalism,” McAleer said. Since it is difficult to keep pace with all the new developments, it is best to review recent history and set the record straight, he explained.

“Fracking is a breaking news story,” he said. “New discoveries are coming all the time, and the environmentalists are coming up with new allegations.”

Another part of the film focuses on events in Dimock, Pa. where anti-fracking activists Craig and Julie Sautner had filed suit against Cabot Oil & Gas Corp. over alleged water contamination. The Pennsylvania Environmental Protection Agency ruled against the Saunters declaring that their water supply is safe and drinkable. They did not react well on film when presented with this news.

“This is a film about fracking, but it is also a film about journalism,” McElhinney observed. “Journalists should not take allegations in a lawsuit as fact, of course the plaintiffs are going to be biased in favor of their own suit.”

McAleer and McElhinney have previously collaborated together on “Mine Your Business” and “Not Evil, Just Wrong.” They have been persistent critics of the modern environmental movement and its impact upon average citizens.