Fracking debate twists alliances

Liberal filmmaker at odds with president, while free-market conservative supports Obama
Associated Press
Jul 21, 2013


The boom in natural gas drilling has cast two opposing documentary filmmakers in unlikely roles.

Josh Fox, a liberal environmental activist, finds himself at odds with President Barack Obama. Phelim McAleer, a free-market conservative, is echoing the Democratic president's support for natural gas.

The two don't see eye-to-eye on much of anything, especially each other.

"He's a very skillful filmmaker," McAleer said of Fox. "He's one of the most trusted scientists in America at the moment, even though he has zero qualifications. I don't accept that, but a lot of Americans do."

Fox, in an email to The Associated Press, said McAleer "is not a credible source of information" and is "a climate change denier."

Their dueling documentaries — the sequel to Fox's Oscar-nominated "Gasland" aired July 8 on HBO and McAleer's "FrackNation" aired the following night on AXS — have clear aims when it comes to hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, the gas drilling method by which chemical-laced fluid is injected into the earth to free natural gas trapped deep underground.

Experts say the pro- and anti-drilling movements represented by the filmmakers each have some good points — even though Fox claims the process is an environmental and public health disaster while McAleer says Fox distorts facts and ignores the benefits of drilling.

Jeff Frankel, an economics professor at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government, said, "The fracking revolution is clearly good news from the national security and economic standpoint" since it reduces imports and generates jobs and investment in America. He said the most extreme fracking critics don't seem to understand how much the gas boom is reducing pollution by cutting the amount of coal that gets burned in power plants.

Yet the fracking critics have legitimate concerns, Frankel said.

It makes sense that they would want to be cautious about drilling in some areas such as sensitive watersheds, Frankel said. Residents should get to choose whether they want drilling locally, he said.

If all the anti-drillers' passion "gets channeled into vigilant regulation, then it will turn out to have been a good thing," Frankel said.

McAleer concedes that Fox appears to be swaying people in at least some states to oppose drilling.

"I think they've got a very strong case in New York, and they have a good chance of winning in places like Colorado and California," said McAleer, who added that there's an irony to that.

New York has placed a moratorium on fracking, but natural gas is the top source of energy for the state, dwarfing hydroelectric or nuclear power. New York gets virtually all that natural gas from states that allow drilling, such as Pennsylvania.

Environmental groups in Colorado and California have also tried to limit or ban fracking, even though those states have long histories of oil and gas drilling.

"If you want to ban fracking, that's your business. But you're just shifting production to the next state," McAleer said.

Fox said, "New Yorkers are becoming increasingly aware that if they want to ban fracking they have to begin to change their energy infrastructure to renewable energy," and that more and more groups are pushing for that transition.

But even prominent scientists who warn about the dangers of global warming say the switch will take a long time.

"Suggesting that renewables will let us phase rapidly off fossil fuels in the United States, China, India or the world as a whole is almost the equivalent of believing in the Easter Bunny and Tooth Fairy," former NASA scientist James Hansen wrote in an online essay in 2011.

Hansen added that "renewable energies are grossly inadequate for our energy needs now and in the foreseeable future."

That's essentially why the Obama administration supports using natural gas as a "bridge" fuel during the transition to renewables, since gas emits half the carbon dioxide of coal.

Fox plans to keep hammering away at fracking. He's working on a short documentary on illnesses affecting gas workers and plans eventually to move onto projects on the broader issues of climate and sustainability.

McAleer — who in previous documentaries challenged Al Gore's "An Inconvenient Truth" and environmentalists' campaign against Romania mining — doesn't plan to make "FrackNation II."

"If you can't say it well in one, you shouldn't need a second one," McAleer said.




"Most trusted, with no qualifications." There's the problem right there. That's why we have seen so many inaccuracies (lies) when it comes to environmental impacts, global warming due to man is a very good example. Check how many meteorologists were included in the many scientists who endorsed Global warming. Very few. Same goes for the resistance to fracking. I have a friend whom I served with in the Navy who now works at that profession. They jump through hoops everyday to meet the ridiculous standards set up by the EPA. Most of what they must do does nothing but waste time and money. The rest of the world doesn't have to put up with the boloney, they laugh at us.


Pennsylvania Fracking Accident: What Went Wrong

Tuesday night, a natural gas pipe in Pennsylvania sprung a leak and sent thousands of gallons of chemical-laced water flowing out beyond its protective berms. The leak now appears to be under control, but PM explains how fracking operations normally collect the wastewater from their wells—and what went wrong this time.

Need more minuteman?


And here I thought natural gas was a gas not a liquid.


Meteorologists are not scientists. Hansen is.


More what? The EPA ordered berm didn't work. How about that?

Peninsula Pundit

Oh for Goodness Sake!
So there's a leak of toxic chemicals out of a well and the pro-frack has the audacity to say the EPA berm didn't work.
That's as bright as blaming the deaths on the Titanic to a shortage of life boats, completely ignoring that if the boat hadn't hit the iceberg, the life boats wouldn't have been an issue.
'Logic' such as this is why this country is in such peril.

Peninsula Pundit

It always seems the 'free-market conservative', whenever and wherever present, is always looking to enrich themselves at the expense of their neighbors.
It's not just a media stereotype, either. When quoted, they usually stand up proudly for their reasons for attempting some self-serving gambit and mention that their neighbors had the same opportunity to do so but weren't 'smart enough' to do it. Most times the neighbors wouldn't think of doing the same to their neighborhood but these wonderful 'free-market conservatives' don't give a fig because their boorish personality make-up seem to render them senseless to the plight of others or what their proposals will do to the larger community.

looking around

Well said!

AJ Oliver

Hey Minuteman, are you brave enough to publish that drivel under your own name? I didn't think so. Climate change is totally accepted science.

Global warming is and will always be a hoax. The enemies I make on a daily basis on this blog by being a conservative does not allow me to post my real name. Having sold my company allows me to invest in a lot of local businesses and I do not want to hurt their chances for success by being associated with an aging conservative of 55 years old


After reading the smartest man on earth's dissertation on logic and the titanic, I now knoe why logic was my worst subject in college. Just because the sun came up today doesn't mean it will come up tomorrow.

looking around

Smart enough to start and sell a company and still can't spell Ha Ha you are a real "knoe it all" Ha! Ha! Ha!


Sure. Forget the dust bowel in Ok. 1930's. Or Malabar Farms in Mansfield , Ohio. Louis Broomfield proved that 1. Or drive through Celeryville, Ohio on S.R.103. In 1958 the soil was level with the roadway. hasn't messed up anything.


Wow, sorry I couldn't get back to post sooner. I was trying to see what was wrong with my AC on my old truck. It looked like 2 compressors on the motor. So I looked it up in the manual, the second pump was the pollution pump. I thought well now I'm doing my part to keep filth out of the atmosphere because the thing is actually working. I researched how it worked and found out some awful news. It was mandated by the EPA to reduce tailpipe emissions and this is the system they required auto manufacturers to install. It pumps air into the exhaust pipe so there is less ppm of pollution coming out. The same amount of pollution is there, just more air to make it seem less. No harm no foul? No, the pump needs to use power from the engine to turn it, using more fuel. Therefore the EPA loaded more pollution into the atmosphere.


Does your truck have to be started with a crank sticking through the front grill?