Watching Government: Lights! Camera! Advocacy!

July 30, 2012
In retrospect, it was inevitable. Claims made in Josh Fox's anti-fracing documentary "Gasland" were so dramatic and troubling that other filmmakers started to look into them.

In retrospect, it was inevitable. Claims made in Josh Fox's anti-fracing documentary "Gasland" were so dramatic and troubling that other filmmakers started to look into them. A number found that Fox's assertions omitted some important facts, so they decided to make their own movies.

Five of these were showcased at "Big Screen Energy," a July 19 event sponsored by the American Petroleum Institute's Energy Tomorrow affiliate. "Frack Nation" and "Truthland" are direct rebuttals. "Empire State Divide" assails groups and individuals who want to discourage industry of any kind in rural New York to preserve its tranquility.

"Switch—A Smarter Energy Future" features Scott Anderson, a senior policy advisor at the Environmental Defense Fund, discussing that group's approach to fracing and unconventional natural gas resource development. "The Grand Energy Transition" is a film version of oil and gas producer Robert A. Hefner III's book tracking US energy use from coal through oil to gas, and why it makes sense.

After previews of the five movies were shown, two of the filmmakers—Phelim McAleer of "Frack Nation" and Karen Moreau of "Empire State Divide"—joined Chris Tucker, representing the Independent Petroleum Association of America's Energy in Depth affiliate, and Erik Milito, API's upstream and industry operations group director, to answer audience questions.

Many fracing opponents are hypocrites interested only in scaring local residents, according to McAleer and Moreau. "They don't care about fracing, fossil fuels, or energy," McAleer said. "They're anti-modernity."

‘A stranglehold'

"We live in a part of the Hudson River Valley where environmentalists and New York City second-homers have a stranglehold," Moreau said. "Many are part-time residents who use their social connections to tighten their grip by funding numerous anti-fracing groups. It's a battle across rural America between them and people who want to use their farms the way they like."

Delivering the message from these movies to voters will be crucial in the next few months. API, with its state petroleum councils, and IPAA, with regional independents' associations, already have frameworks. "We're going to push through the summer and fall," said Tucker. "Frankly, we're following a lot of Josh Fox's blueprints, going from town to town. Some showings, 20 people show up. Others attract 300."

Asked if API would use social media to present the movies' messages, Milito introduced API Pres. Jack N. Gerard, who said the films would become part of API's nonpartisan Vote 4 Energy effort to make energy a bigger part of 2012's political campaigns.

New media will be a necessity, not an option, Tucker added. "We have 9.2 million people who need to use it to get the message out," he said.

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About the Author

Nick Snow

NICK SNOW covered oil and gas in Washington for more than 30 years. He worked in several capacities for The Oil Daily and was founding editor of Petroleum Finance Week before joining OGJ as its Washington correspondent in September 2005 and becoming its full-time Washington editor in October 2007. He retired from OGJ in January 2020.