Beginning from where his first award winning Gasland left off, Fox’s worse nightmare has come true as his childhood house in a sleepy Pennsylvania forest has been surrounded by gas drilling rigs. From there he takes us on a road trip through the U.S., Australia and South Africa interviewing rural residents who have had their lives destroyed from hydraulic fracturing, or fracking for short.
Fracking is a process whereby millions of gallons of water, laced with 50 toxic chemicals, are injected deep into the ground to crack open dense layers of rock that trap natural gas. Much of this toxic water, along with methane, seeps into underground lakes and rivers.
People complain they can no longer drink their well water because it has been contaminated with methane gas and fracking chemicals. All are easily able to set their water on fire with a flick of a lighter. All report health problems. When they complain they are told by the gas companies that fracking is not to blame and that all water contains some amount of methane from natural leakage.
Local, state and federal governments will not intervene to help rural residents but rather they support gas companies. When local residents sue and win, settlements include non-disclosure clauses, which mean they can no longer talk about the problem. In other cases, local gas companies sue landowners to silence them. Many of the homeowners Fox interviews must abandon their homes to save their families.
In the U.S., the Environmental Protection Agency knows that fracking is polluting people’s drinking water but will not help. One official tells a resident that his drinking water is safe but off the record not to drink it, admitting that he is following orders from top officials in Washington who have been bought off by the oil and gas industry.
Even more chilling, at a gas and oil convention held in Texas, it is revealed that industry is employing former military officials trained in counter-insurgency tactics (psy-ops) to rewrite local laws and fight against protesting landowners in Texas and Pennsylvania. Resistance was seen as an “insurgency” and military style propaganda and physiological tactics had to be employed to deal with unrest. The Pennsylvania Department of Homeland Security labeled anti-fracking protestors as possible “eco terrorists”, spied on them and shared info collected with the gas companies.
Fox makes it clear that the Obama administration has adopted fracking as its national energy plan to reduce greenhouse gas and make the nation self-sufficient in energy. On the world stage, Obama and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in 2010 championed the global shale gas initiative to help 30 other nations exploit their own shale gas. However, Bob Howarth, professor of Ecology and Environmental Biology at Cornell University, said that while natural gas produces half as much CO2, fracking releases huge amounts of methane gas, another heat trapping gas that is 105 times more powerful than CO2, worsening global warming. Evidence is also mounting that fracking causes earthquakes. None of this is necessary, as Director of Stanford’s Atmosphere/Energy program Mark Jacobson cites a study his department undertook that says wind, solar and hydro electric can provide 5-10 times more electricity than the world needs.
Oil and gas companies have invested over $740 million in political campaign contributions to ensure that fracking is excluded from the Safe Drinking water Act so they do not have to tell the public what chemicals they are using in fracking water. Despite this, Fox demonstrates that there is a growing resistance to fracking across the U.S .and globe.
Gasland 2 is a welcomed, well-made sequel. Hopefully, Fox, a gifted filmmaker, will continue informing us about the damaging effects of fracking.
Director: Josh Fox
Producer: HBO documentary films, 125 minutes