Friday, October 25, 2013

Gasland & FrackNation

I didn't mean to end a debate as much as start one by exposing people to FrackNation, but it doesn't seem like that's what it's done, so I wanted to encourage you to read a few more articles about the movies. In other words, here's MY version of the essay I asked you to write!

When Gasland first became popular, the gas industry responded by debunking the claims of the movie. Fox responded with more evidence on his claims. A seemingly fair evaluation of the evidence was posted on the NYT website here, mostly validating Fox's claims.

Again, this is not my area of expertise, and I'm not sure where the truth lies. That said...
gas, like any other extractive industry, generates toxic byproducts. The stuff that comes out of the ground with natural gas is nasty, and appropriate precautions should be taken with it, such as putting it into a lined pit. Also, like oil, gas needs to be processed, and that processing too generates nasty stuff that should be taken care of. Finally, it's cheaper and therefore all too common for people doing the drilling to not take sufficient care. The NYT link above talks about how some of the dead fish and stuff we see in Gasland came from a failure to appropriately cement in the drill line. We need appropriate environmental safeguards to be implemented. Often, that's in the company's interest too as when in Gasland an entire drilling rig or something goes up in flames. Other times, after extraction is done, the company is quick to avoid taking responsibility, like Chevron/ Texaco in Ecuador that we talked about earlier. I think we can all agree that's bad. At the same time, we should not overlook that a) gas is relatively cheap and abundant, thanks to the new twist of being able to drill horizontally, and b) some people seem to want to milk the system using claims of bad water as part of their strategy. Finding the right balance is often the essence of Economics: balance the benefits and costs, and without clear information we have no chance at doing that.

I guess I'm too focused on trying to figure out the truth to enjoy parts of Gasland such as when Fox is driving around in the Wyoming gas fields wearing a gas mask and then playing a banjo, telling us that no one cares that he's there. I don't see the point. And the same is true of some ridiculous parts of FrackNation. Putin's behind US environmentalism? I don't think so. And while fracking might benefit Poland, that doesn't help McAleer respond to Fox's claims about the propriety of doing so in the US.

Finally, another important conclusion. There's a nice little piece here about a showing of FrackNation in Colorado: I love how that piece finishes, which is about how disappointing it is that people only seem to want to hear things they've already concluded. That's WAY too common today. Don't let that be you!

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