The Birthers of Fracking
By David Weigel, Slate Magazine
03 March 13
arlier this week, a group of House Republicans were treated to a screening of FrackNation – a KickStarter’d documentary that aims to debunk the Oscar-nominated, fracking-skeptical GasLand. I reported a bit on the screening (which ended with free DVDs for attendees) and reviewed the movie, paying notice to how filmmaker Phelim McAleer appeared to frazzle GasLand director Josh Fox. Early in the film, McAleer shows up at a Q&A with Fox and asks him why his movie didn’t explain that methane has been in some water supplies for years, and that shocking video of water being lit on fire wasn’t as shocking as it looked. Fox asks for McAleer’s credentials and calls the question “irrelevent.” McAleer, duly inspired, makes a movie.
It’s a bit much, says Fox. “I gave the guy, not knowing who he was, a long, academic answer,” he explains. “I’d just gotten off the plane, and I just found out somebody robbed my house! I wasn’t thinking about it in a media context, and unfortunately there was nobody else in the room taping. So they pulled a kind of Shirley Sherrod thing where they completely represented the Q&A session.”
Since making GasLand, Fox has become a sought-after speaker and activist for the anti-fracking movement. With that comes criticism, and with that occasional, judicious pushback against the allegation that the water-on-fire scene is misleading. “I’d been asked the same questions before, and answered them before,” says Fox. “I’ve been part of something like 250 debates around US and world. At almost every one, some oil and gas shill says something like this. They’re the birthers of fracking. This argument about biogemic and thermogenic gas is one of the things that the oil and the gas industry brings up as a distraction. Both biogenic and thermogenic gas can be released by drilling, and the industry says so.”