A ‘Documentary’ for Every Jobs-Killing Cause

Reading the blog from the makers of the anti-Chevron film, “Crude,” we see this entry from Michael Bonfiglio, second unit director and producer, “CRUDE In Our Own Backyard?”

Many of us on the Crude filmmaking team are based in New York City, where the tap water is some of the cleanest in the country, and a debate is currently raging over drilling for natural gas that could threaten our drinking water.

Our friends at Riverkeeper oppose the drilling plan. Those who support the drilling maintain that with today’s technology, nothing bad could happen.  While the plaintiffs in Ecuador charge that Texaco used practices that were outdated even in the 1960s when drilling there began, are we really so arrogant to think that there will be no errors that could contaminate our reservoirs? And is a resource as vital as clean drinking water really something that we are willing to gamble on?

Bonfiglio is referring to hydrofracturing, the technology of injecting pressurized fluids into shale formations to fracture them and release natural gas. The natural gas producers group, Energy in Depth, has lots of information about this well-proven and safe technology, which is under attack from the usual activists who let the perfect be the enemy of good jobs. Start here.

Reading Bonfligio’s comments made us wonder when the next outrage-imbued “documentary” was going to come out, this time with natural gas companies as the evil corporate exploiters. There’s “Crude,” another one in the works about Eskimos and global warming, “The Kivalina Project.” You’ve got a cause, somebody has a movie and with cable television, a place to show it, so why not a flick accusing the natural gas industry of rampage and pollution? Maybe “Gas Attack.”

Well, of course there IS a movie. “Split Estate” attacks natural gas drilling in western states, starting with the premise that mineral rights are somehow outrageous.

The Grand Junction (Colo.) Sentinel identifies the basic problem with “Split Estate” in an editorial, “Gas documentary offers anecdotes, not evidence“:

Many of the people featured in the documentary, “Split Estates,” have heart-breaking stories about health problems they have suffered.

What they don’t have, and what is absent from the documentary itself, is actual evidence that connects those health problems to the hydraulic fracturing of natural gas wells. Without this causal link between the fracturing substances and disease, the claim of wrongdoing — like the documentary itself — falls flat, at least with respect to hydraulic fracturing.

The same criticism applies to other environmental films we’ve seen. Of course human suffering elicits sympathy, but emotion does not equal “X is to blame.” In fact, when manipulated, emotion can lead one to think “X is to blame,” when in reality “Y is to blame.”

There’s probably a better movie to be made about energy, natural gas, hydrofracturing and the environment. Hope the directors talk to W. Neil Barto of Hughsville, Penn., where development of the Marcellus Shale is going great guns.

In July, four days before Barto’s 67th birthday, he received the first check from Chief Oil & Gas L.L.C., the Dallas company that last year drilled the wells on this hardscrabble farm, 21 miles east of Williamsport.

Barto’s monthly royalty checks now come in at about $7,000. It’s just the beginning. He and 14 neighbors get royalty checks from the sale of the gas, but the wells capture only a fraction of the gas trapped in the rock. Chief plans to drill many more wells on Barto’s land and surrounding properties.

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  • James says:

    Of course “emotion does not equal X is to blame.” But you are guilty of exactly what you (in my opinion, falsely) accuse others of practicing. You routinely assume that “expensive or inconvenient for a major industry equals untrue, unprovable, or unfair”, and you often do so seemingly without reviewing the evidence that has been provided at all.

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