Fracking! That is what Gasland is all about. If you haven’t heard of fracking, you’ll know more than you could imagine after watching this frightening documentary. It all begins when filmmaker Josh Fox gets a notice that a gas company wants to lease the rights to extract natural gas from his pristine land in Eastern Pennsylvania. They are offering him $100,000, which is pretty enticing. So he visits a nearby town Dimock, PA to see how they are doing, since they are already an active drill site. There he sees the first evidence of the immense damage that fracking causes, most dramatically demonstrated when the residents show him that the water coming out of their kitchen faucets can be lit with a match.
From there Josh sets out to see what is going on in the rest of the country with this technology. Fracking is short for hydraulic fracturing and is the main method that gas companies us to extract natural gas worldwide. Basically, they drill a hole up to 20,000 ft deep and then pump water and lots of chemicals into it to fracture the rock and force the gas to the surface. Sounds benign, but as Josh discovers there are a multitude of problems for the people and animals living around these sites. Their water is contaminated beyond saving by the chemicals used in the drilling. They have lots of serious health problems that the gas companies refuse to admit any culpability for. There are toxic clouds emanating from the tanks on the sites.
A large part of the film is Josh on the road around the US, in Colorado, Wyoming, Utah and Texas. Here he meets family after family who have had their lives and livelihoods destroyed by natural gas drilling either on their land or close enough to despoil their air and water.
In addition, Josh talks with scientists, politicians and industry experts to find out why this is going on. You can guess who has what kinds of answers. Money talks and we find that government regulations don’t apply here; in fact, hydraulic fracturing was exempted from the Safe Drinking Water Act in the Bush-Cheney Energy Policy Act of 2005.
Gasland is most definitely activist film making. But it is also a very effective personal quest documentary that should be seen by everyone who thinks that natural gas is clean. The Natural Gas guys are lobbying hard to make sure that it doesn’t win the Academy Award it is nominated for. It is out on DVD. So rent or buy it now, before the gas company comes with the lease for your land.