As the television network HBO greenlights a second documentary about the dangers of fracking, investigative journalist Phelim McAleer prepares for the release of his own documentary, “FrackNation,” which sets out to find the truth about fracking and expose “misinformation” spread by anti-fracking groups.
“It’s not pro-fracking, it’s pro-truth and pro-journalism,” McAleer told The Daily Caller News Foundation in an interview. McAleer made the documentary with his wife Ann McElhinney and colleague Magdalena Segieda.
“There’s a lot of emotions out there, there’s a lot of allegations out there, there’s a lot of lawsuits out there,” he continued. “Let’s look at the science and the truth behind the emotion and the science and the lawsuits.”
Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, involves injecting fluids into cracks in rock formations in order to widen them and allow more oil and gas to escape, increasing the amount of oil and gas that can be recovered. The practice has been under fire from environmental groups for its potential public health effects.
“They lie actually, and they exaggerate, and they misrepresent,” McAleer claimed. “Every environmental organization is involved in the anti-fracking movement now. It’s a big cause, it’s a new ‘save the whale.’ That’s where the money is, that’s where the publicity is.”
“And when you look at the science behind this, there’s not much there. And that was the thing that came out in the film.”
“[FrackNation] reflects the environmental movement, the anti-fracking movement, in a very bad light, and deservedly so.”
McAleer traveled across the U.S. and Europe filming and says that the media narrative of “ordinary people versus big business is wrong, it’s actually ordinary people versus big environment.”
“I think the most interesting story is that people love fracking,” McAleer told The DC News Foundation. “It’s not unpopular, it’s welcomed, people love it. People know that a lot of what’s said about fracking is not true, they know that their water was always poor.”
“In America where there is fracking there has been no recession,” he said. “It’s been a tremendous economic boom for Pennsylvania, Ohio, Oklahoma, Texas, Colorado, North Dakota, where there’s fracking there’s no recession.”
Along the way, McAleer said he was faced with intimidation, threats, and even calls to the police from environmental groups that disagreed with what he was trying to show in his film.
“The media will respond to [environmental groups] and report them without any questioning,” McAleer said. “Why are they not treating the big environmental movement with the same skepticism that they treat big oil and big gas?”
McAleer is looking to respond to a previous documentary released by HBO called “Gasland,” which highlighted the negative impacts of fracking.
“I see ‘Gasland’ as a starting point,” he said. “I was trying to respond to a lot of the bigger errors and misrepresentations. But I was also telling people’s stories, stories that haven’t been told, stories of America’s rural poor.”
A big focus of Gasland is the alleged groundwater contamination caused by fracking. One famous scene shows a man sticking a lighter near his sink faucet only to see it burst into flames.
At a screening, McAleer questioned the documentary’s director Josh Fox about that scene, asking Fox if he knew the tap water had been catching fire long before fracking began in the area.
“He knew tap water lit on fire long before fracking, but decided not to put it in his documentary because it ‘wasn’t relevant,’” McAleer said, adding that the exchange was put on Youtube and Vimeo.
However, Fox’s lawyers had it taken down, McAleer said. This was the catalyst for him to make his own documentary. The video of the exchange was eventually put back up on Youtube and Vimeo.
“They don’t tell you that there’s been bad water there for hundreds of years,” McAleer said. “There are towns across America called ‘Burning Springs’ long before fracking ever started. There’s a lot of gas down there, some of it naturally occurring in water.”
The Hollywood Reporter reports that HBO has greenlighted a sequel to “Gasland,” but would not say when it would be released.
McAleer calls HBO “the biggest environmental movement in this country.”
This is not McAleer’s first foray into challenging environmentalists. In 2006, he made the documentary “Mine Your Own Business” which looks at foreign environmental groups campaigns against a mining operation in Romania.
In 2009, McAleer made the documentary “Not Evil Just Wrong” which responded to Al Gore’s global warming claims in his documentary “An Inconvenient Truth.”
“FrackNation” was funded through the crowdsourcing website Kickstarter, raising $212,265 from 3,305 backers. McAleer and company also promised anyone who donated to the film would become an executive producer on the documentary.
The documentary is set to air on AXS TV on January 22 at 9 PM EST. McAleer currently has no plans for a sequel.
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