Frack Nation: A Journalist’s Search for the Fracking Truth premiered Tuesday night on Mark Cuban’s AXS TV channel. The documentary serves as a fact-check to the sensational claims made in the 2010 anti-fracking film Gasland, which was directed by an environmentalist documentarian named Josh Fox. In a famous scene from Gasland, Fox shows residents lighting their tap water on fire and claims fracking is the culprit.
Fox has used the Oscar-nominated Gasland to gin up fears of fracking, which have caused governments to institute moratoriums (New York State) or outright bans on the procedure (France, Bulgaria). However, it is clear from watching Frack Nation that Fox is not used to being subjected to even a basic level of journalistic scrutiny.
“It took me only five minutes on the Internet to discover that this claim of flammable water was very questionable,” said Frack Nation director Phelim McAleer, who points out that people in some areas of the country have been lighting their water on fire for centuries due to naturally occurring methane in the ground. In fact, there are at least three towns in the United States bearing the name “Burning Springs,” all named long before fracking was conceived.
At a screening of Gasland in Chicago, McAleer kindly confronts Fox about the flammable water claim. Cameras rolling, Fox immediately grows testy and the following exchange takes place:
McAleer: “I’m curious about why you didn’t include relevant reports from 1976 or 1936 in the documentary. Most people watching your film would think that lighting your water started with fracking. You have said yourself people lit their water long before fracking started. Isn’t that correct?”
Fox: “Yes, but it’s not relevant.”
Not relevant? Judge for yourself whether or not this is a credible statement, as Fox’s Gasland movie poster contains the screaming headline “CAN YOU LIGHT YOUR WATER ON FIRE?”
Throughout Frack Nation, McAleer, a journalist with previous stints at The Financial Times and The Economist, doggedly yet cheerfully chases down the claims made by Fox. Taking a page out of Fox’s own playbook, McAleer reaches Fox on his cell phone and asks if they can chat about Gasland. Fox hangs up on him. McAleer calls back, and Fox doesn’t answer. McAleer then attempts an in-person interview with Fox at a public event in Los Angeles, only to have doors slammed in his face and his camera slapped to the ground. As it turns out, leftist environmentalists not only do not welcome an open debate on fracking, they are unable to retain composure when confronted with even a hint of their own tactics.
Even The New York Times describes Frack Nation as “methodically researched and assembled.” While the factual content of Frack Nation stands on its own as a push-back to anti-fracking hysteria, the film is beautifully shot and imbued with a sense of humor. If you missed the premiere Tuesday night, you can catch it again on Saturday at noon, also on AXS TV.
John Kartch is the director of communications at Americans for Tax Reform.