Story by Elizabeth Lewis, CGM Staff Writer
One of the biggest buzzwords in society today is “fracking,” a term commonly used to refer to hydraulic fracturing, a controversial method of extracting natural gases from deep inside the Earth. Within the last decade, there has been a push by large oil and gas companies, as well as governments at the state and federal level, to expand fracking as a means to lessen society’s natural gas and foreign dependence. However, the controversy over fracking comes from the tendencies of fracking wells to be used improperly and recklessly, causing hazardous chemicals to be released into underground water supplies and the air.
Josh Fox exploded onto the documentary scene with his first film, Gasland, which was released in 2010, about the many thousands of families being offered money to leave their homes situated on top of natural gas reserves underground. In the sequel, Gasland Part II, Fox further explores the dangers faced by families who live in places like western Pennsylvania and eastern Ohio, on the Marcellus Shale. This shale covers large portions of Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and parts of the eastern half of Ohio. Families who have built their lives on top of the Marcellus Shale have been offered money to vacate their homes and open them up for the use of hydraulic fracturing.
A large portion of the film focuses on the resolve of several families residing in Dimock, Pennsylvania, one of many towns that have been affected by fracking. The people in this town, and many more similar towns across the world, are able to light their water on fire by simply holding a lighter to it due to the absurdly large amounts of methane gas that has leaked into their water supplies.
As result, little has been done to help the families in Dimock or the families living on the Barnett Shale in Texas, who have faced similar problems. The EPA has done testing, but nothing has been due to pressure from oil and gas companies lobbying congress in their favor. Even after undeniable evidence that hydraulic fracturing has caused significant health and safety issues for these families, any form of regulation or compensation has been blocked, or kept largely under wraps.
The focus of the film is the connections between creator Josh Fox’s home and homes all across the United States, and the world over. Fracking is occurring at an alarming rate all over the nation, with wells covering the state of Wyoming, over fifteen thousand wells across the Barnett Shale in Texas, and many wells across parts of Australia. There has been an international initiative for the expansion of natural gas use to deter the use of fossil fuels in the world. Fracking for natural gas is not a sustainable form of energy. There needs to be more of a push for renewable energy, such as wind power.
In the state of Ohio, there has been a push for wind energy, with a large increase in energy production from wind power between 2008 and 2012. According to this Dayton Daily News article, energy production from wind made up 0.8 percent of total energy production in the state of Ohio last year and that number is likely to increase in the coming years. This is a step in the right direction in terms of a sustainable future.
Gasland Part II provides a sinister look into the oil industry’s ties with government and the many initiatives to block meaningful legislation to regulate fracking. It is clear that it is not a safe form of extraction because there are numerous families throughout the world who have suffered health consequences from the release of hazardous chemicals into the air. These hazardous chemicals have caused some people to have respiratory issues, blood and tissue complications, and ultimately have forced many people to choose between their homes and their lives. Hydraulic fracturing is polluting the water, the air, and the Earth. It is a phenomenon that cannot continue at the rate at which it is currently expanding.
Editor’s Note: Watch the trailer for Gasland 2 HERE.