Gasland by Josh Fox Movie Review


Hydraulic fracturing, commonly called fracking, is the process of fracturing the earth with high pressures of liquids, commonly water and other secret chemicals, to release natural gas and oil from rock. Fracking has been used since 1950 but has recently boomed when geologists discovered how to drill horizontally deep underground. Many of the opponents to the practice of fracking want renewable, clean energy to be the way of the future, while also saying that fracking destroys land. The film documentary Gasland by Josh Fox sparked the distrust towards the fracking process, causing many people to call for fracking to be more restricted or even banned. Gasland brought up many arguments that are used for the main talking points in the debate against fracking.

Gasland depicts Colorado residents, whose lands were used by a natural gas company, lighting their water taps on fire when exposed to an open flame. The residents and Fox blamed the fracking process for the taps catching fire. I say that taps in areas of high methane concentration are prone to taps lighting on fire. These high concentrations are what entice fracking companies to drill there. The Colorado Department of Natural Resources investigated this claim in Weld County, CO, where Gasland shows the taps lighting on fire. The Colorado DNR found that the wells do have very high concentrations of methane, but also found that the methane is biogenic methane, methane from plant decay, and not thermogenic methane, methane made from intense heat in rocks. The Colorado DNR goes on to explain, “[The residents’ wells] contained biogenic methane typical of gas that is naturally found in the coals of the Laramie–Fox Hills Aquifer.” The residents’ wells feed on this aquifer, causing the high methane concentration, and consequently, the taps catching fire. The Colorado DNR later refers to a 1976 publication by the Colorado Division of Water Resources that states the aquifer contains “troublesome amounts of … methane”. Further evidence that fracking does not cause taps to catch fire was shown when the University of Alaska Fairbanks has published a video of students breaking ice over a frozen lake, which was never in the vicinity of fracking, and then putting an open flame above the cracks. Large fireballs plumed over the split ice. This shows that the claim in Gasland that fracking caused the taps to catch fire are false.

Gasland also shows the residents’ water samples that they have collected. They show mason jars of extremely polluted and murky water with large contaminants. President Obama’s former EPA director Lisa Jackson has stated “In no case have we made a definitive determination that the fracking process has caused chemicals to enter groundwater,” when asked about the fracking process polluting drinking water.

Many in the opposition of fracking claim that fracking causes earthquakes. I say this is true but is misleading. Earthquakes because of fracking are on the same scale as thousands of other minor earthquakes per year. These earthquakes are incredibly small and barely noticeable. When the earth is fractured, the ground will be slightly unstable and will shake to become stable again.

Many opponents to fracking want renewable energies, such as solar and wind power, to become the main power producer. While solar and wind power are some of the cleanest forms of energy, they are very unreliable. Sadly, solar panels cannot generate power when there is not enough sunlight, and wind turbines cannot spin without enough wind. Fossil fuel power and nuclear power are very reliable, but global warming and nuclear disasters scare people away from them. Natural gas, which is still a fossil fuel, is a good middle ground between completely green and reliable energy. Natural gas releases half the CO2, the main culprit of global warming, that coal does when burning for the same energy unit. This is immensely important because humans can still have the electricity reliability that we rely on, while still helping to combat climate change. In fact, the European Union pledged to cut back their greenhouse gas emissions with huge regulations. The United States, however, did not pledge to cut back greenhouse gas emissions like the European Union, but cut their greenhouse gas emissions double that of the European Union. A major factor of this was the fracking boom and the immense supply of natural gas in the United States, while the majority of Europe has banned fracking.

Due to the concerns raised in Gasland, many want tighter regulations or a ban on fracking. Activists have already successfully banned fracking in New York and Maryland. I say that the call for a total ban on fracking is unjustified. On that note however, tighter regulations may be a good idea. There have been a few spills of fracking fluid over the years. I say that a more imposing fine on actions like these, even accidental, are sensible. Industry should be encouraged to grow and provide employment and tax money, while also keeping industry responsible for infractions.

While fracking pumps and oil donkeys do look ugly, and also upset the appearance of healthy land, they do more good than harm. These devices are removing the natural gas and oil deep underground, allowing for cleaner burning fuel to provide heat and electricity to humans. Coal is a terrible fossil fuel to be used for electricity generation, and this should be addressed. Global warming is a major fear for the prosperity of future generations, and natural gas is the answer to this problem. As stated earlier, natural gas produces half of the carbon dioxide that coal does. The United States also has a vast supply of natural gas, while coal is starting to run dry. This is important because this allows people to keep jobs instead of losing them to our increasingly automated workplaces.

Many of the arguments made against fracking have easily refutable facts. Fracking produces natural gas and petroleum, when done correctly, in a very safe manner. Natural gas is most important here because it provides a very reliable energy source, while also helping to reduce our carbon dioxide pollution, and help remedy climate change, perhaps the biggest issue facing humans in history.

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