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The confronting documentary Gasland claims that US natural gas drilling companies are wilfully contaminating air and groundwater with gas extraction processes. Gasland won the Special Jury Prize at the 2010 Sundance Film Festival and aired here recently on SBS TV.

Josh Fox filmed Gasland after he was approached to lease his farmland for gas drilling. He travelled across the USA to investigate the effects of the hydrolic fracturing process known as ‘fracking‘ (‘fraccing‘ in Australia). Gasland claims that fracking injects enormous quantities of water containing toxic and carcinogenic chemicals into the earth to trigger the release of natural gas. The film focuses on “..toxic streams, ruined aquifers, dying livestock, brutal illnesses, and kitchen sinks that burst into flame.” (http://sundance.bside.com/2010/films/gasland_sundance2010 ). Fox reported that special laws were enacted by the Bush government to shield the drilling companies from investigation by the US environmental protection agency.

Could this happen here in Australia? Is it already happening? According to The Brisbane Times, Josh Fox has said he will make Gasland 2. He plans to include the reactions of some Queensland farming communities against CSG exploration companies trying to acquire their land.

Bow Energy explores and appraises coal seam gas (CSG) projects in Queensland. A CSG factsheet on their website strongly refutes the claims made by Fox in Gasland:  “The film bears very little relevance to the USA gas industry and absolutely none to Australia’s.”  Bow Energy’s factsheet reproduces The Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Association (APPEA) factsheet ‘Gasland Factfile’.  The websites of both APPEA and Bow Energy link to the US Energy in Depth website which publishes a factsheet called ‘Debunking Gasland‘. The Energy in Depth site attacks the veracity of claims made in Fox’ documentary and sympathetic articles in The Huffington Post and The New York Times.

A group of investigative journalism students at New York University have gone beyond a standard investigation of the issues around fracking in the US to create ‘The Fracking Song’ (below). The lyrics, animated music video and backstory to ‘The Fracking Song’  are posted on Explainer.net . Todd Olmstead reports there that the song and clip aim  “…to bring people in, to create an easily digestible package that compels news consumers to dig into the real meat of the story.”

The Explainer.net site features  Professor Jay Rosen’s graduate journalism class at NYU’s Studio 20, in partnership with the non-profit investigative newsroom ProPublica. Professor Rosen tweeted on 10 May:  “We’ve added links to the lyrics of the (now near viral) Fracking Song to emphasize *why* we did this. http://explainer.net/thefrackingsong/.” ProPublica’s Buried Secrets – gas drilling’s environmental threat is the result of an almost three year long investigation.

The film Gasland is unsettling to watch. Members of the CSG industry, both in Australia and in the US, reacted by vigorously defending their drilling processes and attacking the credibility of the film and its maker. If you missed the film, you can see the trailer and access the filmmaker’s blog at the Gasland website.

Creative Commons License
The above article is  by Kaymolly S. Morrelle and licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

“My Water’s On Fire Tonight (The Fracking Song),” below, is released under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike license.

Music by David Holmes and Andrew Bean. Vocals by David Holmes and Niel Bekker. Animation by Adam Sakellarides and Lisa Rucker.