Monday, Dec. 13, 2010

Gasland, USA

By David Luhrssen
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The subject for filmmaker Josh Fox’s documentary, Gasland (out on DVD), came to his doorstep couched in an offer he almost couldn’t refuse. Fox, who lives in the house his parents built in an idyllic Pennsylvania woods, was offered $100,000 to lease his land for natural gas drilling—promoted by armies of lobbyists and their domesticated politicians as the solution to America’s dependence on foreign oil. So confident were they of turning a profit on the “sea of natural gas” said to undergird much of the U.S. that snarling Dick Cheney and company exempted natural gas exploration from virtually all environmental regulations in Bush-era legislation.

As Gasland shows, it’s one thing for politicians and corporate executives to grease each other’s hands but quite another when they leave poisoned wastelands behind in their lust for profit. Traveling the country to places where unregulated drilling has occurred, Fox found a horror show of anecdotes on the effect of the deadly brew of chemicals used in the process. Wells have exploded, children sickened, animals have lost their hair, water runs black from the taps—and there was even a story of water catching on fire. Emissions from the process have been more dangerous to the air than freeway traffic.

Naturally, the weasels from the natural gas industry deny everything, even as state regulatory agencies are gutted and the EPA remains largely passive. Gasland tells an alarming story that demands attention.

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