On Wednesday, ATR hosted a Newsmaker Lunch for film directors Phelim McAleer and Ann McElhinney to discuss the launch of their new documentary, FrackNation. The film examines the costs and benefits of the natural gas drilling method known as hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. It was made in response to director John Fox’s Gasland, which negatively portrays the decades-old practice. Fracking has become more prevalent in the United States in recent years due to the discovery of vast underground shale deposits. In that time, these areas have experienced tremendous economic growth and energy prices have plummeted for families across the country. McAleer and McElhinney shared several clips from the documentary, including one in which McAleer confronts Fox about his claim that fracking is the source of methane in a Pennsylvania town’s water supply.
In the larger scheme of things, FrackNation is evidence that active and honest journalism can make an impact. In the words of McAleer, the film reports “the stories someone out there doesn’t want published.” In doing so, it hopes to expose the hypocrisy of fracking’s opponents, as well as the scare tactics they use to further their agenda. McAleer described the film as “by the people, for the people,” pointing to its approximately 3,300 individual donors, none of which he says have ties to the oil and gas industry. The project was able to reach its fundraising goal in one month through the online crowd funding site Kickstarter.
McAleer and McElhinney cited evidence from various government agencies and independent organizations that contradicts many of the claims commonly made by environmental groups. For instance, they mentioned an Environmental Protection Agency report that found no evidence of water pollution due to fracking. The directors stressed the importance of changing the way people frame the fracking discussion by highlighting its economic benefits. As an example, they pointed to the recent job growth and surge in royalties paid to mineral rights owners in North Dakota.
During a question and answer session at the end of their presentation, the directors lamented the way that scientific data is deliberately manipulated in today’s political culture. They also discussed how hydraulic fracturing policies and practices have implications for resource-rich foreign countries. Going forward, McAleer and McElhinney announced plans to visit colleges across the country, where they will be able to engage students who may otherwise not hear both sides of the fracking issue.
FrackNation makes its official premiere on AXS TV on January 22 at 9pm ET, and DVD copies will be available for purchase on February 1. For more information on how and why the film was made, watch the video below: