GasLand: coming to Australia

GasLand opens in cinemas from November 18.

A film by director Josh Fox
In Palace cinemas from November 18

In September 2006, theatre director and part-time banjo player Josh Fox received an unexpected letter in the mail: a natural gas company offering him $100,000 for permission to explore his family's upstate New York property, in the lush Delaware River Basin area.

Rather than join many of his neighbours in signing on the dotted line, [director] Josh [Fox’s] curiosity saw him asking questions. He soon discovered that in the race for “cleaner”, greener and more efficient energy sources, the largest natural gas drilling boom in history is sweeping the globe, and in the US, the Halliburton-led drilling technology of hydraulic fracturing (or “fracking” has unlocked a “Saudi Arabia of natural gas”.

So Josh picked up his camcorder, and set out on a journey across America's heartland. His personal concerns quickly uncovered global ones, as the citizens of GasLand testify to what's been happening around them.

It becomes evident that the multi-million dollar business of fracking has contaminated the water supply, the corporate giants are in cover-up mode, and the PR-spun government has not only turned a blind eye, it has regulated itself out of the picture.

Part verite travelogue, part expose, part mystery, part showdown, GasLand is a compelling and emotional first-person story of discovery and, ultimately, empowerment. Rough-hewn yet poetic, the film is a desperate plea for scrutiny of a powerful industry that has now turned its eyes on a new, massive and largely unexplored territory: Australia."

GasLand was awarded the Special Jury Prize for Documentary at the 2010 Sundance Festival, and a number of other prestigious awards.

Director Josh Fox is being toured around rural South-Western Queensland by Friends of the Earth, to show his film and discuss the growing problem of the natural gas industry in this country.

He spoke to Green Left Weekly about the impact of his film, and the people's movement that is growing in the US to challenge the corporate energy giants.

* * *

[The film has had] a galvanising effect on the movement.

There were already grassroots organisations springing up around the country, but touring with the film was helpful. It inspired new groups to be formed right there at screenings of the movie.

There has been a big polarising effect, with the energy industry attacking the film and the people in it. But this has been largely a mistake, as it has drawn attention to the film.

We now have people in Wyoming (US) talking to guys in Oklahoma [about mutual problems with natural gas drilling and the poisoning of their water supplies].

It is very hard to debate an industry willing to blatantly lie: it openly denies the natural gas drilling industry has been exempted from the Safe Drinking Water Act and other regulatory controls.

This is all a problem of living in this system where powerful economic interests transcend other issues.

[In GasLand] you see a profile of America beyond the usual stereotypes, with people from Texas talking about the same things as people in New York.

This is the force of the future. For me, there is no difference between an environmental issue and a public health issue. We need a clean environment if we are to survive.

As a society, we have been living for the past century with enormous benefits because of fossil fuels. But if the next 100 years is also dependent on such fuels, we will be brought right down.

The world has to change or disaster will ensue.

We just toxified the Gulf of Mexico. This whole approach is not going to work any more.

This system is based on competition. The turn to gas as an energy source is designed to destroy the other alternatives.

The energy industry often argues that gas is better than coal. The truth is that, dealing with “hydraulic fracturing”, this is not so.

When you look at the point of consumption, gas produces 40% less greenhouse gases than coal. But fracking releases huge amounts of methane, which is a much worse greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide.

Looking forward, we have immense potential for renewable energy production from geothermal, biomass, solar and wind power.

The reality is that the system we are living in right now is not a truly “free market”. By exempting the natural gas industry from regulations, and applying massive subsidies, it is not a level playing field.

Renewable energy would be quite competitive if the system was not tilted against it.

The problem is that our present system is “corporate socialism”: “socialism” for the corporations, and capitalism for the rest of us.

As far as I can see, the US is quite similar to Australia in this regard.

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