Gasland brings sickening reality of fracking home
“Water’s not supposed to bubble like that unless it’s Perrier,” exclaimed the detective, as he examined tap water from a cattle ranch adjacent to natural gas drilling wells. The detective proceeded to light water streaming from the tap on fire.
“Methane…benzene…all these chemicals are implicated in cardiovascular and respiratory disorder, endocrine disruption…nerve system destruction” a doctor explained to a lab technician, who presented the doctor with water sample results from the ranch.
These are the scenes from a recent episode of CSI, but sadly, it is not just television drama. These are the effects Albertans and Americans are living with as a result of oil and gas companies employing a technique called hydraulic fracturing to drill for natural gas. The stories of these residents have been featured in CBC’s Passionate Eye and Gasland, a Sundance Festival Special Jury Award winner.
Here in British Columbia, where the “unconventional gas” industry is burgeoning, we have much to learn from the experiences of our neighbours.
It’s become a cliché that water is the new oil. Experts predict that clean, fresh water will, by the end of the century, be as precious and hard to find as black gold is now. Business magazines and websites are already instructing investors on how to profit from the coming market in water. (See http://seekingalpha.com/article/117760-water-the-new-oil.)
But in the movie, Gasland, directed by Josh Fox, homeowners light their drinking water with a match and watch it burst into flames. Is this the future?
Gasland, the winner of Special Jury Prize - Best US Documentary Feature - Sundance 2010, warns that it will be, unless policy makers stop natural gas companies from developing more and more reserves---in backyards of ordinary people all over the world. Hydraulic fracturing is spreading across the world, Fox tells viewers. And before you know it, your drinking water may be combustible, too.
It is happening all across America and now in Europe and Africa as well. Rural landowners wake up one day to find a lucrative offer from a multinational energy conglomerate wanting to lease their property. The reason? In America, the company hopes to tap into a huge natural gas reservoir dubbed the Saudi Arabia of natural gas. Halliburton developed a way to get the gas out of the ground—a hydraulic drilling process called fracking—and suddenly America finds itself on the precipice of becoming an energy superpower.
But what comes out of the ground with that natural gas? How does it affect our air and drinking water? GASLAND is a powerful personal documentary that confronts these questions with spirit, strength, and a sense of humor. When filmmaker Josh Fox receives his cash offer in the mail, he travels across 32 states to meet other rural residents on the front lines of fracking. He discovers toxic streams, ruined aquifers, dying livestock, brutal illnesses, and kitchen sinks that burst into flame. He learns that all water is connected and perhaps some things are more valuable than money.
All about fracking
Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking (also fraccing), is a method used by oil and gas companies to extract elusive sources of gas. Millions of gallons of water are mixed with sand and chemicals, then injected underground at high pressure in order to fracture the rock, allowing natural gas to flow.
Increased demand for fossil fuels and technological advancements, such as fracking, have made previously more difficult and expensive sources of gas – the “unconventional” kind - more profitable to extract. Coalbed methane (CBM), tight, and shale gas are among the types of unconventional gas.