The intense battle over hydraulic fracturing, also known as fracking, is now taking place on screen. Two films that take opposing sides on the issue are going to war.
The first is the anti-fracking film "Promised Land," opening nationwide Friday. The Matt Damon movie follows an agent for the gas company whose job is to secure land for his company to drill on. The character has a change of heart when the townspeople convince him there is danger to the drinking water located there. The second is the documentary "FrackNation," made by the Northern Irish director Phelim McAleer, which argues fracking could be the answer to the energy needs of the United States.
"FrackNation" will be aired on AXS TV, the cable network run by Mark Cuban. McAleer has said that fracking is “the best thing ever” and feels that it will fix America’s energy issues if it isn’t impeded by environmentalists.
Robert McNally, a former adviser to George W. Bush, said of fracking, “"It could become the biggest environmental debate of our time. Hollywood is taking notice, and the industry will have its work cut out for it to defend fracking."
There is a third film that will enter the debate, joining "Promised Land" in its attempt to vilify fracking. HBO has a documentary in the works that is a sequel to "Gasland," which was a 2010 documentary that condemned fracking. "Gasland" showed tap water turning into fire and was blasted by the oil industry for its inaccuracies.
Chris Tucker of the pro-drilling group Energy In Depth (EID), which produced a film called "Truthland" stating the facts as an answer to “Gasland,” is wary of the effect on public sentiment of "Promised Land."
"Look, I don't want to whistle past the graveyard. This film is going to be a challenge, and we'll just have to see how it does on opening weekend," Tucker says.
Fracking has allowed the United States to challenge Russia for the world’s lead in producing gas as well as helping the U.S. to stop plummeting in oil output.
Americans sense the need for fracking now more than ever; in 2007, 55 percent of Americans favored environmental protection over economic growth; that number has shrunk co much that this year the economic growth advocates actually outnumbered the environmentalists 49 percent to 41 percent.