Wanted: An Honest Dialogue on Shale Gas

According to a recent estimate by the Energy Information Administration,  energy-related emissions of carbon dioxide, the greenhouse gas that is widely believed to contribute to global warming, have fallen 12% between 2005 and 2012 and are at their lowest level since 1994. While there is more than one factor contributing to this reduction, it has been reported that U.S. natural gas production has greatly contributed to a dramatic reduction in carbon-dioxide emissions.

Despite findings such as these, aggressive advocacy from energy opposition groups and activists continue to try to create negative perceptions about shale gas. From Yoko Ono to Lady Gaga and now Josh Fox (again), there seems to be no end to the claims being made against hydraulic fracturing and the natural gas revolution occurring across the U.S. However, the Associated Press recently reported that the opponents of shale gas production were accused of twisting the facts – creating concern that these critics may be misleading the public by using claims that have little or nothing behind them.

As a result, the public continues to be barraged with information from both sides about shale gas: its impacts on drinking water, its benefits and challenges for local communities, and its effects on the environment. Clearly, these are all issues that need to be based on science and public discussion – not fear and hyperbole. Unfortunately, with all of the scare tactics and misinformation out there, it comes as no surprise that the public remains confused about the real facts in this debate.

Filmmaker Josh Fox, director of the newly premiered Gasland II – a sequel to the 2010 documentary ‘Gasland,’ recently made a new attempt to lay out the realistic challenges and opportunities of shale development. However, he fell short by over-simplifying the facts and exaggerating his claims. Instead Fox created another sensational and inaccurate film that will only add to the public’s confusion on this topic.

Here is what some of the film’s critics are saying:

  • “The problem with Gasland is that it is entertainment that actually is ‘science denial’ and thus not fitting as an educational documentary or journalism.” – Daily Kos
  • “’Gasland Part II’ runs longer than the earlier installment, but ultimately it has less to say. Fox sounds the same alarm with a bizarre mixture of confidence in the message and an awareness of the vanity involved in delivering it.IndieWire 
  • “Mr. Fox works in first-person style of colorful mudslingers like Michael Moore…The film runs to two hours and its anecdotal, hopscotch style starts to wear.” – The New York Times

In light of these reviews, it is concerning that the film is estimated to be seen by millions of viewers. Instead of a film that is advancing its own agenda instead of facts, the public deserves to have their questions answered with facts and to be able to have an honest discussion.

At a time when policy decisions are being made on shale gas production in a number of states across the nation, it is imperative that the facts are presented during this debate – not overhyped fears. Instead, we must have a real, thoughtful and honest discussion about shale gas development as part the national discussion on America’s energy future.

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About The Author

David Holt is President of Consumer Energy Alliance, serving in this position since January 2006. As the voice of the energy consumer, Consumer Energy Alliance works to increase domestic energy production and reduce consumer energy prices. CEA seeks to motivate and provide a voice for consumers interested in vital public issues, such as responsible access to available natural resources; power generation; impact of energy prices on business, agriculture and consumers; development of a robust, domestic renewable energy industry; and utilization of new technologies that allow for higher levels of energy efficiency and conservation. With more than 220 consumer and energy affiliate organizations representing every sector of the American economy, and 300,000-plus consumer advocates, Consumer Energy Alliance continues to expand dialogue and develop joint messaging among the energy and consuming sectors through its various activities. David is a Professor with Norway’s Nordland University Graduate School of Business, Master of Science in Energy Management Program, in cooperation with the International Institute of Energy Policy & Diplomacy at the MGIMO University in Moscow, Russia. He serves on the board of Consumer Energy Education Foundation and the St Anne Foundation. David is also a member of the Texas Bar Association and the Houston Bar Association.