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Josh Fox's 'Gasland' Sequel Opens, a Tour Through a Land of Abandoned Homes and Broken Promises

Gasland Part II contends that an industry should not be allowed to break what it cannot fix.

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No longer are the old forests clear-cut for drill rigs located in outlying areas inhabited by ethnic “others.” Now it’s Pennsylvania’s public lands and forests, which were industrialized by Governor Tom Corbett, elected, as the film shows, with substantial gas and oil industry contributions. Now it’s America falling far beneath its first world allies (according to a wide range of measures compiled in international studies) and transitioning into a new status. As the film documents, a government once so proud of its democracy, it sought to export it, now over-rules the rights of its citizens. In Dimock, Pennsylvania, the film tracks the history of the town’s aquifer contamination, which affected the drinking water in many homes. The PA government first promised to construct a pipeline of potable water at industry expense, but following Corbett’s election, retracted that plan and left many townsfolk permanently without water.

As a result, many were forced to sign non-disclosure agreements in exchange for buy-outs so that they could move for the sake of their health. In one poignant scene, Fox films an outspoken and charismatic community leader named Victoria Switzer, as prior to signing, she “practices” being silent. Many of those profiled in Gasland II have undergone a similar fate and abandoned their zero value homes or accepted buyouts in exchange for silence. Louis Meeks, a Wyoming farmer, explains that he received such an offer. His reply, “Move and leave my neighbors here? What kind of an axxxxxe do you think I am?”

And for what, this loss of rights, of homes, of voices? In order to exploit resources now destined for export to other countries. In the film, economic analyst Deborah Rogers explains her view that once gas is liquefied for export to China (where gas prices are high), the currently low U.S. gas prices will mount, creating a consumer squeeze. Americans will have invested their tax dollars in gas infrastructures based on the promise of cheap energy. But that energy won’t be there.

Gasland Part II contends that an industry should not be allowed to break what it cannot fix. The aftermaths of contamination often endure. The film opens with the use of Corexit, (a product banned in Britain) that dispersed and hid the massive amounts of oil released into the Gulf of Mexico by the 2010 Deepwater Horizon explosion and spill. But Corexit didn’t remove the oil or redress the damage. Instead, it  “killed the ecology of the Gulf of Mexico,” according to biologist Wilma Subra, interviewed in the film.

There is no current technology to purify the fracking waste that is shale gas extraction’s by-product. There is no current technology to restore the water supply of the 15 million Americans reliant on the Delaware River, should the Delaware River Basin, which flows through five states, becomes contaminated through nearby fracking or pipeline infrastructural activity. Nor is climate change, which climatologist, Robert Howarth reveals is greatly increased by both methane release and the entire life cycle of drilling activity, reversible.

Fortunately, there is existing technology that can solve the energy problem—it’s renewable energy technology. As the film makes clear, shale gas is no bridge to a renewable energy future. It’s a detour away from renewables, a dead-end. As Stanford researcher Mark Z. Jacobson discloses in the film, the technology for renewables has evolved so thoroughly that 100% of U.S. energy needs could now be supplied by wind, complemented by some use of solar and water energy. Jacobson and his colleagues at the Solutions Project are devising a detailed plan to meet the needs of New York State spelling out all of the requirements, along with the jobs to be created. 

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