Exposed: New Documentary About Gas Drilling Hailed as Indie and Balanced, But Here's Why It's Neither
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This weekend, the Texas Tribune will play host to the Texas Tribune Festival. According to the festival's website, the convening is designed "to bring together the state's most prominent thinkers, politicians and public servants for a weekend of debate, discussion and dialogue on the subjects that matter most to all Texans."
Near the top of the agenda will be a slate of policy discussions pertaining to energy and the environment, include the screening of a documentary about natural gas drilling (no, not Gasland). Texas is home to both the Eagle Ford and Barnett Shale basins, as well as a sliver of the Haynesville Shale, under all of which sits vast amounts of natural gas. The Haynesville Shale, mostly located in the northwest corner of Louisiana, as well as bit of southwest Arkansas and east Texas, underlies an area of about 9,000 square miles and possesses some 250 trillion cubic feet of recoverable natural gas. It is the largest natural gas field in the United States.
The festival's sponsors include some of the most powerful players in the natural gas arena: Apache Corporation, BP, El Paso Corp, Energy Future Holdings Corp, and America's Natural Gas Alliance (ANGA) -- the largest natural gas industry lobbying consortium in the United States. ANGA spent over $3 million lobbying the U.S. Congress in 2010 and has already spent over $1 million lobbying Congress in 2011, according to OpenSecrets.org.
The speakers at the Energy and Environment forum are also among the friendliest promoters (and defenders) of the gas industry, including U.S. Sen. J ohn Cornyn (R-TX), who raised nearly $1 million from the oil and gas industry in the run-up to his 2008 election, according to OpenSecrets.org; and T. Boone Pickens, creator of Pickens Plan and Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, as well as the main orchestrator behind U.S. House Bill 1380, the NAT GAS Act.
Gregory Kallenberg, a less well-known but increasingly influential figure in the natural gas "golden age," will also be there. He's currently best known for his role as director of the documentary film that's being shown: Haynesville: A Nation's Hunt for an Energy Future.
According to the film's website, Haynesville "follows the momentous discovery of the largest natural gas field in the United States (and maybe the world). The film examines the historic find (a formation called the 'Haynesville Shale') from the personal level as well as from the higher perspective of the current energy picture and pending energy future."
Kallenberg's film will be featured at the Texas Tribune Festival, followed by a panel featuring Kallenberg and others, including Justin Furnace, a lobbyist from the Texas Independent Producers and Royalty Owners Association; David Blackmon, who simultaneously serves on the government affairs committee for America's Natural Gas Alliance and the U.S. Oil and Gas Association, sits on the Board of Directors of the Louisiana Oil & Gas Association and the Texas Alliance of Energy Producers, and is the chief lobbyist for El Paso Corporation; and Ian Duncan, a professor of economic geology at the University of Texas at Austin.
While Haynesville was recently described in a story on Minnesota Public Radio as portraying "both sides" of the natural gas battle royale, the film is actually much more one-sided than most people believe.
A months-long investigation into the film has revealed that the film's director, Gregory Kallenberg, is actually a well-connected oil and natural gas man, with both a direct and familial financial stake in the ongoing domestic natural gas boom.
In fact, the film, produced by Three Penny Productions, has served as a prolonged public relations and advertising campaign for the gas industry, cleverly disguised as a tour for a small up-and-coming independent film.