Not so long ago, fracking was a technical term little known beyond the energy industry. Now it’s coming to Hollywood, as the fierce battle between environmentalists and oil firms is played out in several forthcoming films.
Hydraulic fracturing, the controversial drilling technique also known as fracking, has lifted U.S. energy output dramatically, despite warnings from critics who fear it pollutes water deep underground.
Any shift in public opinion could impact policy - and huge sums in energy spending - since drilling regulations are under review by the Obama administration and local officials around the country. The high stakes involve a range of issues from U.S. energy independence, to protection of drinking water.
Both sides are using movies to try to win the debate, though actor Matt Damon says viewers should not assume the movie he stars in, “Promised Land,” is “a rabid anti-fracking polemic.”
In the film, Damon plays a gas company landman - an agent who buys or leases land - intent on drilling beneath a town where some residents are concerned about the perils of fracking. As the landman gets to know the townspeople, he suffers a crisis of conscience.
In an interview in Los Angeles, Damon said he worries that viewers will wrongly assume the film is one-sided and not see it. He declined to offer his personal view on fracking. “That’s not the point. The point is that (the film) should start a conversation.”
The Northern Irish director Phelim McAleer’s documentary, “FrackNation,” is an unabashedly pro-drilling mantra set to air next month on AXS TV, the cable network controlled by Dallas Mavericks owner and media mogul Mark Cuban.
McAleer views fracking as “the best thing ever,” a potential savior for the U.S. economy, unless the forces he likes to call “Big Enviro” succeed in derailing it.
On the other side of the argument, HBO, the cable pay channel, could air a sequel to “Gasland,” a scathing 2010 documentary from director Josh Fox, as early as next year.