Fracking Faces New Public Scrutiny With Movies

Will 'Promised Land' Change Tone of National Conversation?

Controversial: B’nai B’rith’s Perlman Camp in Lake Como, Pa. signed a lease to allow fracking on its land.
courtesy of b'nai b'rith
Controversial: B’nai B’rith’s Perlman Camp in Lake Como, Pa. signed a lease to allow fracking on its land.

By Reuters

Published December 24, 2012.
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Ahead of the release of “Promised Land,” some within the oil industry are already reading the film’s script online.

“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,” said Chris Tucker of pro-drilling group Energy In Depth (EID), which is funded by industry. “In terms of popularization of the issue, it will have an effect.”

The oil industry wants to avoid another blow like the one it took from Fox’s 2010 “Gasland” film. Google search data shows online interest in fracking surged immediately afterwards.

For three years, Tucker has been working with other communications experts, “pounding the zone with facts” to counter what he calls false claims in “Gasland” and to promote drilling.

Films like “Promised Land” will get people curious and send them searching online, said Tucker, where he worries the term ‘fracking’ gets a bad rap. “People will go home and Google it, and the other side does really well on Google,” he said.

EID released its own pro-drilling film, “Truthland,” this year, dubbing it “the factual alternative to Gasland.”

LOSING PR BATTLE?

In some ways, the film blitz may be behind the times. Fracking has already come to dominate U.S. drilling over the last half-decade: Onshore rigs doing so-called unconventional drilling account for nearly two-thirds of the total.

Tucker and industry officials are regulars at conferences, in newspaper op-ed articles, and on TV to defend drilling.

On the environmentalist side, Fox travels widely to lead anti-fracking rallies, sometimes rousing crowds by playing a banjo, which is also featured in the Gasland soundtrack. He has enlisted help from artists including Yoko Ono and Sean Lennon.


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