Oil companies have been buying up the drilling rights to properties all over the country. What could be better than waking up to a big check (offer) in your mailbox? It’s like you got rich for just being lucky enough to be on a natural gas deposit.
Or, to quote a common meme these days, “What could possibly go wrong?”
This is the question asked by Josh Fox, after the Fox family manse receives such an offer.
You already know this isn’t going to turn out well, right?
Josh decides to investigate, grabs a video camera, and an enlists the help of a pal (?) with a camera and they run around the country investigating “fracking”, the process of—well, hell, you can read about it on Wiki, if you want, but suffice to say, it’s a practice of extracting natural gas (something America has in abundance).
Now, a simple truth is this: Just like oil wells, mines, or any other excavation activity, bad things are going to happen. A cold analysis of the situation would be to examine the amount of gas extracted relative to the damage caused in the process, thus allowing us to decide for ourselves whether the risk was worth the cost.
But I suppose that’d make a dull movie.
Fox runs around to farmhouse after farmhouse where the fracking seems to have caused serious problems. A propos of the situation in the Gulf, natural gas seems to also be capable of gushing out of control.
The effect of this is to make the air smell bad, causing rivers to bubble with toxicity, and (as Fox demonstrates repeatedly), makes tap water flammable.
Yes, apparently, on a farm, when your water turns bad, your first instinct is to try to light it on fire. They do this so many times in so many places in this movie, you worry about someone actually blowing up their whole damn farm.
It’s a pretty decent (if one-sided) trip over all, with Fox ultimately drawing pictures of the entire northeastern area of the country being poisoned, the entire west being wrecked with wells, and stretches like someone’s dad being exposed to the toxic water and being dead inside of 2 years from pancreatic cancer. (Patrick Swayze didn’t even make it two years, I don’t think. Pancreatic cancer is a bitch.)
About a third of the movie is borderline unwatchable in the literal sense because the hand-held cam is so shaky as to deliver no meaningful picture. The music is, well, homemade. The maker, hopelessly naive about the topic of energy. At one point, Halliburton’s name shows up, as if that explains something. At one point, Fox plays the banjo in front of a plant while wearing a gas mask.
Powerful? Or just silly?
Whichever, it all ends up being sort of endearing. This is something we should know about. One would think that the drilling companies would plan for these contingencies and have settlements ready for the landowners, though I suspect the landowners sign those away with the mineral rights. I also suspect that, soon, every problem people have becomes associated with these wells.
Nonetheless, it’s just as certain that the various corporations involved stonewall at least some of the time and have a lot of political clout.
Overall, then, this is one of those awareness raising deals. I’d recommend it even if you have to squint through parts and cover your ears through others.
The Boy and the Old Man both enjoyed it as well.