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Promised Land, a Movie Review

For related articles and more information, please visit OCA's Environment and Climate Resource Center page and our Organic Transitions page.

Promised Land, the new movie starring Matt Damon, is a movie in part about fracking, the new and extremely problematic way of getting natural gas out of shale rock far below the earth's surface. It's a very good movie, with good acting, particularly by Damon in a very different role than, for example, his Jason Bourne trilogy. Instead of  being a kick-ass former CIA assassin on a mission to reclaim his memory and the truth about what was done to him, in Promised Land Damon is a conflicted, conscience-stricken, corporate hot shot "land man" using bribes and threats, when necessary, to get people in a small, rural town to agree to let their town be fracked.

But the movie in no way presents all, or even most, of the many problems that come with fracking, much less do so in a clear and convincing way. The primary problem it does present is the very real one of contamination of land and water. This happens as a result of the toxic chemicals, mixed with water and sand, that are forced down into the shale under heavy pressure to break the rock and release the gas within it. Some of that toxic mix comes back up, along with methane, the primary ingredient of natural gas, and there are huge numbers of specific instances of plant and animal deaths, human sickness and water poisoning afterwards that are clear proof of this serious problem.

But there are many more that Promised Land doesn't mention, much less explain:

-most importantly, fracking's huge and growing contribution to our global heating crisis: methane is 72-105 times as powerful a greenhouse gas as CO2 over the first 20 years after it is released into the atmosphere, and studies over the past two years, including by the EPA, show that there is much more methane leakage over the lifecycle of fracked, as well as conventionally-produced, natural gas, than the oil/gas industry admits.

- constant heavy truck traffic transporting water, sand and fracking fluids that pollutes surrounding air, causes damage to roads, creates traffic congestion and noise and other negative impacts;

-the contamination of rivers close to fracking sites through either deliberate dumping of "flowback" wastewater after a well is drilled or through migration of those fluids underground;

-the drawdown of massive amounts of sometimes-scarce-as in historically dry or dought-impacted areas-nearby river and lake water, many millions of gallons per well;

-documented radiation levels in wastewater 100 or more times the EPA's drinking water standard;


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