“Promised Land” With Matt Damon Explores the “high-stakes poker” of Natural Gas Fracking

Posted By Lowell F. on December 28th, 2012

We’ve written extensively here at Scaling Green on the practice known as natural gas fracturing (aka, “fracking”).  For the most part, our focus has been on the the potential risks to water supplies from this industry, as well as on the need for strong government regulation and oversight as this practice expands.

Now, a movie starring Matt Damon, called Promised Land, is opening in theaters, promising to bring increased attention to fracking and its impact on communities. Here’s a brief description from the film’s website:

[Promised Land] keenly distills questions of how American values have evolved. These explorations come in part through a small town’s decisions when a natural gas company seeks to extract gas from shale rock formations through the process known as hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking.”

Damon explains, “The plot follows Steve and Sue as they try to persuade the McKinley community to lease the drilling rights of their farmland to Global Crosspower Solutions, which Steve and Sue work for, and which – valued at $9 billion – is one of the largest energy corporations in the country.

“The townspeople have divergent opinions about whether this is a good thing or not. In a lot of cases, these leases are the only thing keeping a family farm from foreclosure.”

DeWitt adds, “The people of McKinley are concerned about feeding their kids and improving their school systems.”

This is a complex issue that’s dividing a lot of communities right now,” says Damon. “What better setting for us as storytellers to ask questions about who we are as Americans?

It sounds fascinating, and we are certainly looking forward to seeing the movie. In the meantime, we’ve viewed the movie’s trailer (see above), and also watched Charlie Rose’s interview with Matt Damon and screenwriter/actor John Krasinski. As Damon tells Rose, the subject was perfect to make a movie about, as “the stakes are so incredibly high.” Krasinski adds that “it’s high-stakes poker” for communities trying to decide how to proceed when the fracking company comes to town and make them an offer that can appear highly attractive, particularly to people struggling in tough economic times.

One final note, from a public relations perspective, is how the fossil fuel industry has reacted to this upcoming film. According to this Wall Street Journal article, they are “preparing for battle…[w]orried that the movie will portray fracking in a negative light.” Among other things, the oil and gas folks for months have been “working up responses that it says could include bombarding film reviewers with scientific studies, distributing leaflets to moviegoers and mounting a ‘truth-squad’ effort on Twitter and Facebook.” It will be interesting to see whether or not this “concerted campaign targeting the film before anyone’s seen it,” as the film’s distributor (Focus Features) said, works as intended. Stay tuned.

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