Gasland Part II (Cinedigm, NR)

gaslandpart2These companies consider who you and I would call American citizens exercising their Constitutional rights to be insurgents threatening company operations—and profits, of course.



Josh Fox’s 2010 documentary Gasland became famous for two things: making “fracking” a household world, and demonstrating that it is indeed possible for tap water to catch fire. It also was one of the five nominees for the Academy Award for feature documentaries in 2011.

Gasland presented a convincing case that fracking (hydraulic fracturing, using pressurized water and chemicals to cause fractures in underground rock and free up natural gas) is a prime example of negative externalities at work. Companies can pollute groundwater in the process of drilling for gas deposits, and they get to keep the profits associated with obtaining the gas without having to pay the costs associated with the pollution. Those costs fall instead on the individual landowners whose water supply is polluted (thus potentially harming their health, as well as destroying the value of their homes). Corporations being, by and large, amoral entities motivated by profits, this system suits them just fine. More surprisingly, the system frequently also suits government officials and even homeowners who haven’t yet been affected by the pollution.

Gasland Part II picks up where Gasland ended. Sad to say, there hasn’t been much progress in terms of prohibiting fracking or forcing drilling companies to pay for the damage they have caused, but there are plenty of new cases to become outraged about. The new film casts a wider net, looking at ecological outrages beginning with an oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, and traveling from Texas to Pennsylvania to California and even Australia to interview people whose lives have been affected by fracking pollution. Visual high points include a Texas couple who are able to produce quite a persistent gas flame from their garden hose, and an Australian farmer who produces an impressive flame from a water well.

One jaw-dropping revelation in Gasland Part II is that the gas industry is using ex-military Psy-Op (psychological operations) specialists to plan and execute publicity campaigns. These companies, with names like the Institute of Terrorism Research and Response, consider who you and I would call American citizens exercising their Constitutional rights to be insurgents threatening company operations—and profits, of course.

Fox also found a public official willing to say, directly to the camera, that those who have health problems related to fracking pollution should “just move,” conveniently disregarding the fact that the pollution will probably make it impossible for them to sell their homes. As the man with the garden-hose-turned-blowtorch noted, Republican politicians are supposed to be interested in safeguarding the rights of property owners, but that certainly doesn’t seem to hold true if it might mean limiting the profits of gas companies.

Gasland Part II is basically a film for the converted; if you didn’t get the message with Gasland, you won’t get it with this film. On the other hand, if you’re already in the anti-fracking camp, Gasland Part II will make you feel even more secure that you are on the right side. Equally important, if you’re already singing in the anti-fracking choir, you’ll be more inclined to be generous about the scattered nature of this film, which Fox cannot entirely camouflage through snappy editing and a bouncy soundtrack.

Extras on the DVD include three extended scenes and a collage of extended Congressional interviews. | Sarah Boslaugh

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