Filmmaker Blasts Energy Alternative

An Alternative Energy Source?

Though a fossil fuel, natural gas is a form of alternative energy. The United States Environmental Protection Agency reported on its Web site in 2007 that natural gas produces half as much carbon dioxide emissions as coal, and fewer nitrogen oxides than burning oil.

After the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, President Obama called for the nation to decrease its dependence on foreign oil. Hailing the future of American energy as clean energy, Obama is pushing for investments in alternative energy industries.

So is Range Resources.

"I think we need to look no further than the Gulf of Mexico," Pitzarella said. "If we don't want to see that, then we need to develop our own energy resources. [Natural gas] is a much safer, cleaner energy."

The industry is attempting to expand hydrofracking beyond the 34 states where wells are operating. "Gasland," not surprisingly, cautions against such a widespread expansion.

"When [the gas companies] first started this process, they advertised it as a safe thing, as clean energy in the United States," Fox told "But what's actually going on at the ground level is this enormous problem of water contamination, air pollution and people getting sick."

Traveling to 25 states, Fox interviewed landowners who said their water and health were fine until the hydrofracking started. In "Gasland," Fox argues the chemicals in the fracking fluid entered aquifers, or ground water supplies. When people drink the contaminated water, Fox said, it can cause health problems.

For example, Fox spoke with a woman who said drinking her water caused her to suffer brain damage. In Pennsylvania, a woman said her cats and horses were losing their hair because of the gas-laced water. And in Wyoming a man said his water smelled like turpentine. One family in Fort Lupton, Colo., could even light its tap water on fire, according to the film.

"Any time you engage in an activity, like driving a car, there's a potential for an accident," said Dennis Holbrook, executive vice president of Norse Energy, a Norwegian company that operates in the United States. "But you have to look at the results over time. The science behind hydraulic fracturing has been developing over the last 50 years, and these examples [in "Gasland"] are very rare."

Scientists at Odds

Members of the scientific community are split on the hydrofracking issue.

"Gasland" features Dr. Theo Colborn, a former U.S. EPA advisor, who described the risk in hydraulic fracturing.

"Every environmental law we wrote to protect public health is ignored," Colborn said in the film. "The neurological effects are very insidious."

Syracuse University professor Donald Siegel disagreed. Siegel is a hydrogeologist with a specialization in water chemistry and water supplies.

With funding by the U.S. Geological Survey, he has researched how liquids enter aquifers, and his work has been published in the Journal of Ecology.

Siegel does not consider hydrofracking to be inherently dangerous because he has not found evidence that the fracking chemicals have entered aquifers.

"I have not heard of any problem, anywhere in the United States, where the actual process itself has caused any environmental harm," Siegel told "I think in the context of prudence and risk, it makes sense to pursue [the natural gas] industry."

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