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by Sarah Laskow, Media Consortium blogger

The natural gas industry is afraid that Josh Fox, director of the muckraking film Gasland, might win an Oscar on Sunday. Earlier this month, an organization called Energy in Depth, backed by the oil and gas industry, sent the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences a letter in which it argued that Gasland, Fox's exposé on the natural gas industry, should be removed from consideration for best documentary feature because it contained inaccurate information.

After dealing with the industry for the past couple of years, Fox is not surprised by this tactic. "What this points to is the culture of that industry, which is bullying, which is aggressive, which is outlandish in their tactics, which will stop at nothing," he told AlterNet.

The film is still up for consideration, and the industry should be worried about the impact its nomination, let alone a victory, could have. Even if the film doesn't win on Sunday, millions of viewers will see a clip of the film that documents the real threat of environmental devastation that comes along with natural gas drilling and, in particular, with hydrofracking.

Nothing natural about it

The Media Consortium's Weekly Mulch has been tracking the fight over natural gas drilling. As noted back in September, Sandra Steingraber, in Orion Magazine, has called the rise of hydrofracking “the environmental issue of our time.” In a more recent dispatch for the magazine, Steingraber reports from an Environmental Protection Agency hearing on fracking, a technique for extracting otherwise hard-to-reach gas from the ground.

In upstate New York, where the hearing was held and where natural gas companies have been buying up drilling rights and properties for the past couple of years, residents are hugely concerned about this issue: four hundred people signed up to speak, for 120 seconds each, as Steingraber reports, over two days. One speaker in particular stuck out to her, though:

An older man rose to speak....And then he let ten seconds of silence fill the theater....After hours of ceaseless, rapid-fire speech, the sudden hush flowed through the overheated room like cool water. Someone giggled nervously. And then, finally, he spoke. That silence, he announced, represented the sounds of migratory birds. And tourists. And professors. And organic farmers. And thus with no words at all he reminded the audience of all the good members of our beloved community who would — if our land filled up with drill rigs, waste ponds, compressor stations, and diesel trucks — disappear, exit the cycle. As in, forever.

At Change.org, Austin Billings has another account of what natural gas drilling is putting at risk—the Bridger-Teton National Forest, miles of "spectacular hills and tall pine forests" that, Billings writes, "just kept going" as he drove through them. A company called Plains Exploration and Production Company is working to sink more than 130 natural gas wells in this area, Billings reports, a project that will strew the area with "pipelines, compressor stations, industrial water wells, truck staging areas, and other industrial features.”

Push Back

If Josh Fox wins an Oscar, however, natural gas projects like this one will face even more opposition. And that opposition matters. Just ask Costco, which caved in this week to a Greenpeace-led campaign against its sales of unsustainable seafood. For months, Greenpeace and its allies have been pushing the chain of wholesale grocery stores to sell only fish that can be captured or farmed in a sustainable way. The chain agreed to remove 12 "red list" species, at the highest risk for extinction, and to take other actions to promote sustainability and ocean conservation.

"It was a long and arduous process," said Casson Trenor, Greenpeace's seafood campaigner, said, according to Change.org's Sarah Parsons. "I'm really happy with where we've gotten to, and I think it says a lot about our methods and how effective we can be."

Guilty pleasures

Of course, fish is not the only food that's damaging to the environment. So much of what's available to eat is damaging to the environment. Grist reported last week that Girl Scout cookies are made with palm oil, the production of which is driving deforestation in Indonesia. Earth Island Journal's Maureen Nandini Mitra follows up by pointing out that Thin Mints aren't the only sweet that sucks up palm oil: her list includes M&Ms, Snickers, and Twix, as well as Clif energy bars.

Another point against those treats: They usually don't come in recyclable packaging. On the other hand, it's a little bit of a mystery what happens to the recyclable containers tossed into the recycling, especially those with a little food gunk left on them. For those worried about their fate, Mother Jones' Kiera Butler has done a substantial public service by ferreting the best approaching to cleaning out recyclables. The takeaway: They can be a little bit dirty. "It's not a giant deal if containers have little food residue on them," Butler reports, but "the cleaner your containers, the more they're worth on the recyclables market."

This post features links to the best independent, progressive reporting about the environment by members of  The Media  Consortium.   It is free to reprint. Visit the Mulch for a complete list of  articles on environmental issues, or follow us on Twitter. And for the best progressive reporting on critical economy, health care and immigration issues, check out The Audit, The Pulse, and The Diaspora. This is a project of The Media Consortium, a network  of leading independent media outlets

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Comment Preferences

  •  They should know this tactic doesn't (6+ / 0-)

    work, or at least not often. The Academy doesn't like people telling them what to do. I hope generates gobs of publicity and Gasland wins the Oscar. A double loss for these fracking bastards. (And I mean fracking both ways)

    This was never my sig line

    by ontheleftcoast on Fri Feb 25, 2011 at 07:14:31 PM PST

  •  Even nominally intelligent and good willed people, (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    cotterperson, Stumptown Dave, IreGyre

    just love the gas industry.

    If I hear one more time how gas is better than coal, I may throw up.

    One hears gas powered thugs like Amory Lovins being identified as "environmentalists."

    I kid you not.

    The gas industry owns the psyche of the public imagination on energy.   If we want to know who the gas industry is, we just need to look in the mirror.

    Just in the Philadelphia metropolitan region, there's been four or five gas explosions, major explosions, some fatal, in the last two months.

    What is the public debate here about?   Whether someone possibly might have could have maybe in a manner of speaking been injured by Three Mile Island thirty years ago.

    I'm serious.

    •  The PR for natural gas (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      PeteZerria, IreGyre

      is stunning .... far overriding the damage done to our water, land, and air. Just south of me in the Fayetteville shale, they're having an amazing number of earthquakes. Will their proprietary chemicals poison our aquifers? The consequences are so great that if we don't know, it should be stopped immediately.

      Now the frackers are looking for ways to keep the fracks open longer, so they're mining our beautiful sand from the shores of ancient creeks. It destroys all the life the creek supports, some of it pushed south in the Ice Age. I'm sure the damages are comparable in other shale formations.

      The propagandists are winning, and no one seems willing to close the Halliburton Loophole in the Clean Water Act that allows all this.

      Thank you for the excellent diary. I hope some consciousnesses are raised -- though that's a tall order :( here at DK as in other places.

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