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June 22, 2010

There’s such a thing as the scientific method. They teach it in 8th grade science class and it goes like this: You form a hypothesis, and then you carefully test it, taking pains to document all of your steps so that other researchers can duplicate what you’ve done and, hopefully, corroborate your results. 

There’s something called journalistic integrity, which involves presenting both sides of an issue and letting the reader or viewer make up his or her mind. 

Gasland, an HBO documentary on natural gas drilling, makes a mockery of both the scientific method and the principles of objective journalism. 

Gasland is an environmental Blair Witch Project. It’s a Hippie Borat.  It’s a homage to the rural life by people who only pretend to have lived it. 

On this last point, anyone who has lived in the country knows that wells can go bad. They can be contaminated in any number of ways, from farm chemicals to fecal matter. 

Gasland profiles people whose wells have gone bad. For the most part, these are folks who sold drilling rights on their property and now regret the decision because, they believe, drilling contaminated their wells. 

There’s no critical examination of the situation, no investigatory technique except pictures of dirty water and dead animals, and interviews with distraught people who appear to have lived a hard life. The plot is: “It was paradise and now its hell.” 

And the paradise-to-hell story comes with special effects. Well water contaminated by natural gas can actually be ignited with a lighter. This would be shocking were it not for the fact that this particular phenomenon isn’t new. It was happening long before hydrofracking was even invented. In fact, it is not uncommon in certain parts of the country where natural gas and oil is found. 

The point of Gasland is to scare people. Specifically, it’s supposed to scare us — New Yorkers, that is.  It’s a warning regarding the possibility of contamination of the New York City watershed. 

And despite its flaws, despite the fact that this documentary is eco-propaganda, it succeeds. 

In this regard, if only a tiny fraction of what this documentary alleges is true, then we need to be very, very careful with such drilling. 

Our NT2 group has never been unanimous before, but we are all in accord on this matter. Even though this documentary is ridiculously biased, it would be a dangerous mistake to proceed until there is a real scientific review of the risks.

One Comment leave one →
  1. Downstater permalink
    November 8, 2010 11:24 AM

    If only you guys were equally as critical of the claims and assertions being spouted by the gas industry. That is clearly where the skepticism needs to be directed.

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