About the SA Blog Network



Opinion, arguments & analyses from the editors of Scientific American
Observations HomeAboutContact

Matt Damon’s Fracking Movie Depicts Gas Companies as Liars

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.

Email   PrintPrint

You won’t find any resolution about fracking in Promised Land, Matt Damon’s movie that went nationwide this weekend. But you will find condemnation, a very surprising plot twist and one egregious science scene.

The timing couldn’t be better. New York State, the front lines in the political battle over whether to vastly expand the hydraulic fracturing of deep shales to retrieve natural gas, is about to decide whether to allow drilling companies to invade, as had happened in neighboring Pennsylvania. Environmentalists and geologists have raised loud alarms that fracking could contaminate drinking water supplies. Citizen groups have raised a raucous that has delayed New York’s decision and has vaulted fracking into a national political debate. So I was very intrigued to see how Promised Land was going to handle the science and politics of fracking.

The plot seems straightforward. Damon, who co-produced the movie and stars in the lead role, plays Steve Butler, a salesman for Global, a $9 billion gas company. He and co-salesperson, Sue Thomason (Frances McDormand), have come to rural McKinley in Pennsylvania to get residents to sign lucrative contracts allowing Global to drill on their farms. They also work on the town’s supervisor, Gerry Richards (Ken Strunk), to help convince the farmers. Steve, who grew up in a small Iowa farm town that fell on hard times, steadily wins the confidence of residents in economically depressed McKinley, who want to believe that the gas windfall could restore the community.

Steve and Sue seem to be succeeding until an anonymous environmentalist, Dustin Noble, shows up. Turns out that Dustin, played by co-producer John Krasinski, is also from a small town, and he gradually beats Steve at his own game, winning over more and more townspeople and even getting the edge on the attractive elementary school teacher Steve was smitten with. Hey, it’s a Matt Damon movie; he needs to get the girl.

That angle is more than the typical romantic subplot, because the teacher, Alice (Rosemarie DeWitt), allows Dustin to visit her classroom and explain what fracking is to her students. That’s where the science, which has been largely missing from the movie, suddenly ignites, literally, and is terribly portrayed.

Before this scene, the only insight we get into what fracking actually is comes from the town supervisor, who explains to a group of locals that the drillers drill miles down into the earth to break the rock. That’s true, but no mention is made that the drilling turns horizontal and extends for thousands of feet. At one point Steve also says that fracking has been done for 50 years and no one’s water has been contaminated; again, for about 40 of those years the drilling had been almost exclusively vertical, and not involved the enormous volumes of water and chemicals used in the horizontal process. The horizontal drilling is what’s behind the scientific and political fight, it’s what’s been done in thousands of wells in Pennsylvania, and it’s what the gas companies want to do in New York, to exploit the vast Marcellus Shale that lies beneath both states.

Okay, maybe we waive those criticisms because they don’t quite matter to the level of technical discourse in Promised Land. But the previous fracking movie that put the issues on the map, Gasland, a 2010 documentary produced by and starring Josh Fox, took some heat on its portrayal of facts, so maybe Damon and Krasinksi were skittish about getting into details when they reviewed their own rough cut.

(Spoiler alert!) But then we get to the elementary school scene. Just at the height of the tension between gas guy Steve and enviro hero Dustin, teacher Alice invites Dustin to her classroom. He has built a big model of a farm on Alice’s desk, with a nice farmhouse, green grass, a tractor and cute farm animals grazing about. He says some people want to come drill on that farm. But they don’t use a little drill like your daddy does around the farm, they use a really big drill—and he wields a big spike and starts poking holes in the grass around the farmhouse and animals. He then explains how the company people need to help the drilling by using sand; he holds up a gallon-sized clear-plastic freezer bag with some  sand in it. And they don’t just use sand, he tells them, they also use water, lots of water; he drains a plastic water bottle into the sandy bag. The kids seem to think that’s excessive. And they also need chemicals; he plops three big bottles of chemicals onto the desk, then dumps them like waterfalls into the bag, which startles the kids. The portrayal is also totally wrong. Although thousands of gallons of chemicals are sent down a fracking well, that’s compared with millions of gallons of water, so the mix in the bag is extremely disproportionate.

Now the kids, and Alice, are wary. But here’s where the real transgression occurs. Dustin says that to get the gas out, the company has to pour the sand, water and chemicals  into the holes. So he holds the now busting bag over the farm and pours the nasty mixture all over the grass, the animals, everything, until the toy plot is soaking wet. The kids are aghast. Yet that’s not all. See, when the chemicals are in the ground they can get into the water, and when that happens—he reaches for an igniter, one of those handheld flints, about the size of a pair of scissors, that go “click-click” to light a barbecue grill. Alice, seeing where this is going, says no, but Dustin says, “It’s okay, trust me.” He touches the igniter to the grass, it goes “click-click,” and phoom! The whole farmstead goes up in flames.

Sorry, movie people, but that’s ridiculous. Contaminating groundwater is a serious issue, and having gas infiltrate drinking water is a serious issue. But a farmhouse’s front yard wouldn’t be soaking in chemicals and it wouldn’t ignite like a fire pit because  of fracking. And doing that in front of 10-year-old kids is a cheap trick.

Well, that act clinches it. Dustin has won. Or so we think. Steve and partner Sue still sign some people but the town is getting together in the local high school gym before the boys basketball game to vote on whether to allow Global to frack or not. Steve has lost the fight, lost Alice, will lose his job, yet strangely, we feel sorry for him. When he’s signing the last few contracts, we find ourselves rooting for him to win, because he’s also been punched in the face by the local farm hooligans, he has been called out by the (barely present) local high school science teacher, played by a terrific Hal Holbrook, and he seems sincerely worried that this town is going to die like the one he grew up in. He’s convinced that even though he’s an operator for Global, the contracts are the only way for the townspeople to survive.

Now, if you’ve read this far, you will be rewarded, because here’s the best part. Just before the culminating vote scene, Steve gets an envelope at his broken-down motel with photographic evidence that Dustin has been lying about cows on a farm in another state that purportedly died because of contaminated water, which is the device he was using to scare the residents. This suddenly opens up a terrific plot twist that surprised every person in theater, and it plays out quickly. So if you want to see the movie and be surprised, stop reading. But if you want to know the bottom line of how Damon has chosen to paint the gas industry, read on.

Alice and the townspeople hear about the lies, which virtually ensures that they will vote in favor of fracking. Steve confronts Dustin, who is leaving his room in the same dilapidated motel and about to get into his rusty truck, with his head down, defeated. Steve provokes him, and Dustin mistakenly utters a comment that makes Steve realize that Dustin has been lying about lying. It turns out that Dustin is not an environmentalist. He’s a higher-level employee of Global who has been posing as one. He got the townspeople on his side, then slipped the photos to Steve, so Steve would expose the lie, so the residents would be repulsed and jump to trusty Steve’s side, ready to sign up with Global after all. “You didn’t think Global was going to allow this to come to a ‘vote,’” Dustin tells Steve, who is in disbelief that his own company set him up.

The townspeople collect in the gym, energized for promising riches, as the poor boys basketball team, dressed in sad-looking uniforms, sit on the bench waiting patiently for the crowd to get the vote over with. The town supervisor invites Steve to say a few words, ostensibly to give him a moment as the real hero. But Steve reveals the entire con job; he is indeed the good guy, after all. Now the town is really stuck, and we never see how the vote turns out. Matt Damon ends the movie with himself walking through the white picket fence in front of Alice’s house to find her at the front door, and of course, he gets the girl.

As such, Promised Land doesn’t try to resolve whether fracking is dangerous, although the classroom scene seems to take care of that in its poor excessiveness. And it doesn’t try to resolve whether a depressed farm community would really benefit from fracking. But the plot twist clearly and effectively portrays the big gas companies as liars, willing to go to any length to deceive and manipulate an individual or town. Promised Land ends up not being about how fracking could bring environmental threats, but how a huge corporation is willing to lie to get what it wants. Believe it, or not.

Postscript: insider quips. As I noted, the movie does not explain what “fracking” really is. My own college-aged daughter left the theater acknowledging that she still didn’t understand it. Yet the film contains two fun, insider jabs that the general public might not get. After Holbrook’s character, Frank, confronts Steve at an early meeting, Global does a background check and calls Steve and says Frank is not just an old, local science teacher, he has engineering degrees from MIT and Cornell. Well, geoengineers at Cornell have been at the forefront of the scientific debate about whether or not fracking can contaminate groundwater. And near the end, when Dustin reveals that he, too, is a Global employee, he tries to sooth the stunned Steve by telling him he’s done really well at signing people up. As he leaves the motel he says to Steve, “Good luck in New York.” Meaning, the fight is over in Pennsylvania, and New York will be the big battleground. Considering how long it takes to create and release a movie, that was a risk, and the timing has worked out.

Photo courtesy of Save the Children on Flickr

Mark Fischetti About the Author: Mark Fischetti is a senior editor at Scientific American who covers energy, environment and sustainability issues. Follow on Twitter @markfischetti.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.

Rights & Permissions

Comments 32 Comments

Add Comment
  1. 1. N49th 2:31 pm 01/6/2013

    Um, ya. Could any present actor please do a movie on the development of the St. Lawrence Seaway re :1950′s. There were losers and alot of winners.
    I am not a carbon denier but we should investigate cause and effect closer in our schools.

    Link to this
  2. 2. KWillets 3:24 pm 01/6/2013

    Is this a drama or a comedy?

    Link to this
  3. 3. ronwagn 3:38 pm 01/6/2013

    Natural gas is the future of energy. It is replacing dirty old coal plants, and dangerous expensive nuclear plants. It will fuel cars, vans, buses, locomotives, aircraft, ships, tractors, air conditioners, engines of all kinds. It costs far less. It will help keep us out of more useless wars, where we shed our blood and money. It is used to make many products. It lowers CO2 emissions. Over 3,900 natural gas story links on my free blog. An annotated bibliography of live links, updated daily. The worldwide picture of natural gas.
    ronwagnersrants . blogspot . com

    Link to this
  4. 4. Unksoldr 3:55 pm 01/6/2013

    He’s right! Throw a rock into a lake full of water. What happens? The rock sinks because it’s denser than the same volume of water. This does not change just because your pumping the water thousands of feet underground. Pump a lighter density(water)material into a higher density substance and gravity sorts them out. The water goes up and the rock stays where it was.

    Link to this
  5. 5. bamw21 4:16 pm 01/6/2013

    Before you quickly dismiss this as just a movie plot lacking truth you need to do some homework of your own. There is documentation aplenty regarding the problems with fracking. There are areas in the country where a person can turn on their kitchen water faucet, light a match and actually set fire to the water coming from that faucet. Much of this has occurred in areas of the country where the population is not capable of mounting a strong attack against the companies involved.
    Anyone remember the movie Erin Brackovich? Yep, it won an academy award for Julia Roberts but it also illustrated the fact that some companies will do anything for a dollar and so what if a few people get sick. Fracking looks like a similar situation. Can it be done safely? I don’t know but someone does and instead of Congress acting like a bunch of kids on the playground they should find out.

    Link to this
  6. 6. Soccerdad 5:23 pm 01/6/2013

    There’s no solid evidence that fracking is harmful. EPA’s own studies were found to be flawed by other arms of the governement. As widespread as it is, one would think there would be some piece of solid evidence out there if there were any harm.

    Link to this
  7. 7. Tue Sorensen 5:33 pm 01/6/2013

    Cool article! Sounds like a pretty great movie which I am looking forward to seeing.

    Link to this
  8. 8. HowardB 7:29 pm 01/6/2013

    Fracking is a dead end and has no future.

    Link to this
  9. 9. RDFInOP 8:27 pm 01/6/2013

    From what I understand the fracking industry doesn’t have to lie because they don’t have to tell. They don’t have to tell you what’s in the fracking fluids. So if Benzene shows up in your ground water, you can’t tie it back to them.

    I would never sign a fracking lease agreement without the clear understanding that I am selling the land in it’s entirety, not just the mineral rights. If everything goes right and none of the fractures reach the water table, the land may be fine. But if anything goes wrong and the fluid or the gas gets into the water, the land will be unusable for a very, very long time.

    My inclination would be to sell the land and then lease it back. Then the risk burden is carried by the fracking company.

    Link to this
  10. 10. RSchmidt 8:41 pm 01/6/2013

    “He touches the igniter to the grass, it goes “click-click,” and phoom!…And doing that in front of 10-year-old kids is a cheap trick.” Not to mention setting a prop on fire in a classroom full of children. Did they show the school sprinklers going off?

    Link to this
  11. 11. RSchmidt 8:50 pm 01/6/2013

    If the plot sounds familiar it is because it is a retelling of the film Local Hero; which was quite good. In that movie the central part of the story is not about the science of fossil fuels it is about a man falling in love with the town he is sent to destroy. Similarly, the locals take what they have for granted as they dream of the money they’ll make selling their land. I guess the theme is that money cannot buy happiness.

    Also, the scene in which the supposed environmentalist makes a distorted demo to the school makes sense when you understand that he is setting himself up.

    Link to this
  12. 12. BranderBobro 10:10 pm 01/6/2013

    before I looked at the receipt ov $6561, I have faith …that…my sister actualey receiving money part-time on their computer.. there great aunt has been doing this for only 21 months and by now paid the morgage on their appartment and bought themselves a Lotus Elan. this is where I went…..ℂom/watch?v=QZEpDqP3IrQ

    Link to this
  13. 13. artcalight 10:24 pm 01/6/2013

    “Well, geoengineers at Cornell have been at the forefront of the scientific debate about whether or not fracking can contaminate groundwater.” WRONG, the Cornell study by Howarth et al is about methane emissions. This error leads me not to respect any part of this supposed review. Plus the reviewer misses the whole point of the classroom scene. And the silo thinking comments… unreal. It’s a MOVIE. It’s got layering of characters and story line. It’s not a documentary. And, so it’s a good movie. I give it 4 out of 5 stars.

    Link to this
  14. 14. RSchmidt 11:29 pm 01/6/2013

    @artcalight, “‘Well, geoengineers at Cornell have been at the forefront of the scientific debate about whether or not fracking can contaminate groundwater.’ WRONG, the Cornell study by Howarth et al is about methane emissions.” The fact that one of their papers was about methane does not rule out their other contributions;

    “It’s a MOVIE.” is not a defense for sloppy research. One of the rules-of-thumb in fiction is that you get to tell one big lie, the rest need to be small. For example, in Star Trek we can say that technology of the future can allow us to travel faster than light or transport people, but if the physics is presented incorrectly or they start using magic the audience loses the ability to suspend belief. I remember an anecdote by an author of Westerns who featured a gun in his story that in reality hadn’t been produced until a year after that in which the story took place. He was crucified by his fans. You need to respect your fans. When you try to pass B.S. off as fact you insult them.

    I agree though that the classroom scene was supposed to be unrealistic and exaggerated. I also believe it would have been worthwhile to provide a better idea of what fracking really is so the audience would have a better contextual understanding of what the issues are. It’s hard for someone to appreciate that fracking is bad if they don’t know what it is.

    Link to this
  15. 15. singing flea 2:48 am 01/7/2013

    While the movie may or may not portray factual insight on the issue, to assume that fracking will save us money in the long run or prevent future wars is as ridiculous as believing it will not come with it’s own baggage of environmental disasters.

    The only energy solution that will save money is conservation. The rest is relative. If the concerns of the environmentalists are forthcoming, as they usually are, the cost to undo the damage may well be the most expensive undertaking this nation will ever undertake.

    It will require another super-fund style effort paid for by taxes to undo the damage once again caused by unchecked and poorly regulated capitalism.

    This is our legacy like it or not. The conservatives will scream bloody murder about the cost to the taxpayers and at the same time bank the profits of the destruction of our water sheds and the liberals will say, “I told you so!”, as they succumb to the status quo from the comfort of their SUV’s and over-sized homes too.

    Either way, it’s a no win situation for our future generations.

    Link to this
  16. 16. Scrat 9:50 am 01/7/2013

    Fracking itself is not the problem here despite the stupid elementary school presentation. It is the following:
    1. Poorly sealed surface well casings which in turn allow fluids and natural gas to seep into aquifers.
    2. Large drilling pads, several acres in size, to accommodate drilling rigs, fracking equipment and storage ponds. These are often not restored after drilling is complete.
    3. Pipelines that cross the landscape in any direction desired by the gas company.
    4. Storage tanks for heavier hydrocarbons that can leak and can be right next to homes.
    5. Natural gas compressor stations, which can be powered by turbine engines (air force surplus) which can be very loud and run 24/7.
    6. Fracking fluid disposal wells that can lubricate faults and cause earthquakes.

    Anyone who has or is working in the petroleum industry (I am a former petroleum geologist) will tell you that developing natural gas or oil fields is not an environmentally friendly process. In sparsely populated areas like the arid southwest or the Dakotas, the impacts are far less felt than in the temperate and more densely populated northeast.

    When you sign a lease with a oil or gas company, they have carte blanche to whatever they want wherever they want on the surface to get at the minerals underneath.

    Link to this
  17. 17. dwbd 12:38 pm 01/7/2013

    ronwagn claims: “..Natural gas is the future of energy.. replacing dirty old coal plants..”

    Only in the USA where the price of NG is well below production cost due to a Wall St. PONZI scheme. When price rises to normal levels and higher as it will, the Coal will return. In Europe NG is being replaced by Coal, where the NG price is much higher and supplies are not sustainable.

    ronwagn claims: “..dangerous expensive nuclear plants..”

    Wrong. Nuclear has 1/100th the deaths/TWh as NG. NG pipelines have been exploding and burning alive good citizens on a daily basis in the USA. Entire neighbourhoods destroyed. And New Nuclear will MOST ASSUREDLY be cheaper than New NG when prices return to historical levels and higher, which is inevitable. Right now Ontarians are paying 17 cents per kwh for contracted NG power vs 3 cents for OPG Nuclear and 5-6 cents for private Bruce Nuclear.

    ronwagn claims: “.. fuel cars, vans, buses, locomotives, aircraft, ships, tractors..costs far less..”

    What a nutty idea. It is a terrible fuel to store, with a very low energy density and dangerous. Conversions are very expensive. Much better to use Methanol with 3X the energy density and cheaper than CNG as well as much easier conversions. And unlimited supply from Nuclear, Biomass or Coal.

    ronwagn claims: “..It will help keep us out of more useless wars, where we shed our blood and money..”

    Wrong. Big Oil = Big NG = Oil & Gas wars. The reason the $trillion Afghanistan War has continued FAR, FAR beyond its original mandate is because Big Oil/NG wants to build NG pipelines from the ex-Soviet Asian republics, with the 2nd largest NG supplies in the World, to serve the 2nd largest new market in the World, namely India.

    ronwagn claims: “.. lowers CO2 emissions..”

    Bull. The only growth in NG supplies is Shale Gas which when you include Methane leakage is every bit as bad as Coal for GHG emissions. Methane has 72X the GHG potential of CO2. Nuclear has virtually ZERO CO2 emissions.

    Cold, Hungry and in the Dark, Bill Powers blows wide open the large Natural Gas supply myth/scam:

    Link to this
  18. 18. mfischetti 2:07 pm 01/7/2013

    @artcalight Cornell researchers are involved in many studies, including methane, but some of them do indeed research fracturing deep down in the bore hole as well as what can happen with groundwater contamination. Just one example is Anthony R. Ingraffea, a professor of engi- neering at Cornell who has a Ph.D. in rock fracture mechanics and whose research has at times been supported by the gas industry. He was a terrific source for me in my own 2010 feature in Scientific American on fracking (below). Be careful about screaming “WRONG.”

    Link to this
  19. 19. ssm1959 2:38 pm 01/7/2013

    Just another example of Hollywood capitalizing on sensationalism. This is just another instance a long and sordid history of the entertainment industry exploiting fear for money.

    Link to this
  20. 20. Cramer 4:52 pm 01/7/2013


    What’s Mark Fischetti point about the science being “terribly portrayed” in the classroom scene?

    If Dustin is lying, why can’t he lie about the science? Dustin must tell the truth about a front yard of a farmhouse “soaking in chemicals” and igniting “like a fire pit,” but can lie about cows dying from contaminated water???

    It’s a movie plot — the writers (Eggers, Damon, Krasinski) can have the characters lie about whatever they want. Once moviegoers know Dustin is lying about dead cows, won’t they understand he was also lying in his classroom demonstation? — I guess not this moviegoer.

    Link to this
  21. 21. Cramer 4:57 pm 01/7/2013


    Mark Fischetti should have more prominentily provided a “SPOILER ALERT” at the top of his article. He provided the spoiler alert only AFTER he spoiled the movie (i.e. after he revealed Dustin was lying).

    Gee, thanks! I am now no longer interested in seeing the movie; even when it comes to TV.

    Let’s see if Fischetti and SciAm correct their mistake by adding the SPOILER ALERT at the beginning of the article or if they just don’t care about the moviegoing interests of their readers. How selfish.

    Link to this
  22. 22. mfischetti 6:01 pm 01/7/2013

    @Cramer Well, that’s a point worth considering. Not at the beginning; it’s a review! But before the farm scene. Other spoiler language appears later, but this new insert helps. Thanks.

    Link to this
  23. 23. Mtb416 7:20 pm 01/8/2013

    Seeing a lot of naive comments here, particularly in the “it’s just a movie” arguments. This isn’t just a movie and to think, especially knowing Damon’s politics, that it is must be the product of purposeful ignorance and/or naïveté.

    Oil is constantly attacked (anyone see the last iteration of “Cars”, the kid film?) and made to be the bad guy, that’s obvious. This movie is entirely political. Hydraulic fracturing is in the news very frequently and Damon wishes to swag opinion against it. He just released a true anti-fracking “PSA” (funded with help from oil rich Saudi’s, no less).

    Hollywood has a habit of swaying opinion through half-truths and lies. I’m not sure if the science is definitive [yet], but the movie Erin Brockovich, as someone mentioned above, but is seems to mostly have proven Brockovich wrong it seems. Yet, ask anyone who knows anything about EB, especially if they’ve seen the movie, and they’ll tell you that “corporate greed killed people.” To be fair, the courts are to blame as well if the science truly is lacking, but the movie solidified this belief.

    The people stating “this is just a movie” are probably against hydraulic fracturing, so please, let’s be adults and not hide behind a saying.

    Few people are in love with big oil and that’s understandable, but that doesn’t mean we need to throw scientific method out the window just because we’ve bought into every oil meme thrown at us. This is all political, just as global warming has been made.

    Link to this
  24. 24. dwbd 8:50 pm 01/8/2013

    Mtb416 states: “..funded with help from oil rich Saudi’s..”

    Interesting point, although slightly in error, it was Image Media Abu Dhabi, a subsidiary of Abu Dhabi Media, wholly owned by the government of the UAE, an OPEC member.

    About a year ago OPEC announced it was opposed to fracking and I correctly predicted you will see increased ENGO & Media anti-fracking activity. Fracking for Oil & Gas, of course is direct competition for OPEC’s conventional Oil & Gas production. As is Canada’s Tar Sands – by far the largest Oil Reserve in North America (75%).

    Anti-Tar Sands activity has exploded in the past few years, with $billions, YEP – I said $billions, flowing to anti-Tar Sands ENGO’s, Media, Native Groups, politicians. The strategy is now focused predominantly on blocking pipeline and shipping terminal access to the Tar Sands, essentially isolated the large Oil supply with no market to ship to and now selling at a large discount due to lack of access to markets. A highly successful campaign:

    The Tar Sands Campaign and the Suppression of North America’s Energy Potential:

    Who Funds Environmentalists ….. and Why?:

    Link to this
  25. 25. Mtb416 9:33 pm 01/8/2013


    You mean foreign business interests are sometimes shrouded in “environmentalism”? That’s preposterous!

    Thanks for the link

    Link to this
  26. 26. shawn111 7:26 pm 01/9/2013

    its a great information…

    thanks for the link a better life

    Link to this
  27. 27. MEBACKS 6:16 pm 01/10/2013


    Link to this
  28. 28. bucketofsquid 12:13 pm 01/11/2013

    Anyone who expects a movie that isn’t a documentary to tell the truth is an idiot or still a small child. Anyone that expects a documentary to present unbiased facts is not really paying attention.

    I have no doubt that fracking has pretty severe risks. I wonder how those risks compare to the risks of walking or riding a bike in an urban setting. I also know that brown outs or black outs are down right deadly. There is also an unexpected up side to the risks of fracking. In other words, many of these chemicals can kill or cause sterility and will help reduce the American population count, thus decreasing demand for energy.

    I support the use of modern nuclear energy as well as efforts to make wind less intrusive and more viable. I also support research into solar power and efforts to make it viable. I support research into lower energy demand products and open source geothermal heat pumps.

    Link to this
  29. 29. alan borky 2:11 pm 01/11/2013

    Might I remind everyone here of the recent incident in Italy were a committee of ‘experts’ informed the locals their traditional practise over the centuries of avoiding disaster during earthquakes by retiring to established places of safety was tantamount to superstitious nonsense as a result of which the members of several families were killed and the committee were given a gaol sentence.

    There’s no point wailing how unfair that was (specially to the survivors whose children were killed) what counts is they were ‘experts’ and others paid for the fact whatever their expertise lay in it certainly wasn’t in what they were paid for.

    Ditto here.

    We’re seeing an awful lot of money being spent on selling the idea through the media fracking is so much more fracking wonderful than horrible old fracking coal but we’re not seeing anything like the level of scientific research spent on mathematical modelling in astronomy alone never mind real hardcore old school actual physical tests on the likelihood of resulting earthshifts yet the lives of real people’s on the line not some hypothetical vortex of gas swirling round Uranus.

    And no ‘research’ by the companies themselves doesn’t count because if they don’t frack they themselves their companies and their shareholders fortunes’re fracked.

    Two centuries ago people we’re called unscientific and crazy for opposing the feeding of scrapies diseased sheep to cattle in the form of pellets. The four stomachs alone prevented the possibility of any sort of contamination the experts said and for two hundred years they seemed right.

    Then mad cow disease was discovered and the experts were saying oh but humans’ll never be infected and anyone who says otherwise’s either unscientific of crazy.

    Ten years later Creutzfeldt-Jakob’s Disease was discovered.


    Shock horror scientists can be wrong!
    Shock horror scientists can have nonscientific based vested interests!

    Link to this
  30. 30. cypress16 3:19 pm 01/11/2013

    If anyone is naive enough to believe everything the EPA, large corporations say as fact, they require a review of how much we are lied to by gov’t and mainstream media every single day. Corporation’s interests are in profits and ensuring that numbers look good for shareholders. Do you really believe they want to deal with fixing the side effects they cause? Deny, deny, pay off. That is the way it works. Do your historical research. Read the case studies.

    Link to this
  31. 31. Heteromeles 3:54 pm 01/13/2013

    My semi-personal experience was with a lease for a relative who owned some mineral rights in a region currently being fracked.

    A prominent natural gas company wanted to lease the lands, but the contract was fascinating:
    –it had the wrong name for the owner (so the relative couldn’t legally sign, even though the ownership was clear)
    –the company didn’t even have all of the right parcels listed in the contract (the relative can’t legally lease land they don’t own).
    –the company wanted to pay a small royalty based on gas extracted, but the owner assumed all costs for clean-up, both underground and aboveground (I believe the term for this is being left holding the bag).
    –The company threatened to sue if the lease wasn’t signed promptly, and/or the company threatened to have the state legislature take the property away under a law that they said required land owners to use their mineral rights or forfeit ownership of them.
    –Various subcontractors called the relative multiple times per day, demanding they sign and/or threatening them.
    –The relative is currently in negotiation with another company to lease these mineral rights, and possibly to sell it.

    Do I believe that large natural gas companies don’t particularly care about the truth? Yep. After all, there’s money to be made! Their strategy seems to be to stick the people who own the mineral rights with the clean-up bill, so why should they care?

    Link to this
  32. 32. TaxiXX 2:43 pm 01/7/2014

    Yes of course the movie is anti-fracking it was paid for by the Saudi’s. Fracking will eliminate any power our foreign enemies have over us at the present. Matt Damon is a useful tool and an idiot.

    Link to this

Add a Comment
You must sign in or register as a member to submit a comment.

More from Scientific American

Email this Article