I was keen on finding out more. Firstly, I was pesimistic...because France bans everything but didnt realise it was this bad. Here is a documentary and review for those wanting to know more.
GasLand – Australia
2011 Oscar Nominee: Best Documentary | A film by Josh Fox | Official site.
The Age – Fracking hell: Busting the natural gas myth
Posted on November 14th, 2010 by mt 8
American theatre director Josh Fox didn’t set out to make a film, much less star in one. But when he received a letter offering him $100,000 in exchange for allowing some natural gas wells to be sunk on his farm in a pristine river valley in Pennsylvania, he decided to ask around. What he discovered was shocking — and, he insists, of more than passing relevance to Australians as we embark on a future in which natural gas is touted as a ‘‘clean’’ alternative to oil and coal.
Fox found that, across the US, there are more than 500,000 natural gas wells, many of them on private property and many of them tapped using a process called ‘‘hydraulic fracturing’’, or ‘‘fracking’’, as it is colloquially known. In this, a hole is drilled hundreds of metres down and a mix of highly toxic chemicals and water is pumped down that hole under pressure, forcing the rock base to crack, thereby releasing the natural gas trapped in it.
The problem is, about one-third of the water mix stays below ground, and in many of the sites Fox visits in his documentary, this residue has leached into the water supply, as has the gas itself. Where that’s happened, people can’t drink the water that comes out of their taps any more; in some cases there’s so much gas coming out they can set their water alight.
‘‘This is a huge issue because once you’ve contaminated an aquifer you can’t go back,’’ says Fox, who will host a Q&A session after a screening of his film, Gasland, at the Cinema Nova in the Melbourne suburb of Carlton tonight. ‘‘It’s almost impossible to clean an aquifer, so your standard for drinking water should be ‘no risk’. Not ‘risk balanced with energy’, or ‘risk balanced with industry’, just ‘no risk’. Period.’’
In America, the natural gas industry was granted an exemption from normal environmental controls by the Bush administration, in 2005. Halliburton, the military-industrial corporation in which former Vice-President Dick Cheney is a major stakeholder, is at the forefront of natural gas exploration.
Most of the affected people Fox visits in his rather rough and ready film live in remote rural areas, and rely on bore or creek water. But the area near his home that the industry wants to tap is something else: it’s the primary catchment area for the greater New York area, supplying water to about 16 million people.
‘‘Fighting against this is a personal thing, but it’s also something where you look around and you have this immense concern for all these different places,’’ he says.
That extends to Australia, too. According to the Greens, the coal-seam gas industry (or CSG, as it is called here) is likely to drill up to 40,000 wells in Queensland alone by 2030, with each well occupying ‘‘a minimum of one hectare of prime agricultural land each’’. Though the fracking technique used here differs slightly from that covered in Fox’s film, the Greens claim there are still significant risks involved.
In fact, just this week, carcinogens were found in three CSG wells in Queensland. The operator of the Moranbah gas project, west of Mackay, said it was unlikely the chemicals had spread to water bores but testing would be carried out as a precaution.
According to an AAP report, that scare came just three weeks after carcinogenic chemicals were found in bore water at another CSG project in Queensland.
Nor is Victoria immune from the risk. In May, the state government approved gas exploration in the Bay of Islands Coastal Park, near the Twelve Apostles.
All of which makes Gasland a film of ‘‘direct relevance for Australia as we are faced with the consequences of a coal-seam gas rush,’’ says Adam Bandt, the Greens federal MP for Melbourne, who will appear with Fox tonight. The Greens have promised to move to amend federal laws to ‘‘so the cumulative impacts of this new industry are properly considered’’, says Bandt.
There’s one other point Fox is keen to make: it’s not just the water that’s the issue, it’s also the emissions.
‘‘ ‘Clean-burning natural gas’ is not a fact, it’s a slogan,’’ he says. Methane, a key component of the gas produced, is up to 72 times more potent a greenhouse gas than CO2, and it is emitted all along the production path as well as when it is burnt.
‘‘So when you burn the gas, sure, it’s cleaner than burning coal. But when you look at the life-cycle of developing it, you’re on a par with some of our dirtiest fossil fuels.
‘‘They’re trying to say natural gas will save the world, when in fact it’s the opposite: natural gas is trying to destroy renewable energy by being its principal competition. This is fossil fuel, and fossil fuel is of the last century. This century’s job is to make sure that’s not what we’re dependent on going forward.’’
Karl Quinn | The Age | Sat Nov 13, 2010