By KEVIN BEGOS
PITTSBURGH (AP) â¿¿ "FrackNation" is a new documentary that attacks opponents of fracking for oil and gas, but it also raises a bigger question: Is it possible to criticize environmentalists without being a tool for big industry?
Fracking is a method of stimulating oil and gas from deep underground that's led to a historic boom in U.S. production while also stoking controversy over its possible impact on the environment and human health. "FrackNation," an independent documentary produced by Los Angeles-based filmmakers Phelim McAleer and Ann McElhinney, addresses the issue from an unusual perspective.
___EDITOR'S NOTE â¿¿ The author, Kevin Begos, covers the fracking industry in Pennsylvania for The Associated Press. With "FrackNation" opening Tuesday, he offers this view from the ground. ___ The release of the documentary now is clearly an attempt to play off a current Hollywood film on fracking, "Promised Land," which stars Matt Damon. But the David vs. Goliath roles are turned upside down, since McAleer's pro-fracking production received thousands of small donations on the fundraising site Kickstarter, while Damon's film, which has an anti-fracking angle, had millions of dollars in funding, including some from the United Arab Emirates. McAleer says anti-fracking activists have based their crusade on faulty claims and a disdain for the actual wishes of many people in the rural communities where land is drilled. His main target is Josh Fox, the director of "Gasland," the 2010 award-winning, anti-drilling documentary that has inspired many critics of fracking. One leading environmentalist welcomed "FrackNation's" take and said he can't wait to see it. "It's great this guy's done this documentary. I think it's sort of a second wave to the more hysterical first reaction" to fracking, said Michael Shellenberger, president of the Breakthrough Institute, a Berkeley, Calif., nonprofit that argues for new ways to address environmental problems.