Great time Thursday night at the grand, lovely Warner Theater in Washington, D.C., for API’s “Big Screen Energy” event, featuring film trailers from pro-energy documentaries on hydraulic fracturing including “Truthland,” “Empire State Divide” and “Frack Nation.” After the trailers, representatives of the films talked about their projects and answered questions from the audience. Some important points that emerged:
#1: Shale Energy = Economic opportunity
For lots of people in the Marcellus Shale portions of Pennsylvania, energy from fracking is helping them alter the courses of their lives. And it could help even more if New York state approves hydraulic fracturing on some scale. “Empire State Divide’s” Karen Moreau said New York agriculture needs working capital to survive. Energy development from that state’s portion of the Marcellus could supply that, keep farms operating and allow them to be handed off to the next generation, said Moreau, who since making her film was named executive director of the New York State Petroleum Council.
#2: Countering Frack Fiction
“Truthland,” featuring Pennsylvania science teacher and mom Shelly Depue, spends much of its 34 minutes dispelling misinformation about hydraulic fracturing and natural gas development. The film is a step toward centering the national fracking debate on science and fact instead of fear and misrepresentation. “Frack Nation’s” Phelim McAleer said some opponents aren’t interested in responsible development; they want to block natural gas altogether.
#3: The Right to Prosper
Moreau said the divide in New York over fracking is actually a property rights test – whether individuals may develop resources on their land. She said some opponents of natural gas development in New York’s southern tier, the counties in the Marcellus along the Pennsylvania border, aren’t residents of those areas. Still, they are trying to control or block development. The contest is still playing out, as state officials weigh how much development, if any, to allow.
Again, the evening provided an interesting perspective on an important public policy issue. At the center of it is a truth, noted by McAleer: the ability of energy to lift lives, to lift standards of living. McAleer said the lack of affordable, reliable energy usually characterizes areas that are impoverished and unhealthy – places where people have little chance to lift themselves. Energy changes that, he said.
In energy from shale, the United States has an historic opportunity to be more prosperous – with abundant fuel for the lifestyles of its citizens and the power to revitalize critical industries like manufacturing and chemicals. The U.S. also can make its future more secure, less dependent on imports. Industry’s role is to develop these resources safely and responsibly. It is doing this while striving to continually improve technologies and performance.