Wednesday, January 2, 2013


I just watched the poignant new film Promised Land, which will be released nationally on Friday, and as I watched I couldn't help but wonder: Would President Obama like this movie? Is it something he would embrace, or dismiss? 

As you may have read, Promised Land, which is written by and stars Matt Damon and John Krasinski, is a cautionary tale about hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, the relatively new and controversial process of injecting water, sand and a variety of chemicals, some of them toxic, deep into the ground to free natural gas trapped in rock.

During the 2012 presidential campaign, Obama enthusiastically endorsed fracking - perhaps because it's an increasingly popular way to generate revenue for struggling American towns, including many in key battleground states. 

"We have a supply of natural gas that can last America nearly 100 years, and my administration will take every possible action to safely develop this energy,” Obama said on the campaign trail.

But while Obama insists fracking can be done safely, many flatly disagree. “We’re disappointed in Obama's enthusiasm for (fracking),” Iris Marie Bloom, director of Protecting Our Waters in Philadelphia, told Bloomberg last year. "Obama spoke about natural gas as if it’s better for the environment, which it’s not.”

So would the President really side with Damon's character in Promised Land? Damon plays a sweet-talking salesman from a multi-billion dollar energy firm who tries to convince the folks of a small, financially strapped town that fracking is safe. No spoiler alert here, but let's just say that Damon's character, who's trying to get the community to grant his company drilling rights, has a battle with his conscience in the film.
Fracking has become the environmental cause du jour among many celebrities that typically support Obama. In addition to Damon and Krasinski, everyone from from Lady Gaga and Anne Hathaway to Hugh Jackman and Alec Baldwin is investing time and money into anti-fracking campaigns.

But even before it was trendy to oppose fracking, there were legitimate concerns about it among scientists, environmentalists, and reasonable people across the nation. The indisputable fact is, while it can bring millions to a community, fracking is a potentially dangerous energy source.

Kassie Siegel, director of the Center for Biological Diversity's Climate Law Institute, recently wrote about just some of fracking's risks, which include contamination of water supplies with dangerous chemicals like methanol and benzene.

Scientists say that about 25 percent of fracking chemicals could cause cancer, while many others can harm the nervous, endocrine, immune and cardiovascular systems. Several studies suggest fracking also can cause earthquakes. And a recent study from the Colorado School of Public Health found that fracking contributes to serious health problems in people living near fracked wells.

As many people know, our President likes to screen new movies at the White House. I hope this one is on his list. It would be interesting to hear what he thinks of this film, which I suspect will be a hit and will initiate a new national conversation about fracking. It might even become this generation's The China Syndrome, the stirring 1979 film about an accident at a nuclear power plant that was ironically released just 12 days before the Three Mile Island nuclear accident in Pennsylvania.  

I, too, am disappointed with the President's support of fracking, and his support of nuclear power. These are two volatile and potentially hazardous energy sources whose risks are greater than their rewards. I hope the President watches Promised Land. Come to think of it, this film and The China Syndrome would make for a powerful and enlightening White House double feature. Pass the popcorn, Mr. President.


  1. Why are we digging into the ground for power when it is abundant from sun, wind and waves?

  2. Fifty Shades Of Grey...
    Matt Bomer and Alexis Bledel, no second thoughts, that's for sure!!
    Anastasia Steele
    Movie awesome really can't think of waiting....

  3. We’re disappointed in Obama's enthusiasm