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Calgary — A blend of engineering and geology hardly makes for a Hollywood blockbuster. But the latest movie about hydraulic fracturing – yes, there’s more than one out there – has an A-lister taking shots at the controversial practise.
The film – Promised Land , co-written and starring Matt Damon – opens Friday, but the energy industry’s supporters are already fuming over how they have been painted as the bad guy. The movie, they argue, is full of scare-mongering rather than facts. And they say Hollywood has done just the same: made judgment calls without having all the necessary information.
Hollywood has used its broad reach to try to persuade the masses before. James Cameron’s Avatar was interpreted by some as a potshot against the oil-sands industry. Documentaries such as Thank You for Smoking chastized tobacco companies and their lobbyists, and Super Size Me went after fast food businesses. Gasland , released in 2010, criticized natural gas players and famously showed someone lighting tap water on fire. The energy industry, experts say, must battle Promised Land or risk losing ground in the fracking debate. The audience for Promised Land , after all, is full of folks who have not spent years figuring out how guar gum and water can be mixed together to shatter previously impenetrable rocks.
“There’s a lot of misinformation in any story,” Deborah Thompson, principal of communications and executive consultancy DT Communications, said. “It doesn’t matter if it is as contentious as this, in any story for any company, regardless of whatever industry they are in, you have to correct misinformation. While that doesn’t sound terribly Hollywood sexy, that’s what you have to do.”
Fracking is used to extract oil and gas from stubborn rocks. After a hole is drilled, fracking crews inject a mix of water, sand, and chemicals underground, using extremely high pressure to create fissures underground. This frees the trapped hydrocarbons. Concerns over contaminating water and causing earthquakes are among the hot-button concerns.
Oil and gas executives and lobbyists are already on the job when it comes to Promised Land , jumping on the movie’s trailer, which shows a man in a dark pub wearing a ball cap and plain sweater taking the stage with a warning message.
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