Oscar voters tackle gas 'fracking' controversy
Add one more unlikely group to the list of people debating the controversial process of hydraulic fracturing or "fracking" -- Oscar voters.
Energy in Depth, a group representing oil and natural gas producers, has sent a letter to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences arguing that "Gasland," an Academy Award-nominated documentary on fracking, should be ineligible for best documentary feature because it contains inaccuracies.
Though other industries have launched public relations campaigns to discredit documentaries -- health insurers targeted Michael Moore's "Sicko" in 2007, for instance, and Dole challenged a 2009 documentary called "Bananas!" -- this is the first time an industry group has appealed directly to the academy.
In the letter signed by its executive director, Lee O. Fuller, Energy in Depth called "Gasland" "an expression of stylized fiction."
"The many errors, inconsistencies and outright falsehoods catalogued ... cast serious doubt on 'Gasland's' worthiness for this most honored award, and directly violate both the letter and spirit of the published criteria that presumably must be met by 'Gasland's' competitors in this category," the letter said. Energy in Depth is a coalition of industry groups including the Pennsylvania Independent Oil and Gas Assn. and the Texas Alliance of Energy Producers.
In "Gasland," director Josh Fox learns that the land near his Pennsylvania home has been designated for hydraulic fracturing or fracking, a process that involves blasting water, sand and chemicals into underground rock to extract oil or gas. Fox, whose previous film "Memorial Day" was about the Abu Ghraib prisoner-abuse scandal in Iraq, sets out on a road trip to fracking sites around the U.S. to learn more about the process.
Energy in Depth sent its letter to the academy, not to the 5,755 voting members individually. The industry group also published the letter on its website and issued a news release, but it wasn't until the filmmakers themselves began publicizing Energy in Depth's campaign that many in Hollywood took notice of it.
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Photo: Josh Fox in the documentary "Gasland." Credit: HBO