Gasland II coming to HBO just in time to influence 2012 elections

Natural Gas Watch has published a fascinating interview with Josh Fox, the creator of the often mentioned documentary about the impacts of hydraulic fracturing (fracking) titled Gasland. Fox is well into the production cycle for a sequel titled Gasland II; he described the difference between filming the first movie as an unknown documentarian and making the second movie as a well-known, controversial figure.

Both Fox and Natural Gas Watch share my apprehension about our increasing dependence on natural gas and other fossil fuels. They both recognize that “clean natural gas” is more of a marketing phrase than a description of reality. Natural Gas Watch runs a regular column on natural gas leaks and explosions that is worth following – if you have a strong stomach.

However, Fox shares a blind spot with many artistic types who get interested in energy production and energy choices. He is a huge advocate for renewable energy systems, but he does not have the technical background to recognize their inherent limitations. He went so far during the interview to claim that solar energy is compatible with agriculture in the state of New York. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Here is a comment that I have added to the interview, though it has not yet made it through moderation.

Rod Adams says:
December 9, 2011 at 9:43 am

Thank you for an inspiring interview. I have been sold – even though Gasland II will not be out until the summer, I think I will sign up for HBO now. One of the frustrations that I have with the advertiser supported media model is that the outlets from the major papers to the major networks are far too dependent on the revenues they receive from airing commercials from Shell, ExxonMobil, Chevron, ConocoPhillps, and BP.

I have a challenge for Josh, however. I have intensely studied energy production throughout my 30 year professional career. I cannot understand why he is so enthusiastic about the politically acceptable “renewable” energy sources like solar and wind that require massively intrusive collection systems that are often idle for 70-80% of the time. Solar energy collectors are NOT compatible with agriculture – they compete for the same input resources of land and sun.

Reliable power is no longer a luxury in our developed world; it is the only thing that enables the survival of humans in densely populated cities. As Stewart Brand pointed out in his most recent book, “Whole Earth Discipline: An Ecopragmatist Manifesto”, packing people into cities is one of the best ways to maintain the beauties of the unpopulated parts of our earthly environment.

Stewart, George Monbiot, and James Hansen are just a few of the thinkers who have recognized that if you really want to tackle the fossil fuel industry and all of its externalities, you need to use the most powerful tool in the tool box – nuclear fission. It is only by using a power source that is clean enough and reliable enough to run inside a submarine operating deep under the ocean can we hope to push fossil fuel to the margins of our industrial society.

Rod Adams
Publisher, Atomic Insights

About Rod Adams

32 Responses to “Gasland II coming to HBO just in time to influence 2012 elections”

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  1. fjgallagher says:

    Rarely do I respond to comments left at naturalgaswatch.org, but I want to take a moment and thank you for 1) your kind words, and 2) the well-reasoned, articulate comment you authored in response to the Fox interview I ran. While we may disagree on some things — I have a hard time accepting nuclear fission as safe and reliable after seeing what happened in Japan, for example — clearly, there’s a vigorous and robust discussion around energy policy that needs to take place and nuclear fission has to be a part of it. For what it’s worth, I’ve also added your site to the blogroll at naturalgaswatch.org.

    • Wayne SW says:

      After what happened in Japan? Well, let’s see, what really did happen? A once in a millenium event that nobody could reasonably plan for, something that exceeded the design basis event by a factor of several times, that peeled away several layers of engineered protective systems, that involved probably the worst case accident event imaginable for a nuclear plant (total loss of all cooling after a sustained operation at full power), and what was the result? No fatalities caused by the reactors among the public or the employees. No serious injuries attributable to the reactors among the public, almost certainly none among the employees. If that’s what you mean by “what happened”, probably the very worst thing imaginable and still no fatalities or even serious injuries, I’d say that’s a pretty good record. Compare that outcome to other things that happened there, dams collapsing and washing away entire villages, trains swept of their tracks and out to sea, gas piplines bursting and exploding, oil tanks on fire. Never a word about those real, calculable fatalities. Just Fukushima, with its zero casualty total.

    • Rod Adams says:

      @fjgallagher:

      Thank you for the kind words and for adding Atomic Insights to your blogroll. I have also added Natural Gas Watch to the links page for Atomic Insights under the heading of energy focused blogs and web sites.

      I realize that fission advocates have a lot of baggage to overcome to help people understand that fission is not nearly as scary as they have been taught to believe. Unlike nearly everyone, I have had the rare experience of getting to know a nuclear reactor on a very close and personal basis – the little power plant on board USS Von Steuben was a faithful and reliable source of propulsion, electricity, fresh water and even fresh air. She did her work without complaint, without emissions and without much noise. For more than 14 years, that little power plant propelled a 9,000 ton submarine that was at sea – using two crews – for about 2/3 of the time. In that amount of time, she consumed less fuel than my current body weight.

      While under water, we were never more than 200 feet from our power plant. I am not a courageous guy; I just understand and can compare real risks to imaginary ones. Being close to a nuclear reactor is not a real risk.

    • Josh Fox says:

      The guys filming this show aquire some of their film illegally by trespassing on private property and harass honest blue collared people trying to provide for their family!!!! These guys are quacks out to profit from a contreversal topic.

      • Susan says:

        Are you serious? Would you drink that water??? Oh no because your family is safe from it. Your just as bad as a crack dealer! You know its wrong,you know it an hurt people, cattle and crops but you do it for $$$ yeah you make a lot of sence

  2. Mike H says:

    As much as I appreciate what your public outreach and education on all things nuclear, Fox is crackpot when it comes to natural gas. Fox is the Harvey Wasserman of the gas industry, he relies on shitty science, crackpot experts, and manipulative presentations to make his case.

    The deep ecology philosophy which has so infested the mainstream environmental movement won’t be happy until every refinery, combustion turbine, chemical batch reactor, smelter, basic oxygen furnace, rotary kiln and nuclear reactor is offline permanently. I say this as someone who has worked on both the nuclear and fossil side of the business.

    • Kit P says:

      You are right Mike, I got into renewable energy when it looked like nuclear was dying. My sisters in California would not longer be embarrassed by where I worked. All I did was jump from the frying pan into the fire. When these folks say we can replace nuke and fossil, they do not mean we should try to do it in their backyard. Since these oppose pipelines and transmission lines, I really do not know how to satisfy them.

      I suspect many who post here do not actually earn a living in the energy industry. What is the saying, we can hang together or we can hang separately.

      • Mike H says:

        I just have to scratch my head when I hear the arguments these people make. About 10 years ago I became involved with Mirant’s Potrero Hill upgrade … what a nightmare that turned into. I remember meeting with a $350,000/year “consultant” that Willie Brown hired to investigate the environmental impact of the plant. Nice gal and all, but she was a lawyer and complete dolt on anything technical. I can’t even begin to quantify the amount of time we spent explaining what we were doing, why we were doing it and why we had the evidence that our conclusions were correct on the related environmental issues. Didn’t matter, nothing we said seem to convince anyone as their claims became more and more outlandish and their documentation requirements grew exponentially. Not that it mattered in the end as Mirant’s finances went down the tubes and the project died a slow painful death. Since the upgrade didn’t happen, PG&E had the foresight to put in the Jefferson Martin 230 line and without it the Bay Area grid’s reliability would look more like Pyongyang than Silicon Valley.

        Another quick cute anecdote. A friend of mine is the station electrical lead for another “controversial” power plant. As part of their community outreach, they often allow high school groups to come in for tours of the plant. At the end of one tour, one of the kids asked my friend why the utility decided to build a plant in a low income minority neighborhood like theirs. He showed the student an aerial photo of the plant from the 40’s and said that when it was built, its only neighbors were farmers. He then asked the student where on earth he would get such an idea and all the students in the group sheepish looked at their twenty something milquetoast teacher.

      • Rod Adams says:

        @Kit P:

        I got into renewable energy when it looked like nuclear was dying.

        That is a terrific example of the difference between us. Having operated a nuclear power plant in the Navy, there is no flipping way that I would ever get into renewable or fossil energy. It would be a little like eating ground chuck after learning how good fillet mignon tasted.

        In addition, with all offense intended, I think that most of the people in the “renewable” industry are a bunch of rent seekers who are worse that former government employees like me when it comes to living off of the earnings of other people’s hard earned money taken by government edict out of their pockets.

        • Mike H says:

          @ Rod

          That is a terrific example of the difference between us. Having operated a nuclear power plant in the Navy, there is no flipping way that I would ever get into renewable or fossil energy.

          The reality is people go where the work is. Forty years ago all the work was in nuclear, that’s not the case anymore and will never be the case again so long as we have bozo’s like Jackzo at the NRC. As long as there is poor leadership at the top and inconsistent priorities and directives for the regulatory agencies there will never be another greenfield nuclear plant built in the US.

        • Joel Riddle says:

          Mike, considering the possible future re-purposing of retired coal-fired plant sites, I don’t know that many greenfield nukes will be needed in the U.S.

          Some regions will almost certainly need them eventually, particularly in or in close proximity to the border of California, unless a significant population migration away from California occurs. Reality will be avoided for quite a while longer there, though, I would guess.

        • Rod Adams says:

          @Mike H – I realize that I have been blessed with more resources than most. I have been fortunate enough to have never been in the situation of having to take a job – for very long – that I did not believe in.

          I am also vain enough to believe that I can have at least some impact on reality and I expect that there will be many greenfield nuclear projects in the US within the next 20 years. I am willing to put a rather large wager on that prediction, but it is a hard bet to manage fairly.

          However, I am willing to try if you are.

        • Joel Riddle says:

          Rod, out of curiosity, do you know whether the Clinch River site would be considered greenfield or brownfield? My guess would be brown.

          • Rod Adams says:

            Good question. I am not sure that it matters – the site has never hosted an operating nuclear plant, but it will host a unit by 2020 and probably six (or more) of them by 2030.

        • Mike H says:

          @ Rod Adams

          Don’t get me wrong, I’m not one of these “the best reactor is one that’s never built” types, I am just being realistic. FWIW, I don’t think any tech, except for hydro (which also seems to be a big enviro no-no) has as much appeal for cheap baseload generation as nuclear does.

          The reality is no utility is going to build a Gen IV reactor on a greenfield site in the next 20 years in the US. My view is that the big monopoly utilities dropped the ball 40 years ago and the industry is still cleaning up the damage. Being regulated monopolies, the utilities had no incentive to bring these projects in on time and on budget and that legacy has crippled contemporary large reactor projects. Every time they screwed up, they just went back to the government and poor boyed them for a rate hike to cover their mistakes.

          There is a lot of interest from the commercial sector in new nuclear, but considering their past track record no one wants to be the first to tackle a full scale greenfield project. I know many PM’s and business development folks in the civilian nuclear industry and that seems to be the prevailing consensus. Today’s utilities have a much better appreciation for of the financial risks associated with building new plants and are well equipped to manage these risks, but like I mentioned before none of the big players want to be the first to try it.

          The SMR’s, that’s a different story, and I would wager that the SMR technology like that being developed by B&W will be the next hot tech in the power industry. They are cheap (relatively), and can be retrofitted into existing sites. If B&W, or one of the competing designs does well, EVERYONE is going to jump on board, and it will happen relatively quickly. The key is going to be good execution of the first few units, but the utilities do not have a good historical track record on commercial nuclear.

    • Cal Abel says:

      Mike,
      I see where you are coming from. Believe me I do. I read more things in environmental ecology that advocate a deconstruction of modern industry, and a “return” to an egalitarian Utopian world. Some in the deep ecology movement subscribe to this line of thinking. Tom Regan falls into that category with his ‘preservation principle’. Which is a let me starve myself so that I am so weak that when you come to kick my ass I have no choice but to let you. Far too many others, like Bryan Norton, completely abandon methodological individualism as the path towards sustainability. Ayn Rand called this line of thinking in the 1970′s as a rebranding of a collectivist agenda.

      Now, where I think you missed the impact of deep ecology is what Naess refers to as “[Deep ecology], as I conceive it, says yes to the fullest self-realization of man.” He is critical of Regan in his writing and a statement like that can only be made by someone who embraces individualism.

      Sustainability is about survival. Ray Anderson did not see a distinction between business sustainability and environmental sustainability. They are, in his view and also in mine, different aspects of the same thing. All those things that you described are vital to life. What Anderson showed was how to achieve the benefit of industry and ecological responsibility through the creative force of an open market.

      You will see some arguments,Asheim, for Pareto optimality to describe intergenerational equity for an infinite number of generations as some egalitarian goal. This is a line of thought ignores the first law of thermodynamics. There is not enough energy in the universe to allow this to happen.

      I had a look at deep-ecology from a methodological individualist perspective and found that they are consistent. In a stronger statement, the only way to achieve sustainability is through methodological individualism.

      Kit, the only way to satisfy the people that you refer to is to allow the destruction of our way of life and our planet. They are ‘sheep’ looking for a shepherd. They demand the bargain that the only way to achieve sustainability through self immolation. They want to pay the thug for protection to be safe.

      Anderson, R. C. (2009). Confessions of a Radical Industrialist: Profits, People Purpose–Doing Business by Respecting the Earth. New York, St. Martins Press.
      Asheim, G. B., W. Buchholz, et al. (2001). “Justifying Sustainability.” Journal of
      Environmental Economics and Management 41(3): 252-268.
      Naess, A. (2005). A Defense of the Deep Ecology Movement. Environmental Values. L. Kalof and T. Satterfield. Sterling, Earthscan: 97-101.
      Norton, B. (2005). Sustainability: A Philosophy of Adaptive Ecosystem Management. Chicago, University of Chicago Press.
      Rand, A. (1971). The New Left: The Anti-Industrial Revolution. New York, Meridian.
      Regan, T. (1981). “The Nature and Possibility of an Environmental Ethic.” Environmental Ethics 3(1): 31-32.

    • Jason C says:

      Mike, I have to ask did you see the Gasland movie? Do you have dirrect experience in gas fracking mining that gives you some authority on the matter?

      If so, do you believe the methane coming out of people’s faucets and able to ignite was faked? Do you believe the people who had regrets for having signed a contract with a gas mining company because of a change in water quality and a change in their health were lying? Do you believe they were lying when they told stories of walking up to the workers on site and asked them to drink a glass of water from their home only to be refused?

      You made accusations but you didn’t pick out anything in particular that Fox presented in the movie. Blanket ad-hominem smears like only discredit you and boost Fox’s credibility. You seem to be a very intelligent person, but I think you could do better to defend your viewpoint.

      • Brian Mays says:

        … do you believe the methane coming out of people’s faucets and able to ignite was faked?

        Jason – No, it wasn’t faked, but not all of it was due to oil or gas drilling.

        I believe that Mike is alluding to the “inconvenient truth” that two of the water wells featured in the film, those of Markham and McClure, contained gas from naturally occurring methane found in coal beds. This was the finding of an analysis performed by the State of Colorado. This methane-rich gas from coal beds has been known to exist in the area for over three decades.

        One of the wells featured in the film actually was contaminated by oil and gas development, so why didn’t Fox stick to that example and leave out the other two? I don’t know but can only guess that it wouldn’t have made as dramatic a presentation. He’s more interested in a story than the truth.

        Fox has demonstrated that he is disingenuous and that he is not interested in sober scientific analysis. His top priority is to present cute circus tricks — facts be damned — and frankly, I wouldn’t trust the guy as far as I could throw him. He is no better than Wasserman.

        Frankly, I’m not surprised that he swallows the whole “renewable” sales pitch hook, line, and sinker. All these folks tend to think alike.

  3. Cal Abel says:

    Bravo-Zulu!

  4. Kit P says:

    Oh goody another crockumentary just in time for the holiday season.

    “Stewart, George Monbiot, and James Hansen are just a few of the thinkers …”

    Who do you listen to these idiots? There are not humble thinkers speaking in the field of expertise but arrogant jerks seeking more time in the media. Maybe we should listen to Jane Fonda who happens to have the same amount of experience providing energy for Americans as Rod.

    • Jason C says:

      Kit, would you say these types of things if you were in the same room as the commenters here? I doubt it.

      The internet is a great shield for people to say things they wouldn’t otherwise in polite company, but there is no reason for you to be rude and disdainful to the blog author. You are a guest here and I look forward to reading thoughtful comments on Atomic Insights, not snide remarks that would keep new readers from participating in the conversation.

  5. Frank Jablonski says:

    Well done, Rod. Bet it doesn’t make it through moderation.

    Mike H.: how about some examples of Fox saying things equivalently outrageous and without scientific foundation as Harvey Wasserman?

    • Mike H says:

      The Weld county contamination case of Mike Markham jumps right out at me and just about everything from Theo Colburn.

  6. Jason C says:

    Short answer: nothing.

    We have seen a lot of tolerance exercised already.

    • Kit P says:

      Jason

      I am pretty sure that Rod and I could have a discussion in no uncertain terms and shake hand at the end. I suspect that swapping sea stories and debating energy theories would not be done in polite society. We would excuse ourselves from our wives and kids and find the beer fridge in the garage mahal.

      The irony is that Rod blog and Jason computer is a guest of the power industry. Burn any books lately Jason?

      • Jason C says:

        Kit, the facilities – computer, internet so forth – are not “guests”, I paid for this computer, the internet, and power as a customer. Nice try at turning the tables but it doesn’t work for me.

        I’m not trying to curb your freedom of speech if that’s what you’re trying to imply, it’s your insulting attitude I take issue with. Many times you have contributed valuable comments, but other times you behave like a puerile bully. It’s not just me that finds these remarks offensive but other readers have been put off as well.

        • Kit P says:

          Jason

          I do not know how old you are. The is a whole generation that have been told they are special while they have never done anything special. I have found that people who want a civil discussion really do not want that.

          If you want to have an adult conversation and have your ideas challenged, then maybe you should expect disagreement. If I call someone stupid it is only an insult when it is not an accurate description.

          If you find my comments offensive at the top of a post is the author. Since being offend is the responsibility of the reader, it is a lot easier for me for you to just skip over my post than to figure out what offends you.

          I do think there are limits on free speech and clear bound of civility. Insiting violence and racial slurs would be examples.

          • Rod Adams says:

            That would be “inciting” not “insiting”.

            By the way, on numerous occasions you have insulted me, the two schools that awarded me degrees “with distinction”, the service that awarded me four meritorious service medals, the dozen or more bosses that thought I was smart enough to handle some rather complex work assignments and the taxpayers who employed me for 29 years by calling me “stupid” when the issue was that you disagreed with what I said.

            Disagreement does not indicate stupidity and accusations of it do approach the bounds of civility.

  7. Kit P says:

    Mike H

    You are on! I can match and raise you on stories about idiots in California since I worked for GE, SMUD and lived in California for many years.

    I have many fond memories of the Seattle area because that is where we lived for many years before we moved to California in 1960. So I jumped at the chance to move to Washington State. At the time of the rolling blackouts in California I was working for one the leaders in nuclear power. They were also a leader in NG gas building 40% of the CCGT plants. One of their merchant plants was on Monterrey Bay which they wanted to modernize to a CCGT doubling the power.

    When the rolling blackouts, the head of the California Energy Commission could not figure out why the California ISO had 56,000 MWe in capacity but were flatlining at 40,000 MWe. Lady it is a drought year! There is a whole list of list of other reason too. The new energy Czar was S. David Freeman. While GM at SMUD he closed Racho Seco but there he was pointing at Texas blaming companies investing in California. Go figure!

    One of the 2000 MWe on paper that my company was accused of withholding, was still in the shipping crates in June of 2000. The state withheld the permit for 3 years.

    One of the things I am passionate about is a reliable supply of electricity while protecting the environment. One of things I liked about being part of an engineering services office of leading energy company is the high ethical standards of the company. I also liked that I got to do different things.

    Here is the interesting thing when it comes to ethics. We have fillet mignon with about the same frequency as sloppy joes with mac and cheese. I can cook up a wonderful sword fish or tuna casserole. While some think eating meat or fish is unethical. That is fine, but that that is there ethics.

    One of those American traditions is the pot luck. I make a mean green bean casserole. Got the recipe off a can if condensed mushroom soup. While this is about as far from gourmet as you can get, if I want any of my own casserole I need to get in line early.

    The point here is that there is more than one way of meeting the needs of your customers. Nuclear power is very good way to make electricity. So is coal and NG. Renewable energy is a good way to make power also. Hydroelectric, biomass, and geothermal produce affordable electricity and have been doing it for a long time. The rent seekers do not last very long.

    It is fine if Rod wants to promote small reactors, I wish him luck. This is a need for local generation for grid regulation. The problem is Rod my company also knows how to make small reactors. We also know how to take waste biomass and make electricity. See Rod, give me a room with environmentalist and utility executives and I will have them both eating out of my hand.

    Well not in California, but no engineer should have to work in California.

  8. Kit P says:

    “That would be “inciting” not “insiting”. ”

    Rod is correct. The reason I think Rod is stupid is because he writes about things he does not know about. When somebody has ‘awarded me degrees “with distinction”, they should be smart enough to know better.

    One of my smart moves was getting out of the navy. Since I failed the sub physical because of vision problems, my nuclear was limited to surface ships. As it turns out, most of those got decommissioned early. I suspect Rod can explain why. I do not think this is a reason to question Rod intelligence or ethics. However, Rod spends lots of time questing those qualities in others.

    So Rod I think you are fair game.

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