I expected so much more from MARKETPLACE. But after listening to that awful review by Scott Tong about Matt Damon's film PROMISED LAND, I am wondering what happened. I became more perturbed after reading that Tong "is a correspondent for Marketplace’s sustainability desk, with a focus on energy, environment, resources, climate, supply chain and the global economy."
A correspondent focusing on sustainability and the environment should have raised these issues in the review. He should have reminded listeners that there is a great need for renewable energy sources? What about listing all of the environmental problems caused by pumping chemicals into the earth?
The review went downhill quickly, and landed with a thud after Tong said this:
"Yes, gas companies have been found to spill chemicals, in spots where animals have died. Some have built wells poorly, allowing natural gas in water wells.
But in many parts, industry has fracked without incident for decades." What is the basis for such a statement? What study has Tong examined?
When I listen to MARKETPLACE I expect the facts. Tong did not explain that Dick Cheney got an exemption to the Clean Air and Clean Water Acts for corporations doing fracking. There was no mention that the companies refuse to list the more than 600 chemicals, many toxic, that are being pumped into the ground during fracking.
In Maryland we have managed to get a moratorium on fracking. And this year in the legislature, there is legislation asking the oil and gas companies to pay for an environmental study on fracking. Of course, the corporations are fearful of funding a study that will expose the long list of environmental degradations across the country.
One could argue water is our most precious resource. Why would one put profit before protecting our water supplies? Please do not allow Scott Tong to do any more film reviews, otherwise I might have to listen to him reporting that Gordon Gekko was a great humanitarian responsible for fairness on Wall Street.
MARKETPLACE January 3, 2013
Promised Land': Fracking as Hollywood tells it
"Promised Land," starring Matt Damon (right) and opening nationally in theaters, provides a nuanced account of fracking in rural Pennsylvania -- up to a point.
by Scott Tong
Marketplace for Thursday, January 3, 2013Story.Fact Check: The truth behind fracking claims in 'Promised Land' Does politics belong in the movies? Director Frank Capra once said, "if you want to send a message, try Western Union."
The film "Promised Land" considers the controversial drilling practice of fracking. But despite the title, it's theology-free, says co-writer and star Matt Damon.
"It's not meant to give you any answers," Damon says, in an interview released by the production company. "It's actually just meant to catalyze some conversation and reflection."
Damon plays a natural gas landman: a salesman who goes to a Pennsylvania town, and talks farmers into allowing drilling on their property. In exchange for money.
His character, Steve Butler, is a country boy himself.
"I grew up in a large farming community," Butler says in one restaurant scene, drinking a $400 bottle of Bordeaux with a colleague. "Football Fridays, tractor pulls, cowtipping, all of it."
Butler talks of his hometown in Iowa, how the economy died when the Caterpillar plant closed.
"The truth was, without the plant, without the industry we had nothing," Steve Butler says. "And my whole town was ... I'm not selling them natural gas, I'm selling them the only way they have to get back."
He's too earnest to be a underhanded corporate Grinch. If anything, Matt Damon's heart seems three sizes too big.
He's almost too earnest to be an underhanded corporate Grinch. If anything, Matt Damon's heart seems three sizes too big. So as the farmers decide about fracking, an environmentalist with a baseball cap shows up to push back.
John Krasinski's character, Dustin Noble, goes man-to-man with Damon's Steve Butler in a local bar, asking if he "has what it takes."
Dustin: Do you have what it takes, Steve?
Dustin: Think you have what it takes?
Steve: Oh, to beat you? Yeah, absolutely.
Dustin: Well, you just might.
Steve: Hey man, I'll drink to that.
This duel stars two nice, manipulative guys -- yes, nuance. That is, til the voice of conscience in the film starts painting in black and white.
Hal Holbrook plays high school science teacher Frank Yates, who challenges natural gas guy at a town meeting. He says fracking's risk "is too high."
Frank: Mr. Butler, you and I both know the information I've been talking about is vast and detailed.
Steve: You're probably right, I'm certainly, I'm not the guy with all the answers
Frank: Oh, well then you're the perfect guy for them to send here to deny everything.
This truth-teller says fracking "scorches the earth under our feet." That it's selling out the future. A plot twist at the end confirms the corporate villain.
Ok -- bye bye reality.
Yes, gas companies have been found to spill chemicals, in spots where animals have died. Some have built wells poorly, allowing natural gas in water wells.
But in many parts, industry has fracked without incident for decades.
So it seems reasonable to ask: could fracking be like air travel, a manageable risk with strict rules? Could there be bigger risks to water than fracking? Could the experts not have all the answers yet?
This film, though, invites commentators who already have them.
An oil and gas group has a counter-film ready, with "the real facts."
And on the other side, Yoko Ono heads a new Hollywood group dead-set against fracking. Check your social media listings.
Is this the conversation Damon had in mind?
For those of you who think there's a more grownup debate to be had -- on energy and jobs, taxes and subsidies, carbon pollution and future generations -- "Promised Land" leaves you in the wilderness.
About the author
Scott Tong is a correspondent for Marketplace’s sustainability desk, with a focus on energy, environment, resources, climate, supply chain and the global economy.