At least if you’re an industry with a possibly questionable public image, that depends on government cooperation to operate. While there seem to be several industries that fit the bill, in this case I’m talking about the natural gas industry. The documentary in this case is the Oscar nominated feature, Gasland. The industry response was an anti-Gasland campaign with a new tactic that belongs more in a piece of dystopian fiction, instead of 21st Century America.
Gasland deals with the rush to put new marginal and overworked natural gas fields into production, using a new and controversial technique known as hydraulic fracturing. But I’m not concerned here about the impact of hydraulic fracturing on the natural gas industry or the environment. I want to talk about how the natural gas industry reacted to the film.
When Gasland was first released, the natural gas industry sent out some press releases stating that the film was biased and disputing some of the technical details and conclusions drawn in it. All in all, it was fairly low key, probably because most people don’t watch documentaries and any potential damage to them was going to be minimal, if at all. Then Gasland was nominated for an Oscar and some of the natural gas people went a little nutty. The industry group, Energy in Depth, seemingly worried that the publicity for an Oscar win would drive more people to actually watch Gasland, went on the attack. They launched a campaign to get Gasland disqualified from consideration.
Time and energy was really expended by an industry group in an effort to convince an industry group, in another industry, to prevent an industry award from going to a film that the first group thought might make them look bad. Got all that? Energy in Depth’s attempt to minimise the amount of free publicity Gasland would receive from an Oscar win, resulted in more publicity being focused on the film and themselves.The funny part is that I don’t think that anybody but Energy in Depth seemed to think that Gasland had a real chance at winning. A documentary about the 2008 economic meltdown, Inside Job walked away with the golden statue. Energy in Depth came out of Oscar season looking like opponents of free speech, without any positive results to show for it. It might not be Orwellian and it is definitely legal, but it does seem to belong in a Terry Gilliam film. Stupid and slightly sinister at the same time. Genius!
Doug Abramson lives in Southern California and is now going to look for an Alka-Seltzer.