Josh Fox on The Diane Rehm Show from WAMU and NPR

Audio Player | The Diane Rehm Show from WAMU and NPR.

Economist Debates: Fracking: Guest-Josh Fox

Economist Debates: Fracking: Guest.

Josh Fox
Featured guest
Josh Fox  

Do the benefits of shale gas outweigh the drawbacks? I think that “benefits” and “drawbacks” are the wrong terms. I would question the idea that there are any benefits to be had at all, and I think using the word “drawbacks” to describe the absolute horror that results from shale-gas development is an understatement indeed. Be that as it may, let’s assess. The gas industry has argued that the benefits include: cheap energy; energy independence for America and parts of Europe; better implications for climate change than coal; jobs. The opposition argues that the drawbacks are: a vast fossil-fuel development that will push us to the brink of runaway climate change; permanent and widespread water contamination; a huge upswing in air pollution; a burgeoning public-health crisis; the destruction of the national landscape; damage to democratic institutions through billions spent in lobbying; and, of the utmost importance, delaying the global transition to the renewable energy sources that are available right now and are fully capable of providing truly clean energy forever. Regarding the benefits, it is clear that each of the goals that the gas industry puts forward can be achieved in other, better ways. However, there are no substitutes for the things that will be damaged by the drawbacks. There is no other planet we can inhabit if we tank the climate. Rising sea levels, increased drought, massive floods and brushfires—all of which we are witnessing right now—will increase to a point where we will have created a situation that reduces civilisation to permanent emergency management.

I guess one could say that there are initial benefits to burning your furniture to heat your house. For a short while you save money on other fuels and you heat your home. However, the long-term “drawbacks” are that you have a very uncomfortable house once you’ve finished with your supply. You‘ve been so busy chopping up the sofa, your grandmother’s picture frames and your children’s toys that you haven’t developed an alternative strategy to heat your home for the future. If your sofa is, say, the national forest or the Delaware River Basin or the Rockies, and your grandmother’s picture frames are your democracy, and your children’s toys are clean water and air, that’s a bad house to live in.

1. Shale gas is the worst form of fuel that can be developed with respect to greenhouse-gas emissions in the short term 

Estimates vary but it is clear that between 4% and 9% of methane—enormous quantities of methane—from fracking escapes into the atmosphere. Methane is 105 times more potent at trapping heat than CO2 in the 20-year time frame. Combine this with the CO2 generated from burning the gas itself, and you get emissions higher than any other fossil fuel over a 20-year time frame. A conversion to shale gas means accelerating global climate change, not slowing it down.

2. Water contamination: leakage is not rare, it is rampant

For a video explication of this issue, please take a look at my short film, “The Sky is Pink“.

We’ve heard time again that strict regulation is the key to moving forward on fracking and that new regulations will ensure that the industry constructs leak-proof wells. There is no such thing as a leak-proof gas well. The gas industry knows this; in fact, it has known it for decades.

The part of the gas well that it is relying on to protect groundwater is simply cement; a 1-inch thick layer between the steel casing and the surrounding rock. When the cement fails, it opens a pathway for gas and other toxins involved in the drilling and fracking process to migrate into groundwater and to the surface.

The gas industry’s own documents and case studies show that about 6% of cement jobs fail immediately upon installation. Pennsylvania’s Department of Environmental Protection bears this out: it found 6.2% of new gas wells were leaking in 2010, 6.2% in 2011 and 7.2% in 2012.

The gas industry has been studying the problem for decades, and knows it full well. In a report entitled “Well Integrity Failure Presentation”, Archer, a drilling service company, reports that nearly 20% of all oil and gas wells are leaking worldwide. A 2003 joint industry publication from Schlumberger, the world’s number one fracking company, and ConocoPhillips, an oil and gas giant, cites astronomical failure rates of 60% over a 30-year span.

3. Air pollution

In 2009, the 7,700 frack sites in the Dallas, TX, metro area (there are now more than 15,000) were pumping out the equivalent smog and CO2 emissions of all traffic in the entire Dallas/Fort Worth metroplex combined. In Pennsylvania, the industry goal is 100,000-200,000 frack sites, or another 10-20 DFW’s worth of emissions, in one state alone. Crazy.

4. Land destruction is ongoing, including public treasures

Large swathes of public parklands and forests have been handed over for drilling, creating unprecedented destruction of plants, animals, habitats and natural beauty. We estimate that the “shale gas revolution”, if fully pursued, will result in 1m-2m new wells in America alone. That is one well, at the high end, per 150 people. I hate to say something so simple, but that’s just insane.

5. A health crisis

There is a burgeoning health crisis related to chemical and hydrocarbon exposure in residential areas and chronic exposure to hazardous air pollution from drilling. Volatile organic compounds released on the sites include cancer-causing benzene and other carcinogens. Ailments from asthma to cancer to neurological disorders have been reported both anecdotally and in initial public health assessments (see Colorado School of Public Health’s HIA 2010).

6. Democracy and your voice are at risk

Oil and gas companies spent $747m lobbying congress to be exempted from the Safe Drinking Water Act. Their lobbying expenditures and contributions in election cycles of hundreds of millions more mean that the fossil-fuel industries are literally spending billions of dollars to corrupt our democracy. Citizens don’t often have billions of dollars to speak for them. 

So on to the so-called “benefits”.

1. Jobs

Barack Obama famously touted that there are 600,000 jobs to be had in the fracking industry by the end of the decade. But his former “Green Jobs Czar”, Anthony Van Jones, was quick to point out that the Brookings Institute (not some left-wing think-tank) stated there are vastly more green jobs to be cultivated right now—millions more. If we move towards shale gas full tilt, we will stall the drive to truly clean energy and the long-term jobs it will provide. Should we sell out a true new jobs market for a shrinking pot of jobs in the polycarbon industry?

2. Energy independence

True energy independence does not mean continuing to be dependent on multinational fossil-fuel giants. Renewable energy provides true independence from our fossil-fuel-addicted past. (See Mark Jacobson’slandmark article on the front page of Scientific American, which outlines how renewables can run the planet.) 

3. Cheap energy

Considering all the real costs, fracking for shale gas cannot be considered cheap. The industry externalises the real cost onto the landscape, our water and air and the citizenry. For example, in Dimock, PA, the cost of a water line to replace water contaminated by drilling for just 18 families was $12m. Multiply these figures by millions of wells and the damage is in the trillions in just the Marcellus Shale alone.


So what is this really? The last gasp of the fossil-fuel era, an attempt to keep us addicted to poisonous fuels when the real clean green economy is waiting for democracy to reassert itself. Shale gas is long-term ruin for the many at the expense of short-term gain for the few.

New Anti-Fracking Film by Gasland’s Josh Fox Targets Cuomo: ‘Governor, What Color Will the Sky Be Over New York?’ | Jeff Goodell | Politics News | Rolling Stone

New Anti-Fracking Film by Gasland’s Josh Fox Targets Cuomo: ‘Governor, What Color Will the Sky Be Over New York?’ | Jeff Goodell | Politics News | Rolling Stone.


The Capitol Pressroom for April 3, 2012 | WCNY Blogs

The Capitol Pressroom for April 3, 2012 | WCNY Blogs.

The Capitol Pressroom for April 3, 2012

April 4th, 2012 | Posted by WCNY Staff | No Comments

Half of today’s show is devoted to pro-fracking interests and half is devoted to anti-fracking interests.


Tom West of the West Law Firm

is best known as an oil and gas attorney & lobbyist, and one of the lawyers who argued against home rule in both the Middlefield & Dryden cases.  Today he joins us to talk about why he is appealing, as well as a “newly discovered” Encon memorandum that he claims will shed light on the state’s oil and gas laws.

Then taking a very different view of hydrofracking, Josh Fox, producer of Gasland, says communities in Pennsylvania are taking a cue from New York and fighting back against the state on drilling.

Plus, Claire Sandberg of Water Defense updates us on water issues in Dimock in light of the EPA’s report.  And representing a contingent of anti-drillers from all over the state, Rochester’s Harry Davis previews a rally & protest on the issue taking place this afternoon at the Capitol.


Posted in : Capitol Pressroom

Obama’s Support for Natural Gas Drilling “A Painful Moment” for Communities Exposed to Fracking

Obama’s Support for Natural Gas Drilling “A Painful Moment” for Communities Exposed to Fracking.

Oscar-nominated director arrested at House hearing – The Hill’s E2-Wire

Oscar-nominated director arrested at House hearing – The Hill’s E2-Wire.

Save the Delaware – new Josh Fox video

Subject: New Delaware River video by Josh Fox

Hey everyone.  I made a new video on the current assault on the Delaware River Basin.  I feel like it’s probably the most important video I have made in my life.  Please watch it and send it to friends and family.  Thanks so much.

Here is the link.


SAVE THE DELAWARE. A new video from Josh Fox and Matt Sanchez. The Delaware River Basin is in severe danger. The Delaware River Basin Commission will vote on October 21st on regulations that would allow for 20,000 gas wells in the river basin. Now is the time to act. Please post (and repost and repost)





The Marcellus Effect: Fracking the Tar Sands

The Marcellus Effect: Fracking the Tar Sands.

Robert Kennedy, Jr. interviews Josh Fox

RFK Jr.’s  interview with Josh Fox on industry claims and criticism of Gasland.


– Show quoted text –

Josh Fox Responds to Industry Attacks on Gasland


February 7, 2011 — With the recent Oscar nomination of my documentary
film GASLAND, Big Gas and their PR attack machine hit a new low in its
blatant disregard for the truth.
In an unprecedented move, an oil and gas industry front group sent a
letter to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences saying that
the film should be ineligible for best documentary feature.
We are honored and encouraged by the Academy’s nomination.  It is
terrific to be acknowledged as filmmakers by the film world’s most
prestigious honor.  But perhaps more than that, I believe that the
nomination has provided hope, inspiration and affirmation for the
thousands of families out there who are suffering because of the natural
gas drilling.  The Oscars are about dreams, and I know that for all of
us living with the nightmare of gas drilling the nomination provides
further proof that someone out there cares.
Now Big Gas wants to take that away, as they have shattered the American
dream for so many.
GASLAND exposes the disaster being caused across the U.S. by the largest
domestic natural gas drilling campaign history and how the contentious
Halliburton-developed drilling technology called hydraulic fracturing,
or fracking threatens the water supply of millions.
Fracking is a whole-scale industrialization process that pumps millions
of gallons of toxic material directly into the ground. Thousands of
documented contamination cases show the harmful chemicals used have been
turning up in people’s water supplies in fracking areas all over the
We stand behind the testimonials, facts, science and investigative
journalism in the film 100 percent.  We have issued a point-by-point
rebuttal of the group’s claims (“Affirming Gasland”), posted on our
It’s not just us they’re after.  The gas industry goes after anyone who
tries to punch a hole in their lie. Last week the same pro-drilling
group, Energy in Depth (EID), attacked an investigative piece on
drilling pollution by ProPublica, the highly credible public interest
journalism organization.
And just last week, T. Boone Pickens, the most visible promoter of gas
fracking, went on The Daily Show claiming that he personally has fracked
over 3,000 wells and never witnessed any contamination cases, even when
Jon Stewart asked him about GASLAND point blank.  He simply stated over
and over again the industry lie, that fracking is safe.  Not a single
word of acknowledgement, or responsibility for the claims of thousands
and the threat posed to millions.
The gas industry believes it can create a new reality in which their
nationwide onshore drilling campaign isn’t a disaster.  But no amount of
PR money or slick ads can keep the stories of contamination coming from
thousands of Americans from being any less true.
On Monday, Congressional investigators called out frackers for pumping
millions of gallons of diesel fuel directly into the ground, exposing
drinking water sources to benzene and other carcinogens. This makes
EID’s specious and misleading attack on the science and data in GASLAND
especially ironic since Halliburton stonewalled Congressman Henry
Waxman’s investigation into fracking, refusing to provide data on their
use of diesel and other harmful chemicals injected in the fracking
There are major watershed areas providing water to millions of Americans
that are at risk here, including the watershed areas for New York City
and Philadelphia. The catastrophe has been widely covered not only in
GASLAND, but also by hundreds of news stories, films and TV segments.
This is a moment of crisis that cannot be understated.
Even before its release, the power of the film was not lost on the
industry. In the March 24th edition of the Oil and Gas Journal, Skip
Horvath, the president of the Natural Gas Supply Association said that
GASLAND is “well done. It holds people’s attention. And it could block
our industry.”
GASLAND was seen by millions and I personally toured with the film to
over 100 cities. In affected areas, people came to the screenings with
their contaminated water samples in tow. They came to have the truth
they know shared and confirmed
As Maurice D. Hinchey, U.S. Representative (NY-22) recently said,
“Thanks to GASLAND and the millions of grassroots activists across the
country, we finally have a counterweight to the influence of the oil and
gas industry in our nation’s capital.”
Big Gas is blocking the truth in their pursuit of hundreds of billions
of dollars of profit. Their clear goal is to ensure our nation remains
addicted to fossil fuels for the rest of this century. They seek to
stifle the development of truly renewable energy.
They’re playing dirty in more ways than one, attacking the film and the
testimonials and science in it instead of taking responsibility and
addressing the contamination, destruction and harm that they are
creating. I now know how the people in my documentary feel, to have the
things they know to be true and the questions they are raising so
blatantly discounted and smeared. It is truly unfortunate that the
gas-drilling industry continues to deny what is so obvious to Americans
living in gaslands across the nation.
Josh Fox
Director, GASLAND
Media Contact:  Josh Baran – jcbaran@gmail.com917-797-1799
Josh Fox is based in New York City and will be in Washington, D.C. on
February 17.  He is available for interviews.  DVD screeners for the
media are available.