Monday, June 21, 2010

HBO's 'Gasland' shows graphic fracking

Posted By on Mon, Jun 21, 2010 at 3:11 PM

Geeks associate know the term "fracking" as an obscene gerund on "Battlestar Galactica," but it has a more sinister appellation in the real world. As shorthand for "hydraulic fracturing," a controversial form of mining for natural gas, the no-fun kind of fracking provides the subject for the documentary Gasland, which premieres on HBO tonight at 9 p.m. Director Josh Fox explains fracking to Fresh Air's Terry Gross as follows:

"Hydraulic fracturing is a process of injecting, at incredibly high pressure, a huge volume of water — they use between 2 and 7 million gallons of water per frack to fracture the rock formation. It's called unconventional gas drilling. It fractures that rock apart and gets at all of the tiny bubbles of the gas that are sort of infused in that rock. In order to do that, they inject [these] million gallons of fluid down the wellbore that breaks apart the rock. It causes a kind of mini-earthquake under very intense pressure. What seems to be happening is that's liberating gas and other volatile, organic compounds. ... The volatile organics are released along with the gas. Sometimes they're used as part of the compounds. The fracking fluid creates this. You're releasing volatile organics, which are carcinogenic, and that is traveling, somehow — along with the methane — getting into peoples' water supply so that it's flammable."

Wait, did he say fracking could make tap water flammable? Indeed he did. Shades of the Cuyahoga river, Gasland includes images of people igniting their tap water and quotes afflicted homeowners who are afraid turn on lights during their showers for fear of a spark making them go up in flames. While Gasland focuses on the natural gas industry, it's bound to raise questions that speak to the current Gulf oil spill crisis. Here's the trailer:

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