• 2 days PDVSA Booted From Caribbean Terminal Over Unpaid Bills
  • 2 days Russia Warns Ukraine Against Recovering Oil Off The Coast Of Crimea
  • 2 days Syrian Rebels Relinquish Control Of Major Gas Field
  • 2 days Schlumberger Warns Of Moderating Investment In North America
  • 2 days Oil Prices Set For Weekly Loss As Profit Taking Trumps Mideast Tensions
  • 2 days Energy Regulators Look To Guard Grid From Cyberattacks
  • 2 days Mexico Says OPEC Has Not Approached It For Deal Extension
  • 2 days New Video Game Targets Oil Infrastructure
  • 2 days Shell Restarts Bonny Light Exports
  • 2 days Russia’s Rosneft To Take Majority In Kurdish Oil Pipeline
  • 3 days Iraq Struggles To Replace Damaged Kirkuk Equipment As Output Falls
  • 3 days British Utility Companies Brace For Major Reforms
  • 3 days Montenegro A ‘Sweet Spot’ Of Untapped Oil, Gas In The Adriatic
  • 3 days Rosneft CEO: Rising U.S. Shale A Downside Risk To Oil Prices
  • 3 days Brazil Could Invite More Bids For Unsold Pre-Salt Oil Blocks
  • 3 days OPEC/Non-OPEC Seek Consensus On Deal Before Nov Summit
  • 3 days London Stock Exchange Boss Defends Push To Win Aramco IPO
  • 3 days Rosneft Signs $400M Deal With Kurdistan
  • 3 days Kinder Morgan Warns About Trans Mountain Delays
  • 4 days India, China, U.S., Complain Of Venezuelan Crude Oil Quality Issues
  • 4 days Kurdish Kirkuk-Ceyhan Crude Oil Flows Plunge To 225,000 Bpd
  • 4 days Russia, Saudis Team Up To Boost Fracking Tech
  • 4 days Conflicting News Spurs Doubt On Aramco IPO
  • 4 days Exxon Starts Production At New Refinery In Texas
  • 4 days Iraq Asks BP To Redevelop Kirkuk Oil Fields
  • 5 days Oil Prices Rise After U.S. API Reports Strong Crude Inventory Draw
  • 5 days Oil Gains Spur Growth In Canada’s Oil Cities
  • 5 days China To Take 5% Of Rosneft’s Output In New Deal
  • 5 days UAE Oil Giant Seeks Partnership For Possible IPO
  • 5 days Planting Trees Could Cut Emissions As Much As Quitting Oil
  • 5 days VW Fails To Secure Critical Commodity For EVs
  • 5 days Enbridge Pipeline Expansion Finally Approved
  • 5 days Iraqi Forces Seize Control Of North Oil Co Fields In Kirkuk
  • 5 days OPEC Oil Deal Compliance Falls To 86%
  • 6 days U.S. Oil Production To Increase in November As Rig Count Falls
  • 6 days Gazprom Neft Unhappy With OPEC-Russia Production Cut Deal
  • 6 days Disputed Venezuelan Vote Could Lead To More Sanctions, Clashes
  • 6 days EU Urges U.S. Congress To Protect Iran Nuclear Deal
  • 6 days Oil Rig Explosion In Louisiana Leaves 7 Injured, 1 Still Missing
  • 6 days Aramco Says No Plans To Shelve IPO
Alt Text

China Drives Natural Gas Demand Boom

China is poised to surpass…

Alt Text

The U.S. LNG Boom Could Be About To Stall

United States LNG has seen…

Alt Text

Controversial Azeri Pipeline Receives $500M Funding

The European Bank of Reconstruction…

Kurt Cobb

Kurt Cobb

Kurt Cobb is a freelance writer and author of the peak oil-themed thriller Prelude. He speaks and writes frequently on energy and the environment and…

More Info

The Real Reason the Natural Gas Industry Hates Matt Damon's New Movie

The Real Reason the Natural Gas Industry Hates Matt Damon's New Movie

Matt Damon's new fictional movie about natural gas development in a rural township was being lambasted by the natural gas industry even before it premiered. And yet, the film shows no tanker trucks laden with toxic fracking fluid. It depicts no roughnecks descending on a small town unprepared for the influx of new workers. It features no ghastly wastewater ponds and not even one drilling pad or derrick. In fact, drilling has yet to begin in the fictional township of McKinley.

As a result there are no wheezing people made sick from fumes associated with the drilling. There are no flaming water taps--first seen by many in the documentary Gasland, a film which displays devastation which it attributes to hydraulic fracturing and other processes associated with natural gas drilling in America's deep shale deposits. In Promised Land there is not even one dead farm animal unless you count the ones pictured on a yard sign distributed by an environmental activist who opposes the drilling.

So why is the natural gas industry having such a hissy fit over the film? I think the answer lies in its premise: That the people of this small community ought to have a public discussion about whether they want the drilling--one informed by all the facts, not just the ones the natural gas drillers want them to hear--and that the community should then take a vote. God knows that in corporate America, democratic governance should never, ever take precedence over corporate imperatives. Could things be any more infuriating than that?

Well, yes they can. We are treated to acts of perfidy on the part of Steve Butler (played by Damon) who believes that everyone has a price, one that his company is only too willing to pay. Butler is a landman for a large drilling company though he is never referred to using this industry term. His job is to lease the mineral rights from landowners in the township quickly and cheaply. But a well-informed high school teacher (played by Hal Holbrook) challenges Butler at a meeting of townsfolk that was designed to close the deal. After that things get complicated. Butler and his partner, Sue Thomason (played by Frances McDormand), must abandon the playbook that has worked so well for them in the past and improvise.

As resistance grows, Butler and Thomason hurry to close as many deals as they can. Increasingly, people turn them down. Here is where Butler's frustration leaks out as he loses his cool in front of people he ought to be trying to gently persuade. Whether such flashes of temper accurately portray the behavior of landmen, I have my doubts. But these fits are illustrative of the arrogant attitude of the industry in general. How dare anyone question what the industry is doing to make America energy independent! How dare people who have so little money and so little prospect of getting any turn down the chance to become wealthy! How dare these little people from rural nowhere resist a big, powerful company that is only trying to help them, their communities, and the country at the same time!

Related Article: Russian ESPO Pipeline Threatens Europe Oil Supplies

Butler is likeable, even sweet when we first meet him. But later he seems to pout on behalf of the entire natural gas industry when he runs into inconvenient questions about his story and his motives. It's possible that people in the industry who watch the film will mistake his arrogance for righteous indignation, a pose which industry leaders have spent time perfecting so as to portray themselves as victims.

In his initial townhall-style meeting with community members, Butler challenges the townspeople saying that if they are against natural gas, then they are for more oil and coal consumption, both dirtier alternatives. He adds that the only other option is to reduce our energy use, and, of course, nobody wants to consider that. This is the one positively revolutionary thought slipped into the film. For it would be utterly revolutionary to proceed on the premise that we could remake our society into one that ultimately does not depend on fossil fuels for energy. The first crucial step would be to reduce our energy consumption dramatically. And, we actually know how to do this, both by adjusting our behavior and through existing technology. Optimists love to tout technology when talking about increasing the energy supply. They seem to forget that that same technological prowess can and should be focused on reducing our energy consumption. But then no oil and gas company can make a profit on that.

Will you be entertained by Promised Land? I was and I think an open-minded moviegoer will have much to enjoy in this film. The acting is excellent, the characters are well-developed, and the plot has enough twists to keep the audience interested. The script is a little heavy-handed in places. But keep in mind that this film is as much about an issue as it is about the characters. If the characters never talked about or defined the issue as carefully as they do, then Promised Land might still be a good film. But it would not be an issue-oriented film which is part of its appeal.

The reaction from the natural gas industry has been as predictable as it has been puzzling. By launching an all-out smear campaign, they are only helping to make Promised Land a must-see movie for 2013. Everyone will want to know what all the fuss is about, even those who have no strong feelings one way or another about fracking and natural gas. Those who do see the movie will certainly have more questions about the motives and veracity of the industry than before.

But the natural gas industry continues to be extraordinarily foolish in its handling of the media and completely idiotic in its reaction to environmental and health concerns. Instead of ignoring critics in the media, the industry has vilified them, thereby making them even more visible to the public. Instead of vowing to address environmental and health concerns with some kind of credible industry-wide standards, the industry has dismissed those concerns as imaginary, making the public all the more distrustful.

With that kind of track record, the producers of Promised Land should be thanking the natural gas industry for all the free publicity and for elevating what might otherwise have been an obscure, low-budget film into a contender for socially conscious movie-of-the-year--one that will now be labeled mandatory viewing for all right-minded people.

By. Kurt Cobb




Back to homepage


Leave a comment
  • David B. Benson on January 08 2013 said:
    Good review.

    Well done.
  • Randy on January 08 2013 said:
    Nonsense!

    Kurt Cobb is merely using this film to promote his political agenda. Nice try.

Leave a comment




Oilprice - The No. 1 Source for Oil & Energy News