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Open Forum: A film for the heart not the head

The documentary film, “Gasland,” won a Special Jury Prize at the 2010 Sundance Film festival. The film  opposes the hydraulic drilling for natural gas in shale deposits which has essentially doubled U.S. natural gas reserves. The film is now showing on PBS and in theatres around the country.

This is a movie with flames emerging from household faucets, but not much science. “Gasland” features wells from three Weld County, Colorado, landowners, Mike Markham, Renee McClure, and Aimee Ellsworth. A thorough investigation by the Colorado Department of Natural Resources showed that the Markham and McClure wells had biogenic gas which had nothing to do with oil and gas drilling. There is biogenic gas everywhere in the air and in the earth. Cows belch it; swamps emit it; and it forms all over in the earth’s crust. If your well hits some, and there is very much, you have to start over. If you have a lot of natural gas in the well, you could do the flaming trick.

There is also thermogenic gas which comes from all forms of oil and gas drilling, including the new hydraulic process. Ms Ellsworth’s well had some of both kinds, and she reached a financial settlement with the driller. 

The film also deals with a wetland owned by a Lisa Bracken. Tests from 2004 to 2010 determined that all of the Bracken property gas is biogenic unrelated to drilling. There were instances in the film of thermogenic seepage from gas drilling, resulting in penalties assessed against the operators. 

A Colorado DNR director, Dave Neslin, offered to speak with “Gasland’’’s producer, Josh Fox, on camera during the filming of the movie with DNR technical information. The offer was declined by Mr. Fox. 

This is a film for the heart, not the head.

Rolf Westgard


Denton (Denny) Newman Jr.
I've worked at the Brainerd Dispatch with various duties since Dec. 7, 1983. Starting off as an Ad Designer and currently Director of Audience Development. The Dispatch has been an interesting and challenging place to work. I'm fortunate to have made many friends, both co-workers and customers.
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