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Vol. 18, No. 36 Week of September 08, 2013
Providing coverage of Bakken oil and gas

‘FrackNation’ co-director: more social media involvement needed

Filmmaker and investigative journalist Ann McElhinney, who co-directed the film “FrackNation,” told attendees at the Montana Petroleum Association’s annual meeting in Billings on Aug. 28 that the oil and gas industry needs to get more involved in social media in order to counter misinformation being disseminated across the U.S. regarding not only hydraulic fracturing, but on energy and mining issues in general.

McElhinney, the keynote speaker at the MPA meeting, cited numerous examples of high-profile celebrities who oppose such issues as fracking, offshore drilling and mining, as well as the use of non-renewable forms of energy. The problem with that, she said, is two-fold. First, the messages being conveyed are based on untrue information, and second, celebrities can have large followings and people listen to them. Furthermore, so much of what is being said, is being said through social media. “There are people out there who want to shut you down and they’re powerful,” she told MPA.

The solution for industry, she said, is to use social media. “Twitter matters,” she told MPA. “If we’re not in that conversation, the other side overwhelms.”

In addition to social media, McElhinney said one-sided arguments are being presented to students in many schools in the U.S. The result is that students are not getting a balanced view of such issues as hydraulic fracturing and the use of natural gas. She said it’s important for people to get involved and find out exactly what children are being taught on energy issues.

McElhinney also took renewable energy to task in her address to MPA. In order to love wind energy, she said, you have to love copper mining because of all the copper wire that is used in wind generators. In addition, she pointed out the use of rare earth metals in solar panels and said those rare earths come from toxic mining operations in China. She noted that in order to have one of the 50 states totally dependent on solar energy, a huge percent of all the other 49 states would have to be covered with solar panels.

Furthermore, McElhinney said, there are only two reliable forms of renewable energy that work: hydroelectric power and wood. That is a fact of life, she said — a fact she said opponents of oil and gas don’t like to hear.


McElhinney, along with her husband Phelim McAleer and co-director Magdalena Segieda, made the film “FrackNation” as a response to the 2010 HBO documentary “Gasland.” In “FrackNation,” McAleer confronts “Gasland” filmmaker Josh Fox about what McAleer says is false information in the “Gasland” film, and goes on to investigate and refute many of the claims in “Gasland.” A sequel to “Gasland,” “Gasland Part 2,” appeared on HBO in July.

“FrackNation” was funded through the crowd funding website Kickstarter where more than 3,000 people from 26 countries contributed over $200,000. All those who contributed became executive producers of the film and their names appeared in the credits at the end of the film. Donations from oil or gas companies and/or their executives were rejected.

Other works

In addition to “FrackNation,” McElhinney and McAleer directed and produced the film “Not Evil Just Wrong,” a film challenging Al Gore’s “An Inconvenient Truth” film, and “Mind Your Own Business,” another documentary, this one about a Canadian mining company’s unsuccessful attempt to start an open pit gold and silver mine in Romania.

A native of Ireland, McElhinney has also written extensively in her journalism career for such newspapers as the Irish Times and the UK Sunday Times. She has also appeared on or is a regular contributor to media organizations in the U.S., the U.K., Ireland, Canada and Australia.

—Mike Ellerd

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