Anti-Fracking Film Produced with Abu Dhabi Oil Money

Matt Cover | January 4, 2013 | 2:21pm EST
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This undated publicity film image provided by Focus Features shows Matt Damon starring as Steve Butler in Gus Van Sant's contemporary drama, "Promised Land," a Focus Features release. (AP Photo/Focus Features, Sam Jones)

( – “Promised Land,” the anti-fracking film written and produced by Hollywood stars Matt Damon and John Krasinski, was made in part by a production company owned by the government of Arab oil emirate Abu Dhabi – a state in direct competition with American oil and gas producers.

The film is financed in part by Image Nation Abu Dhabi, a subsidiary of Abu Dhabi Media which is owned by the government of Abu Dhabi, one of 13 Arab emirates that makes up the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and serves as that country’s capitol.

Abu Dhabi media was created by the Abu Dhabi government in 2007 with $27.3 million as part of that country’s effort to diversify its economy into new markets such as media production.

The film’s Abu Dhabi connection is significant, because the UAE is the world’s third largest oil exporter, according to 2011 figures from the U.S. Energy Information Agency. The country also holds the 7th largest proven reserves of crude oil and natural gas in the world. The UAE was ranked 17th in the world in natural gas production in 2010, according to EIA.

That the UAE is a major natural gas and oil producer puts it in direct competition with U.S. natural gas producers, who have seen a revolution in production with the increased use of fracking – an old process that has found new uses as technology has made it possible to drill new wells and open up gas reserves that were once thought inaccessible.

As fracking has found wider use, especially in the U.S., natural gas production has soared, bringing new jobs and economic opportunity to many American communities and weakening the hold that states such as the UAE once had on oil and gas production and global prices.

The film tells the story of Steve Butler (Damon), a natural gas company salesman, as he travels to an impoverished Pennsylvania town trying to acquire drilling rights from local landowners and environmentalist Dustin Noble (Krasinksi), who is intent on stopping him.

While the film focuses on the battle between Damon and Krasinski for the hearts and minds of poor, rural Pennsylvanians – culminating in a town vote on whether to allow Damon’s gas company to develop the farmland that sits atop large natural gas reserves – underlying the decision is a debate on the economic benefits of fracking.

Those economic benefits, promised by Damon’s gas company salesman, are weighed against the supposed economic costs of hydraulic fracturing – fracking – the process used by gas companies to break the shale rock formations that contain the gas reserves.

Krasinski’s character presents a host of supposed environmental consequences the town will be faced with if it allows fracking to occur, including so-called flaming water, contaminated ground water, and sick livestock.

Those supposed consequences have all been debunked as either lacking in evidence or not resulting from fracking.

In one scene, Krasinski’s character demonstrates to a fifth grade classroom how fracking can allegedly result in flaming water – a phenomenon that happens when water is infused with methane and then somehow set alight.

In the film, Krasinski’s character tries to show the children how dangerous flaming water can be by pretending to set the class’ pet turtle on fire.

In reality, flaming water is not produced by fracking as Colorado regulators found when they investigated so-called flaming wells documented in the anti-fracking documentary Gasland. Colorado Department of Natural Resources scientists found that the methane in the wells was a natural occurrence, not a byproduct of fracking.

In another scene from the film, town supervisor Gerry Richards states that fracking can cause natural gas to seep into groundwater – a claim that has been debunked by EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson, who has said publicly that there is no evidence of groundwater contamination from fracking.

“In no case have we made a definitive determination that the fracking process has caused chemicals to enter groundwater,” Jackson told Fox News in April 2012.

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