ABC, NBC Mostly Ignore Fracking; CBS Airs 6 Times More Negative Stories

CBS coverage sides with lefty environmentalists, rarely presents arguments for natural gas extraction.

Contaminated water, health problems, and now … earthquakes? Fracking, a way to get natural gas out of layers deep within the earth, has been blamed for it all and the liberal news media have been consistently against the method, rarely showing supporters or mentioning any upside of the process.

Hydraulic fracturing, more commonly known as fracking, is a technique used to get natural gas out of the ground. It’s not new technology — the first use of hydraulic fracturing was actually in 1947 (according to a textbook on Rock Mechanics), but this process has come under fire from the left and the media in the past two years especially.

Fracking for natural gas has often been targeted by news stories, propagandist documentaries like “Gasland,” and the entertainment media. TNT demonized fracking in the June 12, 2012, episode of “Rizzoli & Isles.” Celebrities have also spoken out against the practice. Considering the media and the left’s opposition to fossil fuels in the industries that turn them into usable energy, this comes as no surprise.

At a “Gasland” screening June 2, 2012, actor Alec Baldwin claimed that fracking “causes cancer or can potentially cause cancer to an elevated number of people,” a myth pushed by far left websites like Daily Kos and AlterNet. But even an Associated Press story called “Gasland” filmmaker Josh Fox out for misleading people with cancer claims, citing a professor from the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center. Still, celebrities have lined up to attack fracking including Jimmy Fallon who joined Yoko Ono and Sean Ono Lennon to sing an anti-fracking protest song on the “Late Night with Jimmy Fallon” July 13th.

On the three broadcast networks’ news programs in the past year, CBS ran 12 anti-fracking stories and only 2 positive ones. NBC mentioned fracking only once, while ABC has steered clear of the subject completely, according to the results of a Nexis search for “frack,” or “fracking” or “hydraulic fracturing.” But the issue isn’t nearly as one-sided as CBS coverage and left-wing celebrities would have people believe.

Natural gas extraction through hydraulic fracturing helped save the small town of Williston, N.D., from near extinction and made it a thriving community with roughly 1 percent unemployment according to Mayor Ward Koeser who appeared in a video from The Heritage Foundation and the Institute for Energy Research.

Although NBC’s news programs had little to say about fracking, opinion show “Rock Center” found a way to discuss Williston AND spin fracking negatively. On Nov. 7, 2011, anchor Brian Williams and reporter Harry Smith discussed the town’s economic boom on “Rock Center.” In reference to the 50,000 jobs that had been created by the gas companies, Williams pondered, “And when you bring 50,000 people in, where do those people go? And let’s say they’re moving in in November.” Smith responded, “Don’t. That’s one of the things … They had over 100 inches of snow there last year. They broke the record. If you don’t have a place to stay, of which there are precious few, don’t come.”

In 2010, American film director Josh Fox released his anti-fracking film “Gasland.” Its most notorious scene showed a man from Pennsylvania lighting his water on fire. This, of course, was used to convince people that it was caused by the fracking process itself. That helped light a fire under the anti-fracking movement. The left loved Fox and his movie. HuffingtonPost and Rolling Stone even compared him to author Rachel Carson who wrote “Silent Spring” and has been credited with starting the modern environmentalist movement. Her work was the driving force behind the DDT ban which led to the deaths of millions of Africans by malaria that could have easily been prevented with the use of DDT.

As for Fox’s claims that fracking has polluted water, researchers at the University of Texas at Austin disagreed with Fox’s claims of pollution and concluded that “there is no evidence that fracking directly contaminates groundwater and any pollution is more likely to be due to above-ground spills of water produced by the drilling process.”

Another study, this one from Duke University and published July 9, 2012, debunked the main premise of Fox’s documentary — that fracking alone caused contaminants to seep into fresh ground water in Pennsylvania. It appeared that brine water could in fact seep up through the Marcellus rock layer into natural water wells; however, the ground water with the highest concentration of brine and salt was nowhere near a fracking well.

On July 25, an Associated Press story reported that the EPA had declared the water in Dimock, Pa. safe to drink despite claims from residents that their water had been contaminated by fracking.

Many of the attacks on fracking, as well as the news coverage of it ignored how much fracking could benefit people by creating jobs, something very important with an 8.2 national unemployment rate. IHS Global Insight found the shale gas industry could create about a half a million new jobs in three years and lower the price of energy substantially.

That hasn’t stopped Fox, who has continued to campaign against fracking at every given chance. Fox’s film halted drilling in Wayne County, Pa., and left the town struggling when it could’ve flourished, according to Bloomberg Businessweek magazine.

Anti-fracking attacks have become commonplace in entertainment media, too. In TNT’s remake of the seventies show “Dallas,” the new take on the show depicted the Ewing family feud as alternative energy against oil and fracking. Another anti-fracking motion picture has been set for release in 2013 starring well-known environmentalist and outspoken liberal Matt Damon. The movie, “Promised Land,” will be distributed by Participant Media whose mission is “to tell compelling, entertaining stories that also create awareness of the real issues that shape our lives.” Participant Media has been responsible for such biased and misleading documentary gems as “An Inconvenient Truth” and “Food, Inc.”

Another Hollywood liberal activist Mark Ruffalo outlined his objections during an interview on CNN’s American Morning in December 2011. “We’re facing this era of extreme energy extraction … And all of these things destroy our water. They tie very nicely into this idea that climate change is real. Water happens to be one of the victims of climate change … It has to be stopped,” Ruffalo said. He has been leading Hollywood anti-fracking activists — or “fracktivists” as they prefer to be called — and is often a speaker at such rallies across Pennsylvania and New York. They recently shut down an oil rig.

Despite Hollywood’s hatred of fracking, actors generally aren’t scientists or environmental experts.

Fox’s documentary brought fracking to the attention of more than just Hollywood actors. In an interview with Rolling Stone’s Alexander Zitchik, Fox talked about his map of natural gas reservoirs in the U.S. and said, “Drilling the red areas means the annihilation of the American Dream. We can stop them from turning the country into an archipelago of unlivable toxic industrial zones, but the Gulf Spill reminds us you never know how much time is on the clock.” Keep in mind that this is the man who brought fracking to the limelight.

The fact is that many of these communities have been able to light their water on fire decades before fracking occurred. In a recorded confrontation, documentary maker Phelim McAleer asked Fox, “Isn’t it true that there were reports decades before fracking started that there was methane in the water there?” McAleer then referenced a report from 1976 about “troublesome amount of methane” in the water, and Fox admitted to knowing about that and an additional report from 1936. Fox stated this information was “not relevant” to his documentary. During the exchange with McAleer, Fox even declared, “There’s methane in groundwater. It happens.” It’s not relevant to him because this simple fact would undermine the “proof” of the dangers of fracking behind his documentary.

As for the claim that fracking causes earthquakes (they’ve connected fracking to small tremors in Ohio) which has been pushed by CBS and others including Scientific American’s website. The Heritage Foundation’s environmental expert, Nick Loris, told Business and Media Institute that this is a “completely overblown phenomena.”

Loris said that the process of fracking in no way caused the tremors — it’s the injection wells. But even tremors caused by those wells are relatively rare. He pointed out that geothermal energy, a supposed “clean” energy promoted by the left, has caused many tremors in California. In contrast, there have been about eight instances of injection well caused tremors. Since there are around 30,000 fracking wells in the US. Rather than putting that into perspective, CBS aired 5 stories linking fracking to earthquakes.