By Robert A. Vella

Last night, Viceland aired the anti-fracking documentary Dear President Obama – written and directed by Jon Bowermaster and narrated by Mark Ruffalo.  Although I’ve been closely following the use of hydraulic fracturing technology to produce oil and natural gas domestically in the U.S., the revelations presented in this extraordinary film were nevertheless quite shocking.  I was most disturbed by the complicity of the American political, bureaucratic, and judicial establishment which enabled powerful energy corporations to callously destroy the lives of millions of citizens with little-to-no recourse.  Their lands were seized or devalued, their vital water resources ruined, and the health and safety of their families were sacrificed all in the pursuit of short-term profit.  In addition to the well-known association between Big Oil and Republican politicians, it was surprising to learn how involved and hypocritical the Democratic Party has been in this corporatist energy scheme – specifically, the Obama Administration, Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper, and California Governor Jerry Brown.

The film documents the terribly egregious impacts to local communities in Pennsylvania, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Texas, California, and elsewhere, while also exposing the societal costs of boom-and-bust economic policies as well as the existential exacerbation of climate change through the unavoidable release of methane (an incredibly potent greenhouse gas).  The methane issue is proving to be a painful embarrassment for natural gas proponents who had advertised it as a “bridge” fuel between dirty coal and clean energy development.  The film cites scientific evidence suggesting that the collateral release of methane is so great that the net effect to climate might have actually been lower had we relied on coal instead.

Dear President Obama concludes with the case of New York which banned fracking statewide last year not because of any brave leadership by Governor Andrew Cuomo, but because of a combination of grassroots organization backed up by scientific research.  In other words, the people and science triumphed over corporatist politics.

The Secular Jurist is recommending this film as MUST SEE because it reveals not only the largely hidden human costs of fracking, but also the corruption of America’s institutional systems which caused it.

Further reading:

Dear President Obama: The Clean Energy Revolution is Now

‘Dear President Obama’ anti-fracking film to be previewed free in Pacific Grove

Environmental Film Festival – Dear President Obama

12 thoughts on “Film Review: ‘Dear President Obama’ slaps America’s Establishment over the harm caused by Fracking

  1. Pingback: Film Review: ‘Dear President Obama’ Slaps America’s Establishment Over the Harm Caused by Fracking — The Secular Jurist – Views àla JoAnn

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  3. I haven’t seen that film, but the magazine The Nation ran a cover story a couple of weeks ago on methane. Their contention is that we have concentrated on the wrong chemical, and that methane is more damaging than Co2. I read that in other publications as well, and of course animal agriculture is also a major source of harmful methane. Will look into the film, maybe suggest a group showing at our UU congregation.

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    • Thanks, Helen. Please refer to our previous discussion on the relative greenhouse warming effects of carbon dioxide and methane.

      More precisely, the following exercise is based on EPA data from 2014:

      Of the total estimated U.S. greenhouse gas emissions from that year, 81% came from carbon dioxide (CO2), 11% from methane (CH4), and 8% from other gases. For simplicity, let’s use the weight ratio of 4 to 1.

      CO2 has a Global Warming Potential (GWP) factor of 1, but it remains in the atmosphere for a very long time – up to several thousand years. CH4 has a GWP factor of 21, meaning it is 21 times more potent than CO2 as a greenhouse gas; however, it remains in the atmosphere for only a fraction of the time – only about 10 years. Again for simplicity, let’s use the longevity ratio of 100 to 1.

      Over a 100 year time-frame, 4 pounds of CO2 would warm Earth’s atmosphere by a product of 400 (4 [lbs.] * 1 [GWP] * 100 [years]). Over the same 100 year span, the proportionally released amount of CH4 would be 1 pound which would warm the atmosphere by a product of 210 (1 [lb.] * 21 [GWP] * 10 [years]). Therefore, over the next century we can extrapolate roughly twice as much warming from anthropogenic carbon dioxide emissions than from anthropogenic methane emissions (note: this example doesn’t include methane emissions from natural sources [e.g. Arctic permafrost melting, and ocean seabed methane hydrate/clathrate melting] triggered by global warming). Over a millennium, 4 pounds of CO2 would cause about 20 times as much warming as 1 pound of CH4.


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