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Issue #1688      June 10, 2015

Film Review by Richard Titelius

Frackman the Movie

In the rural hinterland 270 kilometres west of Brisbane in the localities of Chinchilla and Tara increasing numbers of people are taking a stand against fracking for the coal seam gas which lies below the surface in abundance. The unconventional gas is needed to stoke the fires of the mills of capitalism, not in Australia but for use overseas. The fracking in this part of Queensland is mostly done by foreign multinationals such as Halliburton and Schlumberger. Smaller Australian companies Arrow Energy, Origin Energy and Queensland Gas Company are also in the hunt for profits from exploiting this dirty and non-renewable form of energy.

The first that the film’s protagonist Dayne Pratsky learns about fracking is when a representative from the Queensland Gas Company came to his home near Tara and said they were going to put a well on his place and if he didn’t like it there was nothing they could do about it.

The representative from QGC waived documents around showing that he owned only the top six inches while the minerals which included the coal seam gas was owned by the Queensland state which was only to happy to flog it off to these corporations so that they could fill their coffers with huge profits exploiting this filthy resource. Halliburton in particular has an appalling record around the world for exploitation of oil and gas which came to prominence after the naked greed they showed in Iraq when trying to rip those people off of their oil and gas.

However, Dave Pratsky did not take this lying down and life was worth more to him than surrendering to the values of the industrial apparatus.

Pratsky started to talk with his neighbours some of whom had children and found out that they all suffered regular headaches, nosebleeds and other sicknesses which left them weak and tired. The small sums that are offered as compensation mean little to Pratsky and his neighbours when the costs of losing their quality of life start to mount; the air quality, the noise from the constant trucks and machinery and the poisoning of their water supply both above and below ground.

Pratsky soon learns that the authorities who are supposed to monitor and be accountable for these problems cannot and will not act to stop it, such as the Health Department and Environmental Protection, as they are made subordinate to the money-making of these giant energy corporations. Or the Queensland government which is making money from the exploitation of this dirty and unhealthy energy source.

With other concerned locals he grabs testing equipment and a camera and goes off to record the dirty activities of these energy corporations even when necessary going incognito in a white plastic overalls and gas mask as the Frackman.

We see activists help to fire up ordinary people to take control back of their communities and their lives and though it is hard and many a battle is lost they are persistent as a just and worthy cause propels them.

Sick children, dead frogs, skin burning chemicals which are used in the fracturing process, ponds and streams that bubble with gas which catches fire with a gas lighter, are all on show in this film which goes further than the US film Gaslands and its iconic scene of the water catching fire when a tap is turned on.

To Pratsky the coal seam gas industry “is like an old car screaming down the highway with bad breaks and no reverse!”

While the gas companies and the Queensland government say that the industry brings jobs they are few and short term and the gas from fracking is mostly destined for export.

Pratsky makes the point that two to three times as many jobs could be created by renewable energy and the health and environmental costs would be far less.

In the movie farmers demonstrate why it is so important to lock their gates.

There is a poignant love story woven into the film which takes our protagonist to the US state of Pennsylvania renowned for its own battles with the fracking interests of coal seam gas. But in the US the state governments are one step ahead of progressive local governments that ban fracking, as state governments in Texas, Oaklahoma, Colorado and New Mexico have introduced laws prohibiting local bans.

There is no sanitised script in Frackman as there was in the 2013 movie on fracking, “Promised Land” starring Matt Damon. It is raw, real, heart racing and often heart breaking.

At the community screening held in Midland east of Perth, Western Australia both the co-director Richard Todd who also hails from Margaret River on the south west coast, and Dayne Pratsky were present for a Q&A following the well attended screening.

Todd and a representative from the Conservation Council of WA said that Western Australia is sitting on large reserves of shale gas – one and half times more than the entire coal seam gas reserves of the eastern states and the destruction that this could cause to farmers and water resources if allowed to proceed is frightening. This is partly because shale gas is found deeper in the earth than coal seam gas and therefore requires drilling and fracturing below the water table, causing the fracking chemicals to percolate through the underground water resources.

Next article – Statement, Guatemalan Party of Labour – Dismantle criminal political structure

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