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Interview with Ann McElhinney on Fracking, James Cameron, and Cold Beer

Ann_McElhinneyAnn McElhinney is a journalist and documentary film director and producer. Her films include Mine Your Own Business (2006), which takes on the environmentalist opposition to mining. This film incurred the wrath of 80 NGOs, including Greenpeace, which tried to stop its screening in the National Geographic auditorium in Washington DC.

In 2009, she produced and directed Not Evil Just Wrong, which examines the consequences of the global warming hysteria. The film also highlights the deadly consequences of one of the biggest “triumphs” of the environmentalist movement, the ban on DDT, which has resulted in the deaths of more than 40 million men, women, and children in the developing world.

She is a regular contributor to an array of international media outlets including FOX News, ABC (US), BBC, CBC (Canada), ABC (Australia), RTE (Ireland), The Sunday Times and the Irish Times. She is a regular on a number of U.S. talk radio shows including those of Hugh Hewitt, Dennis Miller, and Randi Rhodes.

McElhinney is a frequent speaker across the United States, lecturing on campuses and at conferences on the dangers of the environmentalist agenda and the value of resource development.

She is currently working on FrackNation, a film about fracking.

I recently had the great pleasure of interviewing Mrs. McElhinney via Skype.

—JL

Joshua Lipana: What is FrackNation and how did you get involved in this project?

Ann McElhinney: FrackNation is a film that takes on the misinformation and scare stories that have been told in the media about fracking. In particular, it takes on a documentary, directed by Josh Fox, called Gasland that seeks to terrify people about fracking.

The central most talked about image in Gasland is of a man being able to light his faucet water on fire, and the reason indicated in the film is that this is because of fracking in the area. Well in fact, this was caused by natural methane in the water. Gasland was portraying this as if it was an unnatural occurrence and that fracking brought it on. Even a quick search on Google will reveal that this portrayal is not true. There are towns in America dating back hundreds of years called “burning springs”—so called because people could light the town water on fire due to an abundance of naturally occurring methane in the ground.

We confronted Josh Fox at a Q&A with this fact, that Gasland was alarming people with this image which was inaccurate, and he acknowledged that he knew the people in America could always light their town water on fire. He also went on to say that the reason he didn’t include this point in the film is that, according to him, it is irrelevant. We beg to differ. It’s very relevant.

What’s even more troubling is that when we put that exchange on YouTube, Josh Fox got a bunch of highly paid lawyers from New York to get it taken down. We also put it up on Vimeo, and he got it taken down from there too. (Both are now back up.)

So, there was obviously a story here that Josh Fox and the people from Gasland did not want publicized. Our interest grew, so we went to Dimock, Pennsylvania, which is ground zero for this argument against fracking. We started talking to people there who were shocked and angry at the misinformation being told about their town. There are fifteen-hundred families in Dimock, and they have a grass roots organization called Enough Already, whose purpose is to say “there is nothing wrong with our water because of fracking, our water was always troublesome because of naturally occurring methane.” There were eleven people in Dimock suing a gas company, and Josh Fox gave them the sole spotlight.

As a journalist, I think it’s extraordinary that you go to this miniscule town in Pennsylvania, you find 11 dissatisfied litigants and you manage to completely miss 1500 families—just completely miss them—I’m wondering how you can possibly do that, how you can achieve that as a journalist, as an investigative reporter; as somebody who cares about the truth.

JL: If fracking were unshackled from all the regulations brought on by environmentalist propaganda, how would this affect the quality of life of the average person in America and elsewhere in the world?

AM: We have a petri dish, we can see this in upstate New York and across Pennsylvania in the towns that, up until a couple of years ago, were boarded up, towns in which the residents had no prospect of work. The environmentalists like to talk about “environmental wastelands”; well, we have been out and about and we haven’t seen them. But we have seen the devastation that occurs when development is halted.

That’s just in America. The story around the world is even more acute. In Poland, some people live on $200 a month from a pension, and spend half of that on energy. Fracking would be an amazing opportunity for them to divorce themselves from their dependence on Russia and use their own resources to heat their water and create more affordable electricity.

And you can make it more acute than Poland. The people in Karoo, South Africa, have a wonderful opportunity to exploit natural gas, but the environmental elites of Johannesburg and Cape Town are trying to stop them from doing this. There’s one folk star there campaigning hard against this, and I would say that this man has never known unreliable electricity in his life, yet he’s trying to stop the energy that brings prosperity and nice lights that the rest of us enjoy to the people of Karoo.

Environmentalists think living in a cave, living in a mud hut—living in a backward way—is acceptable. Well, I don’t think poverty is acceptable. And I think it’s very sad to see this environmental gang romanticize poverty. They all love to fly, they love to have washing machines and iPads, they love all that stuff yet they preach a creed—a religion—of “simplicity,” a simplicity that they never embrace in their own lives. I don’t understand why they don’t all move permanently to the rain forest. They visit the rain forest, but they’re all happy to go back to Vancouver and Berkley, and to the iPad, and cold beer, and air conditioning, and all the nice fun that brings, including the wonderful longevity. People in America live to be a hundred, and people don’t find that unusual. Well it would be very unusual in Ghana, and in the Central African Republic. It would be a major news story, because people there die in their fifties.

These things matter. It makes a huge difference. The production of cheap, affordable energy is something everybody should embrace. One wonders why people with socialist tendencies, claiming to be for helping “the people,” don’t embrace this.

JL: I think it’s a pretext with the socialists; ultimately most want power and control over the lives of people, their rhetoric serves that goal.

AM: Yes! It’s not a real concern for the poor. Anyone who is genuinely concerned with the poor is a supporter of capitalism.

JL: Speaking of that anti-industrial folk-star in South Africa; in Hollywood, there are countless celebrities enjoying luxurious lives while doing everything they can to keep everyone else down by stopping industrial development, thus denying people in America and elsewhere in the world the fruits of industry that they themselves enjoy. In a series of YouTube videos, you took on these various Hollywood hypocrites.

AM: Yes, absolutely. Our video about James Cameron is the most popular one we’ve done so far. Over 200,000 people have viewed it, and I encourage your readers to do so.

James Cameron famously gave an interview in the Los Angeles Times last year saying we’re going to have to learn to live with less. I love to tell people: I love his “less”—my ambition in life is to have his “less”! Three homes in Malibu, a farm in Santa Barbara, private jets, a fleet of submarines, and he even has his own fire truck, which I don’t particularly need but I still would like it since I think those red trucks are gorgeous. Cameron doesn’t seem to see the irony of that; he doesn’t seem to be aware of his hypocrisy.

The bit I find most offensive is that he is devoting enormous resources and time going to Brazil to stop the proposed largest Hydroelectric plant down there, the Belo Monte Dam, which would bring electricity to about two million people who now don’t have electricity. That’s what that guy does with his spare time, a guy who has known nothing but the riches of resource development.

Cameron’s films use huge amounts of resources drawn from nature, yet he seems to think people living in the sticks in Brazil don’t want to make movies, or have an electric guitar, or create stuff on the internet using CGI. I really like Cameron’s films, but I think this is a very unattractive aspect of his existence.

JL: He’s using the benefits he’s gotten from a free enterprise system to destroy free enterprise.

AM: Exactly. He’s not letting you into his film for free.

He’s a big recycler—he’s rereleasing Titanic because apparently he doesn’t think he made enough money the first time. He’s a big capitalist on one hand, and I admire and applaud that, and I want to join him in success. But the fact that he then turns around and devotes his free time to using his enormous wealth to deny the poor the opportunity to live better lives is horrible. And that’s not to be ignored.

I think people need to be aware of that and that’s why we made that short James Cameron Hypocrite ad. We’ve also made a series of other ones: Prince Charles, Robert Redford—who devotes an enormous amount of time campaigning against fossil fuels while at the same time doing an ad for United Airlines saying, “It’s time to fly.”

JL: How did your pro-industrial views develop, was there a particular event that sparked your passion for energy policy?

AM: It’s more resource development that I woke up to, which happened because of a story we did in Romania about a gold mine that was going to be opened in Transylvania. Environmentalists opposed the mine and were claiming all kinds of very scary things about the intentions of the Canadian mining company running the project. If any of the things they said were true, then the mine should not open. But I investigated that mine and found basically that everything the environmentalists—in this case, Greenpeace—said was untrue. They said people were being forced out of their homes illegally, which is a very easy thing to prove; so we asked for police reports, we asked Greenpeace to provide the names of the families that were illegally forced out of their homes. They couldn’t provide any of that, because it wasn’t true. And Greenpeace is still out there pushing that misinformation. Your readers can check out my documentary, Mine Your Own Business, to learn more about this.

I became very skeptical of unaccountable NGOs, in particular the ones that are “supporting the planet, ” because they play very fast and loose with the truth, and that got us interested in looking into similar stories. The consequences of stopping development are very real, and the economic hardships that are imposed on people as a result of stopping development are terrible.

Ann_McElhinney_and_Phelim_McAleerWith FrackNation, we are going to the public—because the public care—and we’re saying to the public, PBS and HBO will not support our film, but maybe the public would like the truth to be told. We went with that campaign a few weeks ago, looking for a hundred and fifty thousand dollars. Everyone who gives us a dollar will be an executive producer of this film, and when we reach our goal of a hundred and fifty thousand dollars we’re still going to keep on collecting money because that’s the minimum we need. We need a lot more than that [FrackNation has since reached its initial goal]. Josh Fox has seven hundred fifty thousand dollars, so if any of your readers would like to give a dollar and get their name in the credits, we’d love to see their names there.

JL: We only have a brief time left, is there anything else you want to tell our readers?

AM: Somewhere in the world there’s a little explosion or there’s somebody digging, and when they’re finished digging, there are dishwashers, televisions, heart monitors, and baby incubators. That’s what they’re digging out of the ground; people just don’t see the connection.

I say to people, my own personal energy policy is cold beer and dishwashers. We all have countless things that make our life gorgeous: iPads and iPods—I have a desktop Apple which I love—and all sorts of things. I want people to identify that stuff and understand that it’s powered by coal, oil, and natural gas. Fossil fuels are powering our lives and making them gorgeous. We need to understand that.

JL: Thank you for taking time to do this interview.

AM: Not at all, take care, Joshua.

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Joshua Lipana

Joshua (John M.) Lipana was, until his death in 2013, an assistant editor of The Objective Standard Blog and a freelance writer based in the Philippines. His writings appeared in numerous print and online publications, including Free Enterprise,Capitalism Magazine, NewsReal Blog, and The American Thinker.


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