Gasland Producer Misled Viewers on Lighted Tap Water

Published August 1, 2011

The anti-hydraulic fracturing movie Gasland has been proven to be a scam, as investigative journalist Phelim McAleer has uncovered hidden facts and outright deceptions in the making of the movie. Most notably, McAleer reports that a widely reported scene in which a man lights his tap water on fire, allegedly made possible by recent hydraulic fracturing natural gas production, was misrepresented by filmmaker Josh Fox.

Water Flammable Before Fracking
In Gasland’s most poignant scene, a man in is filmed lighting his tap water on fire. The movie asserts that hydraulic fracturing (also known as fracking) has made this possible by contaminating nearby water sources. McAleer, however, discovered and proved residents in the man’s neighborhood have been able to light their water on fire since at least the 1930s, long before people began producing natural gas in the area. The gas mixing with groundwater appears to be a natural phenomenon.

McAleer was in Chicago when he decided to see a local showing of Gasland. After viewing the movie, his journalistic instincts took over and he started asking questions about what he had seen in the movie. McAleer came across a 1976 study by the Colorado Division of Water that had interesting implications.

“I checked online, and very quickly I came across what seemed to be pretty good, detailed research that showed people were able to burn their tap water years before fracking ever started,” McAleer says.

Filmmaker Claims It’s ‘Not Relevant’
McAleer showed up at a subsequent screening at Northwestern University to ask why the movie did not mention the 1976 Colorado study.

Fox replied, “Well, I don’t care about the report from 1976.” Fox said he did not mention the facts from the study because “they’re not relevant.” Then Fox let slip that he was also aware of reports from 1936 that New York residents were able to light their water on fire, also.

“But that’s no bearing on this situation at all,” Fox said.

According to McAleer, the 1976 Colorado study reported “troublesome amounts of methane” in the water and concluded it was naturally occurring, before fracking began.

Still More Evidence
A separate report from the American Association of Petroleum Geologists (AAPG) in 1983 revealed the same information.

“Methane-rich gas commonly occurs in the ground water of the Denver basin, southern Weld County, Colorado,” the AAPG study reported.

‘It’s Actually Shocking’
“It’s actually shocking that he didn’t disclose that,” McAleer said of Fox not disclosing this information in his movie. McAleer describes the scene as very dramatic and scary imagery and the one thing that everyone is going to remember watching.

McAleer says Fox had an ethical duty to present the evidence showing methane-rich water occurs naturally and has nothing to do with fracking.

“We’re journalists. We’re supposed to tell people the truth and bring them information,” he said.

McAleer posted the video of his exchange with Fox on YouTube, but Fox had it removed, claiming a copyright violation. McAleer’s video can still be found at

Alyssa Carducci ([email protected]) writes from Tampa, Florida.