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Newsmonger: This 'rational' energy discussion is brought to you by Shell, Home invasion or drug cartel spillover?

Photo: Michael Barajas, License: N/A

Michael Barajas

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"In the short term, this incident will give some liberal Democrats an opportunity to talk about gun control in an environment where people are listening, but in the long term it doesn't change anything." — Cal Jillson, political analyst at Southern Methodist University, speaking to Reuters

This 'rational' energy discussion is brought to you by Shell

With the boom in hydraulic fracturing continuing to fuel debate over economic benefit versus environmental cost, filmmaker Gregory Kallenberg said in near exhausted-tone, "I want the friggin' screaming to stop." As it happens, so does Shell Oil. Kallenberg screened his new Rational Middle Energy Series to a small crowd last week at downtown's spanking-new Briscoe Museum. Director of the much-lauded documentary Haynesville: A Nation's Hunt for an Energy Future, which chronicles three lives impacted by the discovery of the nation's largest natural gas shale play, Kallenberg's new trio of short films aims to draw parties back to a neutral middle-ground when talking energy, oil and gas, and fracking. Kallenberg says he wants to avoid those stuck behind "barricades heaving molotov cocktails at each other" with his work.

A big asterisk next to Kallenberg's series is the stamp of approval it's got from Shell Oil, chief financial sponsor of the project.

Kallenberg showed the first three films — "What's the Rational Middle?", "Energy 101," and "What's At Stake" — all of which premiered at the Aspen Ideas Festival this year, saying the films are meant to "inform from a sort of broad to an acute level about energy." Where does energy come from? How do we use it? Where will we get it in the future? Placards from Shell touting the benefits of natural gas and detailing the fracking process stood outside the screening, and big oil and economic development reps dominated the night's discussion panel with the likes of David Todd, Shell's VP of onshore gas production, former Texas Railroad Commission executive director John Tintera, Tom Kennelly, project manager for UTSA's rural business program with the school's Institute for Economic Development, and Leodoro Martinez, director of the Middle Rio Grande Development Council and chairman of the Eagle Ford Consortium. Notably absent from the films and panel? Voices raising environmental and public health concerns over the fracking process.

Kallenberg, for his part, says he partnered with Shell with "trepidation."

"At the end of the day, Shell sponsored us," Kallenberg said in an interview last week. "Shell gave us money, but they don't approve the final product. And if you see the films I think it's pretty clear that we address some issues that make Shell pretty nervous." And while climate change references used to make Shell cringe, now it's part of the company line as Shell pitches increased natural gas as a bridge fuel to a cleaner economy. Shell announced this month it would invest more than $300 million to build its own network of 200 natural gas filing stations at 100 Travel Centers of America locations, hoping to entice truck fleets to switch over to liquified natural gas. Since activity began in earnest in the Eagle Ford Shale to the south in 2009, Shell has leased over 250,000 acres across the region.

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