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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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Comparisons with Josh Fox and his Academy Award-nominated documentary Gasland, highly critical of fracking and its environmental impacts, are inevitable. But while Gasland sparked a backlash from industry and industry-supported lawmakers (Fox, thrown out of a Congressional hearing earlier this year and arrested by Capitol police, claims he's been "blacklisted"), Kallenberg's approach has been embraced. After showing at the prestigious Sheffield Film Festival in England, the U.N.-sponsored Indigenous Voices on Climate Change Film Festival (though Haynesville discusses neither climate change nor indigenous communities), TEDx Austin and the Aspen Ideas Festival, last year's Texas Tribune Festival put Haynesville front and center for a discussion on energy and the environment, placing Kallenberg on a panel next to lobbyists from both the Texas Independent Producers and Royalty Owners Association and America's Natural Gas Alliance. and Alternet writer Steve Horn has eschewed Kallenberg as a shill for industry, detailing Kallenberg's family ties to the oil and gas industry in Shreveport, La., his hometown — Kallenberg, who's written for the Austin American-Statesman in the past, insisted last week, "Basically my family's involved with oil and gas. I'm not." But Horn has also hit on a broader concern that Haynesville, and Kallenberg's new project, have been targeted by industry as a rational middle-ground primarily because it ignores specific concerns environmentalists and landowners have raised when objecting to fracking.

Solar San Antonio Executive Director and local renewables champion Lanny Sinkin said he went to last week's screening of Kallenberg's films "perfectly prepared to be the one throwing the molotov cocktails." While Sinkin said of Kallenberg, "I think he's totally sincere and wants to do something good here," he worried the series had been surrounded and hijacked by oil and gas interests.

At the screening, Shell handed out questionnaires asking audience members whether after viewing the film they were more supportive of increased access to domestic natural gas resources. Sinkin stood to say, "Who wants to know this information? That's a Shell question." Among the questions never tackled in the Rational Middle, Sinkin says, is whether natural gas, as presented in Kallenberg's work, is truly the bridge fuel that can delay catastrophic changes to the climate. Recent studies from Cornell University and the National Center for Atmospheric Research contend otherwise. Says Sinkin, "There are some really important questions that need to be addressed that aren't, and I don't see them being addressed in the Rational Middle at the moment."

If you bring up inconvenient, or uncomfortable questions, Sinkin said, "then apparently you're the one throwing the molotov cocktails."

Home invasion or drug cartel spillover?

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