Why the Frack Are We Listening to Celebrities?

Why the Frack Are We Listening to Celebrities - WildermuthGrace Wildermuth
Northeastern PA Resident and Student at Middlebury College, VT 


Shallow publicity-seeking celebrities have always flocked to politically correct causes, whether they’re actually correct or not.  Their recent and less than brilliant poaching and exploitation of the slang term frack needed a rebuttal in language they might understand.

Earlier this month, a group called Americans Against Fracking posted a series of videos asking elected officials to “Ban Fracking Now”. The most popular video (shown below after the jump) is titled, “Celebrities Ask President Obama:  What the Frack?” and features household name celebrities such as Hayden Panettiere, Lance Bass, Wendie Malick and Julie Bowen.  The video begins with a series of these well-known faces asking “what the frack?” followed by “President Obama, are you fracking kidding me?” Even after the video was over, I was left wondering if these celebrities actually know what the word “fracking” means…

Following the infantile beginning, the video takes a turn towards a slew of regurgitated (and misleading) one-liners. The misleading faux-facts include Constance Zimmer’s dramatic declaration that “fracking poisons our water”. Next, Lance Bass takes over and states, “fracking makes climate change worse” followed by Amy Smart’s line: “fracking relies on toxic chemicals that cause cancer.” That’s it. No explanation, supporting research, or details to be found.

Breaking Energy posted an article titled “How Embarrassing for Them: Celebrities Dumb Down Fracking Debate” in which the author, Jared Anderson wrote, “drivel like this only serves to confuse and frighten people unfamiliar with the oil and gas development technology.” According to a recent study, a mere 32% of Americans reported being familiar with the process of hydraulic fracturing, leaving many susceptible to this confusion and fear.

Adding insult to injury, the video turns from regurgitated one-liners indicative of a lack of education to condescending advice that sounds eerily like a bully trying to convince the younger kids on the playground to steal the teacher’s glasses. Julie Bowen peer pressures with the best of them, saying, “go on… ban it” as if a little reassurance from a celebrity is all it takes to change President Obama’s mind on the future supply of energy for this country.

Amy Smart Home with Wolf Gas Range to Right in Pic

What the Frack? Amy Smart Home with Wolf Gas Range to Right in Pic!

The grand finale features Lance Bass whining “please.” In other words, Americans Against Fracking seems to think that Obama’s policies on fracking, an issue that affects millions of Americans by lowering energy prices, stimulating the rural economy, and leading us towards energy independence, will be decided by a former boy-band member sporting a pouty face?

Fortunately, I was not the only one incredibly troubled by these videos. On the YouTube page where the video was posted, comments reflect a less than warm welcome for the video. A comment from “ckorenthal” read, “Dear millionaire celebs who don’t have the slightest fracking clue about how the rest of us live: SHUT THE FRACK UP ALREADY!!! Maybe you can afford to continue to pay insanely high prices for energy but the rest of us are barely making ends meet!

What the Frack - Panettiere

The home of one of the celebrities featured in the video, Hayden Panettiere, who purchased this $2.6 million, 3,120 square foot house in Hollywood Hills at the age of 18. Look at that energy use!

“Keith French” and others seemed to agree. They posted, “How about these celebrities shut the Frack up… No one cares what you think,” followed by “Your opinion holds no more value than anyone else’s.” Unfortunately, although their opinions shouldn’t hold more value than anyone else’s, it certainly does. The fact of the matter is that celebrity endorsements convince consumers to buy products, influence voters, and catch the ear of important officials. (Take for example the Executive Director of the moratorium-installing Delaware River Basin Commission, who seems to be on a first name basis with Josh Fox).

To pour a little more salt on the wound, I should point out that the same celebrities featured in this video asking for a ban on fracking, the process that produces much of this nation’s energy, also happen to live lifestyles that probably consume more energy than some entire zip codes where I come from. “Sfsoma” commented on the Huffington Post’s article about the video asking for the ban, “Right. As soon as they stop taking private jets, driving Bentleys and SUVs and living in 10,000 sq. ft. air conditioned homes with swimming pools.” Many of them also live (or at least have one residence) in New York City, where residents are currently raving about the benefits of natural gas production.

What the Frack? Guest House at Lance Bass Home Has Gas Range

What the Frack? Guest House at Lance Bass Home Has Gas Range!

This brings me back to the group’s name: Americans Against Fracking. This seems a little off since the majority of Americans support fracking. Furthermore, when did celebrities turn into elected officials, representing the opinions of their constituents in matters of policy? Hollywood A-listers are as far from a true representation of the average American as you can get. Why are their voices given such value? Why does Josh Fox appear on CNN, MSNBC, and FOX news as an expert on fracking? Isn’t that what experts are for? How about a geologist, a petroleum engineer, or (pardon the crazy idea) a LANDOWNER with a gas well on their property?

A landowner recently told me, “What I like about gas drilling is that the little guy gets a piece.” Unfortunately, in some areas, the little guys have been denied their piece because the media continues to deny their voices. We hear from actors, directors, even former boy-band members, and yet we never hear from the landowners. The landowners are the ones who are living with a natural gas well. Why don’t we ask them what it’s like? I bet the Hollywood elites would be surprised by what they have to say. Until they hear the voices of those of us living in “Gasland” (as Josh Fox calls it), it’s time for celebrities to shut the frack up.

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16 thoughts on “Why the Frack Are We Listening to Celebrities?

  1. dumbed down is a nice way of calling them idiots. let them keep their lights on all over the house…… more demand for supply. cancer…. really? REALLY?

  2. Grace, too much editorializing. Bringing your opinions/feelings into the article reduces your credibility. That’s the kind of mindset the celebrities have–why sink to their level? Your article has a sticks-and-stones attitude. I am pro-fracking, but would never resort to such emotionalism to make a case for the O&G industry. You can write well enough, just leave your opinions out of it, unless it’s an op-ed piece, which this article likely isn’t. Let the story tell itself.

    • Your comment is much appreciated and I respect your opinion very much, but I have to defend Grace on this, Larry. When the other side engages in high-profile attacks with no facts to debate one is left with two alternatives. One is is to ignore it in the hopes people see through the nonsense, which is appropriate in many cases but not when you’re dealing with heavily funded campaigns. Then you have to go the second route and point out their hypocrisy and lack of credibility. Celebrities who try to market their opinions based on name recognition alone are fair game and if people like Grace don’t point it out, who is? Certainly not the news media.

    • Larry, I agree that often when an author inserts their own opinions and feelings into a piece, it reduces the credibility of their argument. I don’t think that’s necessarily true of this kind of piece, though, which really is an op-ed of sorts. My goal wasn’t to make a case for the oil and gas industry, but rather to point out what I consider to be an unwelcome voice in the debate. I am writing my thesis right now on a subject related to fracking, and absolutely agree that there is no space for my personal opinions and feelings in that forum.

        • I’d be happy to send it to you when I am finished if you would like to see for yourself. I certainly see some parts of the other side of the story, like the fact that there are environmental risks that must be mitigated through stringent regulation. However, I wrote this because I think we should be focusing on informed, nuanced, and productive conversations about natural gas development, not listening to celebrities make vague statements that people will believe as absolutely true because they saw them in a movie once and our society worships Hollywood A-listers.

  3. Pingback: Marcellus & Utica Shale Story Links: Mon, Dec 2, 2013 | Marcellus Drilling News

  4. Hm. Well, I _have_ spoken with landowners. And maybe it’s different where you live, but these landowners – some of them farmers – have experienced both environmental and financial impacts. (This is in West Virginia.) While the industry loves to deny it, folks on the ground know the damage fracking can cause.

    [Note that I don’t indicate that it _always_ causes such problems. It doesn’t, or fewer people would still be parroting what the industry says. But the negative impacts are real: ask farmers who now have ruined fields, or folks that have to move because of the noise/air/water pollution from the well activities right next to their homes.]

    • Rachel, I have heard overwhelmingly positive stories from landowners here, but I hear your point and agree that fracking can cause environmental damage. Just as you say, it’s a possibility, and one that can be minimized depending on the responsibility of the company and the regulations in place. I’m not trying to deny that negative impacts exist, but rather expressing my distaste for the way the videos presented a simple and “black and white” argument for an extremely complex issue and the misrepresentation of the frequency of environmental degradation.

  5. How much money is Natural Gas Now – making from each new FRACK – and at what cost to our future water supply?
    I am happier to listen to hollywood bimbos who are smart enough to think beyond their own short term profit margin than to listen to NATURAL GAS NOW who clearly is paid by the frackers to change our minds about reality.
    Follow the money to see who wants us to FRACK our own back yards.

    • Lili, I wrote this article after watching these videos and feeling deeply troubled by the simplification of such a complex issue. I was not paid to write it, in fact I was not even asked to write it. I contacted Natural Gas Now and asked to have them post it. I accept and appreciate your difference of opinion, but don’t appreciate the way you are silencing voices by assuming that they are paid and therefore not legitimate. Many people, including myself, have educated themselves from sources other than the industry and have chosen to support responsible natural gas drilling for many legitimate and complex reasons.

      I am also deeply troubled by your assertion that celebrities are “smart enough” to think beyond their own short term profit. Many that have signed leases are incredibly intelligent people who made informed decisions regarding the future of their land.

  6. Who would exchange clean water for natural gas? who would give away clean air? I use natural gas. But when my hot water heater dies I’m getting a heat pump water heater to save money. I’m driving my gas car into the ground, when it dies I want a plug in car. Big oil doesn’t deserve the welfare they receive. Check the air quality near refineries in America, and we want to refine it for China? If you don’t care or want to deny all consequences, worry about your country, its priorities, and karma. In the mean time the world is changing and renewables are getting sweeter all the time.

    • No one has to exchange one for the other. That’s the big lie. Moreover, natural gas is producing cleaner air everywhere it’s used. Those are the facts and your false choices don’t change them.

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