The only information source on hydraulic fracturing trusted less than the natural gas industry itself is the anti-industry polemic Gasland, according to a recent survey.
A paper published in the current issue of the journal Energy Research & Social Science found that respondents living the Marcellus shale region of Pennsylvania rank both the gas industry and the Oscar-nominated 2011 documentary at the bottom of the list of trusted information sources.
Gasland also ranked at the bottom of the list of eight possible choices for where people get information about fracking. The gas industry was ranked second highest as an information source.
University professors, environmental groups and newspapers were the most trusted sources of information. Newspapers were said to be the top source for where people get information, followed by the gas industry and environmental groups.
The survey sought input from 1600 households, half of which were deemed to be in high-well density areas with the rest in low-well density areas.
About 40% of respondents indicated having some level of familiarity with the fracking process and about 43% reported being unfamiliar with it.
The natural gas industry has been at loggerheads with Josh Fox, the director of Gasland and Gasland 2, since the first film was credited with bringing the debate over the impacts of fracking to public light.
Fox has been praised by environmentalists for shedding light on a process - and a word - that had not previously been in the public discourse.
At the same time, Fox has been accused of cherry-picking statistics and depicting dishonest portraits of the fracking landscape. A Gasland representative did not respond to a request for comment.
Other sources of information noted in the survey included landowner groups, regulatory agencies and cooperative extension.
"It appears that even though the energy industry is educating the general public on hydraulic fracturing, local citizens remain sceptical and continue to distrust it," the report concluded. "Further, these data revealed the 2010 film Gasland contributed least to respondents’ knowledge of hydraulic fracturing and was the least trusted source of information."
The researches urged "open, honest, and full communication" between all stakeholders in shale development and said the energy industry "must inform local residents, community leaders, government and regulatory agency personnel, environmental and non-governmental organisation representatives, and other interested parties about the potentially positive aspects and negative consequences of shale gas development".
That includes providing accurate and transparent information about the chemical composition and water volumes used in frac fluids and part of frac flowback wastewater, the report said.