In the marquee scene from the 2010 documentary Gasland, nominated earlier this year for an Academy Award, a man is shown warily holding a lighter underneath his running kitchen faucet. The flame quickly ignites the tapwater, briefly producing a fireball in the sink. Something appears to have gone wrong—and the culprit, the film inveighs, is the sinister local shale gas industry. Gasland’s incredulous depiction of flammable drinking water is but one expression of the anti-shale gas sentiment that is increasingly permeating American popular consciousness.
LAST MAY, CONGRESS brushed up on its physics and debated whether to proceed with research on the Robust Nuclear Earth Penetrator (RNEP), a nuclear bomb intended to penetrate the earth before detonating, thus enhancing the military's ability to destroy buried bunkers. The administration was pushing hard for the weapon, which it claimed could destroy rogue-state weapons of mass destruction hidden underground, and it enjoyed strong support from congressional Republicans.