Appalachian Basin

The “Gas Man” Never Leased Natural Gas

New anti natural gas video, “Gas Man,” offers a humorous look at natural gas leasing, but misses the mark completely on accuracy of the process for landowners.

We were recently sent this letter from a supporter formerly associated with one of the several trade associations supporting natural gas who wishes to remain anonymous. It’s about a new video circulating where a folk singer attempts to describe the process of leasing for natural gas development on one’s property. According to the writer, the video is humorous, sure, but when it comes to accuracy it couldn’t be further from the truth.

When I was a kid, the Rocky & Bullwinkle cartoons were my favorite. The sight gags were a hoot and even then, I loved the sophisticated humor and wordplay. Full disclosure: I was an adult well into my 30s when I learned that “Boris Godunov” was a real person. But we digress. The feature that I enjoyed most were the “Fractured Fairy Tales,” you know, the twisted take on a time honored children’s story that was a little sarcastic, a little silly, and just a wee bit warped.

I thought about that when I first saw the “Gas Man” video on YouTube. Seriously, this couldn’t be real, could it?

Truly, every opposition cliche was represented here, in just under 5-minutes running time. With the singer lip-syncing her heart out on a sound stage with a waterfall supered in behind her, the lyrics (in internal rhyme), tell us that the “gas man is no friend of mine and will sicken our cattle with chemical brine, all the jobs go to the guys from out of town, our  rents go up when the deal goes down,” well, you get the picture.

All the time, said Gas Man is silently walking the countryside, in his vintage Elvis Costello dark suit and a two-big-for-his-head fedora. Interspersed with some interpretive dancing in the fields, at one point we see a truck pull around a distance in the corner. Could it be the vehicle is a hybrid (wait, 47% of our electricity is produced by natural gas. This must be a solar powered pick up).

And then, at 1:40, who’s that? Why it’s Binghamton Mayor Matt Ryan, making a cameo appearance…to the lyrics “politicians taking cash.” Really? Much in the way actress Courtney Cox was plucked from the crowd in Bruce Springsteen’s “Dancing In the Dark” video, perhaps Mayor Ryan is looking to launch a new career in music videos?


“Gas Man” featuring Mayor Matt Ryan.

The video continues to parody what the songwriter thinks is the lease holder experience, even showing a “party” thrown by the gas man at the 2:10 mark. A finer basement rec room you’ve never seen.

Far be it from me to cast aspersions on the singers, songwriters, and dancer in this piece. Heck, I even think the horses in the pasture scene were super cute. But the lyrics don’t tell a real story. Spreading misinformation through music and dance is just about as meaningful and socially conscionable as Yoko Ono’s most recent piece of performance art (insert that ‘scream ‘ video here.)

Seriously, in a society that puts a high value on cultural inspiration, this new twist on Americana folk music is disturbing to me. Time honored folk music that won their place in our hearts and minds, like “Blowin’ in the Wind,” or  “This Land is Your Land” send powerful messages that resonate years later. They endure.  Stuff like Gas Man, even with the pervasive internet and YouTube to give it credence, have little relevance.


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