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‘Colbert Report’ takes on fracking

Comedian Stephen Colbert took on hydraulic fracturing on the “Colbert Report” Wednesday night, with actor Mark Ruffalo playing the part of concerned citizen and Colbert sticking by what he said America was built on: burning stuff.

Photo: David Shankbone

“We burn things. We burn things better than anyone’s ever burned things,” Colbert said. “America was built on burning things.”

Colbert, who plays a caricatured version of conservative political pundits, argued with Ruffalo on his weeknight Comedy Central television show. Ruffalo is working with Water Defense, a group that opposes hydraulic fracturing — or fracking — because it has been linked to water contamination.

“I saw what it does to families. I saw, these people can’t drink the water that’s coming out of their tap, here in America,” Ruffalo said, trying to make the conversation serious despite Colbert’s satirical persona.

Ruffalo said renewable energy sources were available, and should be put into more widespread use.

“Wind, water and solar. We can do it,” he said.

Colbert, in character, told Ruffalo that he wasn’t interested in renewable energy options.

“In my backyard, I have a giant pool of oil that I set on fire at night,” Colbert said. “And I read by it.”

Colbert injected some humor into a serious regional debate on the controversial drilling technique, as Maryland tries to decide whether to allow fracking in Garrett County and Allegany County, where rock-encased deposits of natural gas — called Marcellus Shale — runs a mile below much of Western Maryland.

HB 1204, which would force gas companies to pay for a study of drilling “best practices,” passed in the House of Delegates last week. Similar legislation, SB 798, still faces consideration in the Senate.