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Film Review: A crude awakening the oil crash

Thanks to the magic of Netflix Watch Instantly, I recently watched the film:

Gelpke, Basil, Ray McCormack, Daniel Schnyder, C. J. Campbell, Matthew R. Simmons, Fadhil J. Al-Chalabi, and David L. Goodstein. 2007. A crude awakening the oil crash. [New York, N.Y.]: Docurama.

The best books and films about social problems offer solutions to the problems they raise. Decent books about social problems document the problem and call people to action.

This film, at least in my opinion, does neither. The film documents the problem of peak oil while acknowledging we don’t know exactly it will come. It then explains the important difference between “no more oil” (false) and “no more very cheap oil” (true, at some point). They even bring in Republican Congressman Roscoe Bartlett to demonstrate that concern about peak oil crosses party lines. A nice and needed touch.

The filmmakers then walk us through why none of the proposed solutions (wind, solar, biofuels & nuclear) will even come close to meeting our energy needs. They offer no alternative. The last 10 minutes of the film is called “Life after the peak.” The people they talk to assume we will not be able to conserve or use alternative energy out of our problem. Lack of energy will then cause the collapse of agriculture, which will cause the Earth’s population will fall to about a billion from its current seven billion.

So the message of the movie appears to be “We’re all gonna die. Have a nice day.” If the filmmakers want people to take the problem seriously, they need to offer people a way out. Otherwise I’m afraid the main effect of the movie will be to encourage people to drive their SUVs while they can.

If you’ve seen the movie and drew a different conclusion from me, please leave a comment.

3 Responses

  1. Wel, the film is designed to be a wake-up call, a call to action. Isn’t it asking too much from the film makers to solve the world’s most pressing problem? After all they’re not engineers but film makers.

  2. Hi Basil, the name you are using indicates that you were the producer of this film. If you are, I want to reiterate that I thought you were successful in portraying that peak oil is not a left/right, Democrat/Republican issue.

    But I found it unsuccessful as a call to action. The film seemed to catalog all of the possible solutions to living past peak oil without losing 70% of our global population, then dismissed each of them in turn as inadequate. Other than preparing to revert to an agrarian society where three out of four people have died, I saw no call to action. What action should we be taking? The take home message I got is that sometime in the next few decades the world is going to hell no matter what we do. I think it might make some people buy SUVs and go on expensive airline trips while they still can.

    I got the 70-75% death rate from the experts the movie who said that an earth w/o access to fossil fuels could at most support 1.5 billion people.

    Two other movies — Sicko and An inconvenient Truth — are true calls to action in that after they identify the problems, they advance solutions they think will work. Sicko calls for a single payer health system modeled on other modern industrial democracies. An Inconvenient Truth believes that a combination of conservation and low-emission renewable energy sources could hold world CO2 below 450ppm and avoid the worst of the effects. You leave both movies with the idea that there is in fact something that you can do. It will be difficult, but your efforts and those of your government could make things better.

    It is a good thing to wake people up. But if you’ve frightened them awake without giving them anything to do, you’ve guaranteed a lack of meaningful solutions in favor of a “live today, tomorrow we die” attitude.

    If you are the actual producer of the movie and want to highlight some scenes where you believe that you are issuing a message of we don’t have to have a massive die-off after cheap oil ends, please point them out to me and I’ll rewatch them. Time codes would be good.

  3. […] Peak Oil Posted on December 19, 2009 by alaskanlibrarian A few weeks ago, I reviewed A crude awakening the oil crash. I criticized it for not offering possible solutions to help ease us into an oil scarce […]

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