A Crude Awakening: The Oil Crash (Movie Review)

At one point in this movie, a university professor whose name I missed, says something along the lines of "a student came up to me and asked, 'so will my grandchildren get to ride in an aircraft?' It was a frightening question, because the answer is most likely not." The tagline for this feature length documentary on Peak Oil is, "We're running out and we don't have a plan." But let's back up a bit, in case you've been coming up to speed on global warming, and haven't yet heard about peak oil.

As the movie explains; oil, natural, gas and coal are the product of living matter laid down as sediment, compacted under thousand of metres of mineral deposits and undergone a chemical conversion of its carbon atoms. In very basic terms they're crushed plant matter from the time of dinosaurs. It is not something we can recreate. It is not renewable. But it is precious. Not that one would notice. As the talking heads in this movie note, oil (as petrol) in the US is cheaper than drinking water. So cheap that one could drive a family of 6 and their luggage for 1.5 miles on 20 cents worth of gasoline. They make a the point that a donkey-and-cart or rickshaw driver would not provide transport for the same cost. Our cars, trucks, trains, plains and ships run on oil. Greater than 80% of all extraction goes to produce transport fuel. But the stuff is not infinite. The US was once the world's largest exporter of the black oozy goo but now only has 2% of the world's reserve, although it uses 25%. Britain's North Sea is running dry and they're now back to importing oil. Sure, there is some left globally, but all the easy pickings are gone. Human population and industry have exploded in the 100-150 years, since we uncorked this genie. (In the time this writer has been on the planet, the number of humans has more than doubled to over 6 billion). The supply of crude is already diminishing, at the same time as our demand for its offspring: not only fuel, but plastics, fertiliser, cosmetics, pharmaceuticals, etc, has become increasingly ravenous. And the worlds most populous nations, India and China, have only just begun their love of the stuff. The point of A Crude Awakening seems to be like that of an alarm clock. It's function is wake people up. To rouse them from their slumber. If you haven't encountered this information anywhere else then it will do the trick. It lays out the detail pretty clearly, mostly through interviews with oil industry representatives interspersed with lots of filmwork reminiscent of the Koyaanisqatsi style movies. Statistics are dispensed incessantly by the speakers,who are, for the most part, eloquent in their depiction of the issues. This is an incredibly important movie, though not a great one. There is no Michael Moore or Al Gore fronting the show to provide it a more personal narrative. But it might be that in it's starkness the message has more impact. While the information was not new to me I still found it fascinating viewing, though my cinema companions did fidget some, indicating the material was not holding them in it's awe.

It is however vital that as many people see this film as saw An Inconvenient Truth. The problem is more tangible. Not being able to drive or fly is something more of us can readily relate to. Changing seasons and drowning polar bears, is unfortunately for many, a tad too esoteric. As the movie's many speakers point out politicians and governments are rarely proactive, rather reactive. And currently they aren't getting phone calls from their voters to act on this crucial issue.

In awaking viewers to a future without oil, A Crude Awakening, is highly effective. What it lacks though is a hero. It kills off most of the contenders for the role, one by one. New oil technologies, hydrogen ("30 to 50 years away") biomass, ethanol, biodiesel, nuclear, wind, solar (though they hint solar might get the part, if greater investment was forthcoming), and even hybrid vehicles, all get the chop. To paraphase "Even if we could wave a magic wand and hybridised every car on the road today, in five years our economic growth would have us back to the same level of consumption we have today." The only hero that escapes being shot down, is one quietly introduced as a side character. An Amish gentlemen, in his horse drawn carriage, clip clopping along the road at nine miles an hour. As Matthew Savinar, who trained as a lawyer but now manages the website, lifeaftertheoilcrash.net, points out, "Tell people they'll need to change their lifestyle and go buy a hydrogen vehicle, and they'll probably say 'Okay.' But tell them they have to ride a bicycle and ..... "

The only real solution proffered is mankind's ingenuity and creativity. (One speaker likens it to the intellectual and practical challenge of putting a man on the moon, while another believes it's more like putting thousands on Pluto!) But regardless of how clever we are, none of the interviewees believe we will get through the next 10 to 20 years without major, major changes to our accustomed way of life.

See this film. Be forewarned. Be prepared. Be active in pushing for positive change. ::A Crude Awakening, the Movie

For online videos we've mentioned on peak oil see also: Four Corners and Robert Newman.

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