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| Movie Review
by Mick WinterEnergy Crossroads
54 minute DVD
In a society where most people take energy for granted and assume life will go on just as it is, this film is a cold shower of fact.
For many of us, energy is something we wish we had more of, drained of it as we might be at the end of a long day. But the energy that lights and heats our homes and powers our TV, refrigerator and air conditioner, that helps grow and transport our foods, and that lets us drive to work or bring the kids home from school, that energy remains far in the shadows. Since it's just "there", we give it little if any thought.
Energy Crossroads looks deeply and objectively at our use of, and dependence on, energy. It traces the history of our society since the Industrial Revolution and makes very clear that without cheap energy—primarily petroleum over the last 100 years—our society, and the industrialized society worldwide, could never have existed.
Our fossil fuel-based society has literally exploded on the earth, bringing a wealth and minimum standard of living to hundreds of millions of people in those countries fortunate enough—and ruthless enough—to have acquired and experienced it.
The result has been the consumption of a vast amount of resources that this planet will never see again. We have reached the point in time where we must change. The alternative is, let us say, too unpleasant. As the film points out, America almost woke up in the early 1970s at the time of the Arab oil embargo. But the country only looked like it was waking up. It ended up rolling over and going back to sleep.
The first half of Energy Crossroads focuses on the current state of energy resources, our past and current dependency on those resources, and the fact that crude oil production, and soon that of natural gas as well, has—or soon will—peaked. At a time when we need to produce more and more oil because of an expanding worldwide population demanding more and more energy, we are beginning to produce less and less.
This is not a comfortable position, and it will not hold. As one of the film's experts states, "We will continue to have energy wars until we can find a way to share resources equitably." It also dangles the possibility that our society could experience a worldwide economic depression of at least the severity of the one in the 1930s.
The film also brings in top scientists to explain the connection between fossil fuel usage and climate change and how because of global warming and sea level rise it would be critical to switch over to renewable energy even if we weren't experiencing oil depletion.
The film's second half focuses on solutions—or at least energy solutions. It briefly, but convincingly, covers such areas as wind, biofuels, hydrogen, solar, and other proposed alternative sources of energy, some of which are currently in use, others which remain in the future. But Energy Crossroads makes very clear that within the next few decades these forms of energy will—and can—be only a small percentage of our total energy sources. The movie also makes clear that our prime problem is a liquid fuel shortage, and that nothing can come close to the low-cost, energy-dense value of crude oil. (If my recollection is correct, I can happily say that it doesn't even suggest that the fantasy of oil sands is a real replacement for crude.)
Energy Crossroads also discusses recycling, including precycling at the source to produce fewer non-recyclable, non-degradable products. It discusses the value of energy-efficient homes and buildings, and of more public transit use. And it emphasizes that conservation is the most efficient and cost-effective of all alternatives.
Energy Crossroads is refreshing because it doesn't have the usual talking head suspects that appear in most Peak Oil films, events and books. Instead it includes appearances and commentary by a variety of knowledgeable and well-credentialed experts in the fields of climatology, environment, anthropology, energy and, yes, Peak Oil, thanks to the cooperation of the Association for the Study of Peak Oil and Gas &mdash USA.
The target audience for this film doesn't appear to be those already familiar with Peak Oil and the worldwide energy predicament. But if you are one of that more knowledgeable minority, this is the DVD to give to friends and family who haven't yet caught on. Energy Crossroads probably won't scare them, but it will soften them up and give them a clear snapshot of the energy present. Once you've decided they're ready, you can hit them with your thoughts on what the future might hold, and what we must do to change.
Copyright © 2008 Mick Winter. This article may be republished anywhere by anyone as long as it is shown in full (including this notice) and there is no charge to the reader.