This doco was released in 2006 but the facts remain valid and it’s well worth a look. Oil is a pet hate of mine and I was half expecting to have heard all the horror tales before but there was some footage I had not seen, which added another dimension to my concern about our rapacious use of fossil fuels.
The doco interviewed former executives in some of the earliest oil-rich regions: Baku in Azerbaijan, Texas and Venezuela. There were images of the regions when they were a hive of activity, and then shots afterward when the wells had run dry. A lot of the creepy-looking machinery and towers had been left to rust and contaminate the surrounding eco-systems for eons to come.
I was already fundamentally opposed to the fact that a handful of barons around the world are riding rich off the back of our addiction to burning dinosaur bodies, or the blood of the earth – whichever sad label you want to put on their black gold. But seeing these images really got my hackles up.
It’s so sad the big fish can cream a little pond for all its worth and then not be accountable for the mess they leave behind. But then it’s hardly surprising. Man has got a long history abandoning his edifices when the economic tide turns.
That aside, the stand out quote for me in this doco was: “The Stone Age did not end because we ran out of stones.” In other words, human innovation should naturally lead us to a better solution before the oil runs out – it is in the natural order of things. And, of course, there are already various forms of renewable energy being used around the globe.
The experts, however, seemed to agree that energy from wind, bio, hydro, thermal and solar sources require a massive amount of research and investment to be feasible replacements for the amount of energy currently being supplied by oil. Another good point is that even if the industralized nations find ways to curb their use of fossil fuels, any savings will only be matched – or even exceeded – by increased use in the developing nations hungry for a western lifestyle.
One expert suggested that the simplest way to get people to understand the gravity of the situation – that oil took millions of years to make and yet we are burning through it all in a matter of centuries – would be for companies to price it at its true worth.
He compared the cost of a Starbucks coffee to the same amount of gas for his car: the coffee is much more expensive. In fact, he said, gas is the cheapest liquid available on the American market. He could put five people in his car and drive a mile and it would cost him 20c, but what taxi driver would agree to take you and your friends that far for that price?
Considering the usefulness and limited supply of petroleum products, not to mention the damage they do to the environment when burned, they should be the most expensive thing on earth, not the least. (Don’t even get me started on the plastic and the wanton way we use it to package everything, then carelessly throw that packaging away! Or the fact $2 shops are full of crappy plastic products that break after one use!)
Several of the experts discussed what life could be like in the very near future if we fail to get one of the renewable alternatives to serve all our current energy needs. In all probability, only a fraction of the fabled 1% most wealthy people would be able to afford to fly. It might never be a viable option for our grandchildren. Even cars would be the preserve of the elite: the rest of us would be back to horses.
Prior to watching this film, I was well aware the world is in a bad way and we are churning through millions and millions of barrels of oil per day, and it will not last forever. But I felt sure that the shadow powers secretly have the alternative all worked out, and are merely withholding it from the market in order to milk money from every last drop of oil first.
This doco made me think: what if the powers that be don’t have the answer worked out afterall? What if it is true that the youngest current Americans are the first generation who will have a worse standard of living than their forbears? What if this sorry statement is true for everyone in the world, and that we are in fact sliding back into the dark ages, literally, when there is no longer cheap fuel to light up our cities at night?
Nevertheless, I am an optimist at heart and I believe the answer must surely lie in the sun. It is a pet interest of mine and I am always agog when I see images of it seething and spitting, knowing that it does this relentlessly every split second of every single day.
Surely the solution is simple: stop the industrial farming of cattle and cover the fields in solar panels. Abolish Monsanto and make sure everyone has access to their own garden, with planting and cooking taught at all schools.
We don’t need to go back to the dark ages to learn a lesson – only a generation or few, before oil made everybody complacent and materialistic. Yet I fear nothing will change until the current set of corporate, dynastic fossils are dead and buried. Let’s hope they are succeeded by a new breed of human who can see past the destructive extractive industries to fields that foster creativity and nurture the planet.