A strange thing has happened to documentaries dealing with energy and environmental issues, they’ve been politicized. It’s gotten to the point that we can’t talk about the weather without blasting those who belong to a different party than us. The words “global warming,” which started as a scientific term is now used as a verbal weapon to bash political rivals with. The battle lines have been drawn: either you’re a conservative who supports big business, coal and drilling and laughs off the scare-mongering environmentalists or you’re a liberal wants to save the earth, get us all back on bicycles and will fight the evil oil people who are trying to destroy us all. It’s not that there isn’t a middle ground, it’s just that the middle ground is being completely ignored. The news organizations and certainly the documentaries (regardless of whether they’re made by conservatives or liberals) deliberately ignore those whose views aren’t necessarily black and white and as a result those of us who see things in shades of grey just sort of tune out. We’re tired of the yelling and while we might want to be part of the discussion we have no interest in being part of the argument.
So when I was invited to a screening and DVD release party for the Documentary HOUSTON WE HAVE A PROBLEM: LIFE, LIBERTY and the pursuit of CHEAP ENERGY I expected more of the same. I sat down in the theater with my bottled water and waited for the film to tell me that the super villains (a.k.a oil executives) responsible for providing me with the bottle for my water were using me as a tool to ruin the earth.
That didn’t happen. Instead I saw a movie where one oil executive after another explained the industry to me from their viewpoint and rather than bashing the Democrats they expressed a very balanced view of politics. Through their eyes I got a new perspective of why foreign oil (rather than domestic) had become our main source of energy and why alternative fuels absolutely NEED to be a fundamental part of our future. This was coming from oil executives, not radical liberals, not environmental warriors, oil executives. And yes, the head of the Sierra Club was featured as well and we got a peak into the animosity that exists between those who are spear-heading the environmental movement and those who are actually providing us with our energy but we also got to see that the two groups do have some common ground (although neither group seems to be aware of that). By the end of the film I had a new, albeit begrudging, respect for the people and the industry that have been fueling our nation for so long and I also was left with the feeling that I could be pro-business AND an environmentalist. It was clear how much money there was to be made in the development of clean energy and once the country realized that and started putting pressure on our politicians the oil industry wouldn’t and perhaps more importantly, couldn’t stop us. As every single person in the film reiterated, this is a game of supply and demand. If the consumer demands alternative energy it WILL be supplied. That’s capitalism. The people in the oil industry honestly love what they do but they love making money more. If we make it clear that we are willing to pay for steam and wind energy that’s where the industry’s resources will go. But for various reasons that’s not the message we’re sending, no matter how many recycling bins we have in front of our homes.
So if you’re a Republican who is sick of being told that you’re deeply held ideals have been built out of ignorance or a Democrat who is sick of being called a tree-hugging-granola-eater because you invested in solar paneling you really should see Houston We Have A Problem. This isn’t a political movie. There is no slant or extreme bias. This isn’t a film for those who want to be part of the argument. It’s for those who want to be part of the discussion.
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