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Crude Impact

Documentary — Released: 2006

This Crude Impact review written by Mark Jeantheau, Grinning Planet.

DVD cover for Crude Impact For those new to Peak Oil, Crude Impact is straightforward and thorough, one of the best introductions available on the topic of Peak Oil and our incredibly deep dependence on petroleum products.

For veteran peakists, Crude Impact will add some new background regarding the history of oil production, particularly the dirty dealings of major oil companies operating in foreign countries and the US strategy of controlling oil as a way to dominate the world. There are also a few fresh faces that haven't appeared in many Peak Oil films before—Thom Hartmann, William Rees, Christopher Flavin, Michael Economides—and they help round out our thinking on the topic.

A few of the film's salient points:

  • Ever-increasing availability of energy-dense fossil fuels have granted us freedom from drudgery and provided us with the enough "spare energy" to acquire countless modern conveniences and toys. But this energy bonanza has also allowed an exponential rise in the number of humans on the planet. The implication for our transition to a world in which energy is increasingly in short supply is very clear.
  • Western countries in general—and the US specifically—are correctly assigned the majority of the blame for the sorry facts of oil production and use, particularly in terms of how resource-rich countries are exploited by powerful, highly industrialized ones. But China is correctly identified as a new dominant force in the oil game—energy-hungry and awash with cash, willing to snap up future oil contracts regardless of the price.
  • The US asserts that its presence in the Middle East and North Africa is about strengthening democracies; but in practice, we almost exclusively support authoritarian regimes there because they keep the oil flowing.
  • The US president admonished us that we are addicted to oil but simultaneously pursued policies that deepen the addiction. The film exposes the charade of drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Reserve "to reduce our dependence on foreign oil," noting that the amount of extra oil produced there will be outpaced by ever-falling production from other US regions plus new (increasing) consumer demand. With only 2-3% of the world's oil reserves, we cannot solve our oil problem on the supply side; we must reduce the demand side and transition to other energy sources.
  • More broadly, the film's comparison of global oil discovery and depletion rates clearly shows that our current petro-path is grossly unsustainable.
  • The Age of Oil allowed the Age of Over-Consumption. The trouble is, getting more stuff has not make us more satisfied. Our happiness peaked in the 1950s, and even though we kept on shopping and consuming and pursing Madison Avenue's false vision of "more is better," we are less happy than we were decades ago. While our psyches are pretty out of whack, the impact is literally fatal for other species. The vast growth in human resource consumption and pollution, plus our relentless sprawling expansion into pristine territory, have combined to boost extinction rates to 100-10,000 times higher than normal.

Crude Impact moves beyond the role of oil as the central character in the world's increasingly dark energy drama, correctly asserting that the solution is a reorganization of society and economics away from the corporate-dominated, energy-intensive consumer culture of today to one that reinvigorates our true sense of values and relies more on local production, especially of food.

Limitless growth is not possible, mathematically or in practice, and lagging oil production is our first reminder of this. The solution is not to find more oil or figure out a substitute energy source, it is to revise how civilization works. Less energy does not have to equate to less happiness.

Crude Impact was released in 2006, which means the occasional statistic is now slightly dated. Qualitatively, however, the march of time has added even more weight to the film's analysis and insights. We must start discussing and implementing solutions immediately. Our energy-dependent way of life is going to prove to be negotiable—creepy veepy opinions not withstanding—and there is not a moment to lose in getting started on the new path.

Check out Crude Impact at the film's web site

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Liner notes for Crude Impact :
Tagline: It's worse than you think—but it's not too late.   Runtime: 98 min.


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"We depend on oil. We should understand where it comes from and the price that's paid."

    – Amy Goodman


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