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Burning the Future: Coal in America (2008)

Not Rated | | Documentary | 22 April 2008 (USA)
Burning the Future: Coal in America examines the explosive forces that have set in motion a groundswell of conflict between the Coal Industry and residents of West Virginia. Confronted by ... See full summary »


David Novack
2 wins. See more awards »




Cast overview, first billed only:
Maria Gunnoe Maria Gunnoe ... Self
Bill Raney Bill Raney ... Self - WV Mining Association
Rocky Hackworth Rocky Hackworth ... Self - Miner
Chrystal Gunnoe Chrystal Gunnoe ... Self
Ben Stout Ben Stout ... Self
Jim Hecker Jim Hecker ... Self - Trial lawyer
Roger Lilly Roger Lilly ... Self - Walker Machinery
Ed Hopkins Ed Hopkins ... Self - Sierra Club
Joe Haynes Joe Haynes ... Self - Amos Power Community
Joe Manchin III ... Self - governor (as Gov. Joe Manchin III)
Peter Lehner Peter Lehner ... Self - NY Atty Gen office
Bob May Bob May ... Self - Kanawa Eagle
Billy Sammons Billy Sammons ... Self - Lick Creek WV
Janet Keating Janet Keating ... Self - OH Valley Env. Coalition
Bo Webb Bo Webb ... Self - Naomo WV Res.


Burning the Future: Coal in America examines the explosive forces that have set in motion a groundswell of conflict between the Coal Industry and residents of West Virginia. Confronted by an emerging coal-based US energy policy, local activists watch the nation praise coal without regard to the devastation caused by its extraction. Faced with toxic ground water, the obliteration of 1.4 million acres of mountains, and a government that appeases industry, our heroes demonstrate a strength of purpose and character in their improbable fight to arouse the nation's help in protecting their mountains, saving their families, and preserving their way of life. Written by David Novack

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Candid look at coal's dirtier underbelly
7 May 2008 | by GambittSee all my reviews

Most people are aware of the global impact of our dependence on coal and other carbon-based energy sources. In recent years, concern over climate change has finally gone mainstream, with even energy companies starting to admit that perhaps global warming is a real and serious problem.

"Burning the Future" takes a look at the environmental impact of coal at a level that receives much less press coverage: the damaging and dangerous effect of strip mining on its surrounding environment, communities and local residents in West Virginia.

Coal companies have been resorting to strip mining rather than traditional tunnel mining because it is less labor intensive and overall more "effective" in extracting the coal that powers our residences and businesses. In strip mining, mountaintops are literally blown up into debris to reach the valuable coal seams embedded within. The debris is dumped into rivers and valleys, and later pushed back into piles that resemble the former mountain.

In "Burning the Future," local West Virginians discuss the destructive impact strip mining has on their immediate communities. The lush landscapes they grew up with are being replaced with brown heaps of rock. More neighborhoods have been devastated by sudden flooding that residents insist never occurred prior to strip mining. Residents showcase their drinking water, which is often murky with black and brown silt. A rise in serious health conditions is believed to be caused by the contaminated water.

The film addresses many difficult questions surrounding coal in West Virginia, where communities, many of them poor, are dependent on the coal companies for public funding, schools, and jobs. The coal companies offer funding and support in return for permits to build waste depositories. The companies successfully navigate state and national politics, while pitting environmental and labor groups against each other. In communities where nearly everyone has a family member who was a miner, neighbors are pitted against neighbors in this resulting clash of values and priorities.

The film provides a good look at the more immediate effects of our coal dependence on people who are often overlooked and who have no voice in the modern debate over global warming.

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Release Date:

22 April 2008 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Under the Grid See more »

Filming Locations:

New York City, New York, USA See more »

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Production Co:

Firefly Pix See more »
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Aspect Ratio:

1.78 : 1
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