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What a horrible, blatantly obvious attempt to uncritically sing the praises of the various energy industries!! What a wonderful coal mining enterprise out in Wyoming.... Why not mention that the Black Thunder Mine is smack-dab in the middle of the Thunder Basin National Grassland (according to Google Maps, anyway) or how this operation is diverting water resources from farms and crop lands? And why not pay a visit to the Appalachias, home of mountain top removal, to show the dirty secrets left behind by the coal mining industry? In this part, and a few other times, I could not help but noticing the juvenile delight of Scott Tinker to be sitting in one of these "larger-than-life" mechanical monstrosities that dig up and haul away the coal - like a kid in a toy store, or something.
Really?? A few minutes on the Alberta tar sands telling us how much untapped resources are available there and how whatever company it was, is getting this stuff out the ground. Again, not a single mention of the devastating environmental impacts, or the fact that thanks to this futile energy "source" Canada's CO2 emissions are projected to spiral upwards in the next few decades (and that does not include burning the refined oil).
Why not include a trip to Estonia, one of the few countries that actually has a history of shale mining and is now paying the price? As for the guy from Texas who apparently is oblivious to environmental impacts of fracking, may I suggest he watch the documentary "Gasland." And, yes, aren't wind turbines great? No emissions, no obnoxious fumes, and so forth. Never mind the birds and bats (see Nature, June 20, 2012). Maybe this is not much of an issue but at the very least it should have been brought up.
As I said, a completely uncritical look at various energy resources. I realize that we will have to use a mix of these resources to continue to meet energy demand, but at the very least be honest about the downside of each of these. Don't leave the viewer with the impression that there's no environmental (mostly) costs attached to each and everyone of these. If energy consumers have no qualms about ruining the Alberta landscape and wildlife to satisfy their appetite for energy then so be it - but at least show them what the impact is.
But, what is absolutely astounding to me is that this infomercial yaks on about energy for more than 100 minutes without mentioning the single-most important factor in any discussion about energy: EROI!!!!! Or, Energy Return on Investment. How much the consumer is willing (or forced) to pay for a barrel of oil, or any other energy source, is ultimately irrelevant to the energy debate. Economics don't matter!! If it costs more energy to produce energy than we are getting out we're losing the battle. And for the tar sands, biofuels, and some of the others, the EROI is getting uncomfortably close to what many refer to as the energy cliff: EROI < 3. Once we hit that cliff, we can kiss civilization as we know it good bye.
A second way to paint a rosy picture that is very common, and also came up several times in this documentary, is to express energy reserves in terms of current consumption rates. Most people apparently have no grasp of the concept of the "power of two" or of "exponential growth." For example, yes, at current consumption levels, proved coal reserves can last a few hundred years. Factor in a 2% annual growth in energy demand, and all of a sudden these reserves are good for maybe another 50 years.
The beginning of the movie was telling. That's when Scott Tinker introduced the "energy unit" to be used throughout the movie: one year's worth of his energy consumption. Per capita energy consumption in the US is ridiculously high compared to other developed countries (e.g. western Europe), but that's not really the point. By choosing this as the basic energy unit, the focus becomes on how can we meet this energy demand? In other words, it throws out the fundamental question: to achieve a sustainable energy future, should we try to find ways to meet increasing energy demand or do we have to make fundamental changes in how developed societies operate? I'm not surprised this documentary has received much praise and awards from around the world. It conveys exactly the message that people want to hear: yes, there may be a temporary crunch in our pocketbooks but don't worry, the geologists and other scientists are working on finding alternatives that will allow you to continue driving your Toyota Highlander to the local soccer game (in case you missed it, that's the car Scott Tinker pulled out of his garage at the beginning). Maybe replace your windows with more energy-efficient ones, screw in some cfl light bulbs, and spray some insulation material in your attic, etc., but otherwise, continue pursuing the American Dream and by all means, continue to consume, consume, consume.
I'd say this infomercial represents a major victory for the energy lobby and a great disservice to the American people, or whoever else watches this stuff.
The only real solution is what Georgescu Roegen, Herman Daly, and a handful of other economists have been arguing for for some 40 years: a zero-growth economy. Heck, even Adam Smith in his 1776 Opus Magnum "The Wealth of Nations" recognized and admitted that economic growth cannot go on forever.
Circle the Wagen (2013)
Ha, the best movie I saw in a theater in a long time
This movie is about a guy named Dave, living in New York at the time, but wanting to get back to his home in California. So, he turns to E-Bay and ends up with a 1972 Transporter DeLuxe for which he pays $787.00. The Bus is located in Des Moines, Iowa, so Dave goes to Iowa, picks up the Bus – which he appropriately names The Croc – and starts heading to L.A. Four breakdowns later, The Croc has made it to Tulsa where Dave's buddy Charlie joins him so they can make the rest of the trip together.
Don't ask me what they were thinking!! Or, if they were thinking at all! I mean, driving a 1972 VW Bus that only cost $795, across the country is asking for trouble, unless you are an expert VW mechanic and carry a load of spare parts with you. Needless to say, they don't get very far before trouble starts. But, hey, this is a Volkswagen and the VW community is known for helping out strangers who get stranded in the middle of nowhere. And this is where the movie starts for real – the first part is told in cartoon-fashion, which was kinda cute (and a good way of showing what happened before Ryan's camera arrived on the scene) and just about the right length.
After consulting with the online directory of folks offering help or other resources – Aircooled Interstate Rescue Squad; http://www.type2.com/rescue – Dave and Charlie meet up with several helpful VW enthusiasts in the Tulsa area and elsewhere along the way. After a late night wrenching session organized by the VW Club of Tulsa, our heroes are on their way again, following mostly Rte 66 and other back roads heading west. The Croc gets stranded in Tucumcari and Dave and Charlie decide to leave him there and head back to L.A. The poor Bus sits along the side of Rte 66 for four long years, but finally, Dave and Charlie return to Tucumcari to get the Bus back on the road. The helpful rescue squad from Tulsa drives out to meet Dave and Charlie in Tucumcari and on they go. Many of the Dubbers from Tulsa and Oklahoma City appear in the movie. This, of course, explains why so many of our Tulsa friends made it out to ABQ.
All the while, Ryan has stayed in the background, filming the adventures of The Croc, which ultimately led to this movie. I must say that Ryan did a great job editing the footage and come up with such a fun movie. I know from experience that these Buses have a tendency to elicit some choice curse words, yet none of those ended up in the movie.
This is a great movie and fun to watch. I'm glad me and my 71 Bus made it to the World Premiere in Albuquerque. Seeing Central Ave lined up with Buses from all around was, indeed, a very special sight to behold - if you don't't have a VW Bus, it's hard to explain the feeling. And when the sold-out Guild Theatre opened its doors, it felt like going to my first Grateful Dead concert, way back when. This is not a documentary as such. This is a fun movie about the misadventures of two guys and a Bus – and, what is most amazing, how a community of strangers rallied around this crazy idea and helped just because Dave and Charlie were driving a VW Bus.
My only question is: "What role did Charlie play?" Sure, he is a charismatic person, smoking his ever-present pipe even when Dave is trying to fix a fuel leak and getting drenched with gasoline, but other than pushing the Bus to a start a few times, his contribution appears to have been mostly "moral support."
Many times the small 100-seat Guild Theatre rocked with laughter or applause when another familiar face came on the screen. "Circle the Wagen" is bound to be a success: the first showing sold out within a few days after the World Premiere was announced and a second screening in the larger Lobo Theater down the street (which makes a brief appearance in the movie) had to be added. Robert Redford, one of the sponsors of the AFME asked for a copy, and on Sunday evening, Charlie and Ryan received the "Guerilla" award designed by Dennis Hopper! This award goes to the most anticipated film, the film that had the greatest presence/buzz at the AFME. Well done, guys! It may be a while before this movie comes to a regular theater near you, but we will try to get an early screening in the Kansas City area.