Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Crude Impact

By David Luhrssen
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The world is heading for a cliff at high speed and the breaks are failing. And according to the documentary Crude Impact (out now on DVD), the car wreck is not being driven by the global economic meltdown. Filmed before recent events and circulated on the film festival circuit, Crude Impact is about the energy crisis. Specifically: as the world keeps using more and more petroleum, the supply is dwindling. No one can set a date for when the last drop of oil is pumped from the bowels of the earth, but even Dick Cheney must know that the day will come.

Since many of its darts are hurled at the Bush administration, against a backdrop of steeply rising oil prices, some of Crude Impact is yesterday’s news. But the core points made by director James Janak Wood remain valid and alarming. It took hundreds of millions of years to produce the world’s stock of oil and in the last 150 years, maybe half has been burned in engines and used to produce new products.

During those same years the population has multiplied rapidly, causing more demand for petroleum by the literally crude technology powering the Modern Age. America, where four percent of the earth’s population consumes 25 percent of its oil, has led the way to the cliff. But the American people are no more inherently greedy and tunnel visioned than most others. China is barking after America’s heels, and if every Chinese consumed as much as the average American, the world’s resources would soon be exhausted. Conclusion: civilization on its present course is unsustainable.

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