Tags: energy | fuel | warning

Documentary Warns of U.S. Energy Catastrophe

By    |   Tuesday, 11 November 2008 12:51 PM

Just when you thought it might be safe to leave your money in the bank, a new film comes along, provoking nightmare images of the great, fuel-thirsty American republic coughing and sputtering to a lurching stop.

The new documentary from Citizens United, “We Have the Power,” fires off with former House Speaker Newt Gingrich warning: “Today, America is under assault from key oil-producing states, some of which are radical regimes whose energy prices and policies are systematically undermining our economy, our national security, and the American way of life.

“We pay a hefty ransom — 2 billion dollars every day — to the likes of Saudi Arabia, Iran, and Venezuela, among other foreign powers,” a somber Gingrich continues. “Americans are sick and tired of our broken energy policy.”

Gingrich shares the film’s hosting/moderator duties with his wife, Callista, and the team introduces in rapid sequence a bevy of experts who pound away with facts and figures that turn the mouth dry and leave the viewer wondering whether Congress shouldn’t be prosecuted collectively for malfeasance in office on the energy issue.

The pointed theme of this beautifully produced docudrama is that America needs nothing less than to adopt the nation’s World War II mentality of “Do it all, Do it now” by tapping into all of its abundant energy resources.

David N. Bossie, the president of conservative nonprofit Citizens United and former chief investigator for the Whitewater hearings, told Newsmax: “We owe it to future generations to explore the vast amount of oil and gas in the outer continental shelf, Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, as well as our other vital energy resources, including hydroelectric power, wind power, oil shale, natural gas, gas hydrates, hydrogen, bio-fuels, solar power, clean coal and nuclear power.”

The film examines each of these alternative energy sources in detail, along with a piercing look at the way litigation and red tape can stymie even energy projects that haven’t become the passion and focus of the so-called “greens.”

“We Have the Power,” which premiered in Atlanta theaters in September, is available in DVD, too.

Among those it features driving the message home is Robert Zubrin, world-renowned engineer and author of “Energy Victory: Winning the War on Terror by Breaking Free of Oil.”

“Oil states like Saudi Arabia and Iran are using their money to promote terrorism,” a glaring Zubrin says. “But they are directly taxing us into a depression. This year the United States is going to pay a trillion dollars for oil, 60 percent of it to foreign countries — mostly tyrannies.

“A trillion dollars, that’s up from $80 billion in 1999. A trillion dollars, that’s 40 percent of what Americans pay the IRS. So this is like a 40 percent tax increase, but instead of the money going to Uncle Sam it’s going to ‘Uncle Saud.’”

Gingrich asks a burning rhetorical question that sets up the bulk of the film: “So how is it that we now find ourselves in the middle of an energy crisis when our country is so rich in energy resources? How did we get where we are today? Why aren’t we drilling for more oil in America especially when we have so much oil right here at home?”

Rep. John Boehner, R-Ohio, is one of many who respond: “There was an oil spill some 30 to 40 years ago off of the coast of California, and as a result of this a ban on drilling in the outer continental shelf came into being. But that’s where the oil and the natural gas are.

“As a result of the congressional ban, it is illegal today to drill in the vast majority of federal waters off of our coast lines known as the ‘Outer Continental Shelf or the OCS’ and areas stretching more than 200 nautical miles around the shores of the United States.”

Boehner and other commentators go lament the fact that, in effect, the U.S. has taken $60 trillion worth of resources and put a lock on them.

The label that as an ill-advised policy that results in the transfer of national power to others at the fastest rate in human history: $1.5 trillion a year going to OPEC this year.

“This is an enormous sum of money and it is transferring control of the world to people who believe in freedom to people who don’t,” Zubrin concludes.

$14 Million an Hour Up in Smoke

Just when the viewer gasps for a breath, the film delivers another eye-opening slap on the back of the head.

Adrian Herrera, a consultant for the Alaska refuge, commonly known as ANWAR, appears just as mad and frustrated and disgusted as Zubrin when he says there is no other alternative than to “drill in ANWAR now — because America is at an energy crisis point.”

“We are consuming as much as we produce from our refineries,” Herrera says. “We import 60 percent of our oil from foreign countries. That amounts to $14 million per hour we are spending and giving that money abroad. That money is like burning $100 bills. We never see any infrastructure. We never see any jobs. We never see any benefit whatsoever to this country because the money goes abroad and we burn it up in our gas tanks.”

The film also features Charles Krauthammer, a Washington Post opinion columnist and TV personality, who unleashes some high-octane vitriol: “The ANWR issue is enough to make you crazy because the arguments against it are so pathetically weak. It’s all religion. The fact is that we have extremely high technology where we know how to drill sideways, which means you only have to have a very small footprint on the surface impacted in order to reach huge areas of oil underground.

“That means that we could be producing a million to a million and a half barrels a day, which would be replacing about 10 to 15 percent of our North American imports, which would make a huge impact on us.”

The logic and the facts and figures keep coming with the staccato of a machine gun. The format and the pace are not unlike some other projects of the prolific, and award-winning, Bossie. “Border War: The Battle over Illegal Immigration” premiered in theaters across the country to standing-room-only audiences and was released on DVD on Oct. 15, 2006. “ACLU: At War with America” was released in December 2006. In 2004, he produced “Celsius 41.11,” the conservative response to Michael Moore’s Fahrenheit 9/11. In 2005, with actor Ron Silver, he produced “Broken Promises: The United Nations at 60.”

But “We Have the Power” may just be the jewel in the crown, with its racing sense of urgency.

Accompanying the disturbing words are some stellar images: giant whirring generators of a colossal dam; an endless field of wind turbines; a camera panning the dark, flat, and seemingly lifeless plains of the ANWR; great floating rigs probing the ocean bottom for natural gas; or Jay Leno, making fun of the sedentary Congress.

Some of the film’s points:

  • A quip from Jay Leno: “At one of his press conferences this week, President Bush blasted Congress for not allowing oil exploration in Alaska wildlife reserve. The Democrats said it wouldn’t do any good because it wouldn’t produce any oil for 10 years. You know, the same thing they said 10 years ago . . .”

  • The United States has granted a total of 8,000 offshore drilling leases, producing 15 percent of our natural gas supply and 27 percent of our oil supply. Opening the other 85 percent of the Outer Continental Shelf could produce a stable, reliable, and affordable supply of domestic oil and natural gas for decades.

  • Very old statistics from the Minerals Management Service — and they are very conservative statistics — say 88 billion barrels of oil are in that shelf.

  • Some critics worry that offshore platforms will be at an environmental risk because of hurricanes that could lead to large oil spills. We can look back at the past several hurricanes — Hurricane Katrina, for example. There was not a major oil spill because technology and safety regulations have changed.

  • Some Democratic Party leaders misunderstand the process of oil discovery. They argue that no new lease should be granted until every existing lease taken has been developed. Just because you pay a lot for a bid on a lease doesn’t guarantee that there is any oil and gas there. It’s a risky business in which the buyer needs 60 leases to get the right one.

  • Offshore gas totals 60 trillion cubic feet, and estimates are that offshore resources also include 88 billion barrels of oil and 420 trillion cubic feet of natural gas.

  • ANWR encompasses about 19 million acres, an enormous area. But President Jimmy Carter set aside a mere 2,000 acres for exploration, the equivalent comparative size of a postage stamp on a football field.

  • Drilling in ANWR means the United States would spend more than $1 trillion at home for domestic oil instead of sending that money to foreign countries. It also would provide new revenue for the government without raising taxes.

  • Royalties and revenue for the federal government and taxes for development of the ANWR would be between $105 billion and $296 billion. So developing oil and gas in the ANWAR could pay for hydrogen power, wind power, and solar power.

  • A large majority of Americans support drilling in the ANWR, which can be done without harming the environment. During the past 30 years, the United States has drilled for and recovered more than 15 billion barrels of oil from Alaska’s North Slope, merely 70 miles to the west of Anwar.

  • We rarely hear about gas hydrates, also known as the ice that burns. If you put a match to gas hydrate, it burns with a soft orange flame. This is essentially frozen natural gas. There are hundreds of billions of potential barrel equivalence of natural gas in gas hydrates particularly here in the United States.

  • We have not built a new oil refinery in the United States since 1976. The trouble it is to try to upgrade a refinery, the permitting process to go through, the not-in-my-backyard syndrome that is taking place, it is really easier for companies to close down refineries than to build new ones. They can’t get the permits, so we do things such as asking Mexico to build refineries.

    Well, you get the picture — and it’s not pretty.

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    Just when you thought it might be safe to leave your money in the bank, a new film comes along, provoking nightmare images of the great, fuel-thirsty American republic coughing and sputtering to a lurching stop.The new documentary from Citizens United, “We Have the Power,”...
    Tuesday, 11 November 2008 12:51 PM
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