The issues and choices surrounding our use of energy have rarely been more complex than today, yet our main channels for information about them are discouragingly shallow.
The web is often more effective at spreading misperceptions than fact-based analysis. When our visual media focus on energy, it’s usually to flash bad news before flitting on to the next story, leaving behind images of burning oil platforms or blacked-out cities. One bright spot is the recent wave of documentary films on energy topics. Films engage us on a deeper level, and the energy challenges we face deserve such longer-form treatment. August seems like a perfect time to suggest a few of them to you. If you’re reading this blog, then I’m betting you might at least consider watching a movie about energy instead of the latest summer blockbuster.
Although it was hardly the first serious film about energy, the recent trend seemed to start with “Gasland”. For all its inaccuracies, which have been documented by groups outside industry, that film helped start a national conversation about the right way to develop the enormous unconventional oil and gas resources that new combinations of technology have unlocked. In the spirit of making that dialog more constructive and even-handed, you should also know about two other documentaries covering the same topic and region from a different angle. To many of the farmers and other landowners in depressed counties of New York and Pennsylvania, fracking is not a curse but an actual or potential lifeline. Seeing “Truthland” and “Empire State Divide” might not convert fracking skeptics into gas industry supporters, but it should at least fill in some of the gaps left by the “Gasland’s” starkly one-sided portrayal of shale gas.