A Crude Awakening - The Oil Crash

Scaremongering for sure, but a useful wake-up call to a world without oil.

Released in 2006, certified Not Yet Rated. Reviewed on 22 Aug 2006 by Scott Morris
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We are running out of oil. This, I take it, is not news to anyone. The whole classification of oil as 'non-renewable' kinda implies it, no? What you may not have considered in quite so much depth is the timescales involved, and that's what the terribly be-punned documentary A Crude Awakening seeks to enlighten us about. Seeing as my day job services primarily the oil & gas and petrochem sectors this was something of a busman's holiday for me, but even so managed to provide some food for thought, which is fairly remarkable in and of itself.

The facts, and they're mostly reliable facts gleaned from prominent advisors to governments, oil companies, OPEC and oil company ex-directors are stark and worrying. Some of the more fanciful extrapolations are downright terrifying, and at the same time mostly believable. The directors freely admit to being 'caught up in a survivalist way of looking at the world', and typically 'survivalist' can be replaced with 'moonbat' with no loss of meaning, but in this case the predicted last drop doomsday is utterly inevitable, although the timescale may not be quite so dramatic as presented here.

Then again, there's a better than evens chance that it will. Peak Oil, as the term runs for the point in the oil production curve's life when we've hit the maximum possible barrels/day extraction rate and start having to reduce the amount of oil to go around, is going to happen. It could be twenty years away, although a decent number of experts are saying its happening under our very noses. Having become used to this source of cheap, exceedingly utilitarian resource, how can we do without it?

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I trust I won't need to drive home how vital the black gold is for your continued way of life; you'll be hard pressed to find a room in your home without some plastic product, or a wardrobe without some synthetic material. Your food stands a decent chance of having been fertilised with a petroleum byproduct, and we're not even reached your car yet. What this film seeks to have you realise is that over the immediate future, all of this will necessarily become more expensive, as rising economies like China and India keep on increasing the Demand part of the equation, and once Supply starts to fall the only axis left to move is Price, and that's not going to be cheap.

What can we do to kick the habit? Nothing, not unless serious research is started immediately which certain companies and governments have little interest in backing, mortgaging your children's future with wishy washy hopes that innovation and technology will magic up better extraction processes of low oil density sources. Realistically, we've found all the oil fields we're going to. How far will we go to secure our oil supplies? Say, invading countries and seizing them by force? Hmm. Unless you want to have your armies permanently deployed to the Middle East, it may be prudent to start looking at some way out of this hole we're digging before we all have to go back to tending farmsteads while all the Hummers rust away.

A Crude Awakening certainly isn't a visual feast or a laugh-a-minute thrill ride, although the interviewees throwing the potential problems into such stark relief makes for riveting watching. I'm not sure if it's too dry and technical for mass market appeal - I'm in a strange subset of the audience for this film that means I can't judge that too well, but there's certainly no overwhelming technobabble and the issues are apparent enough on inspection. The only real bone I have with this film is the sound quality, the print show at the Edinburgh International Film Festival sounding rather like a low-bitrate MP3 file complete with audio spiking, but this may be an isolated problem. In short, this is another one of those documentaries you need to watch, and think about the next time you're complaining about the price of petrol creeping up to a quid a litre.

Were I in the business of passing quantifiable judgements, I'd award this 4/5 TippyMarks.

Basil Gelpke
Ray McCormack
Cast list:
Fadhil Chalabhi (Himself)
Matthew Simmons (Himself)
Sheikh Zaki Yamani (Himself)