(aka "The Oil Crash" )


directed by Basil Gelpke, Ray McCormack and Reto Caduff
Switzerland 2006


“We’re not making any more dinosaurs.”

Ever since geologist M. King Hubbert proposed his peak oil theory in 1956, paranoid acolytes have been wondering that the era of fossil fuel energy and, by extension, Western civilization itself is coming to and end any day now. Hubbert’s controversial theory predicted that oil production would peak in America sometime in the late 60’s or early 70’s. He turned out to be right. In 1970, America produced over 10 million barrels per day; just 10 years later production was down to 7 million. Many other countries have experienced similar declines in oil production with the notable exception of Saudi Arabia, now producing over 12 million barrels per day. You were wondering why American presidents of the past 30+ years have loved their Saudi friends so dearly?

Peak oil proponents have extended Hubbert’s theories far beyond their original intent, suggesting that worldwide oil production has either already peaked or is about to peak, and once we hit the downslope all hell will break close. “A Crude Awakening” takes a look at the consequences of a peak oil world and also examines series of equally impractical alternative solutions to replace black gold. Oil sands in Canada seem promising until you realize that excavating oil from these tarry reserves uses as much or more energy from natural gas than is generated by the extracted oil. Ethanol is a shell game designed to appease farmers and also to grossly inflate food prices, as anyone who has shopped at a grocery store in the fast few years has noticed. Solar power? It’s the best idea so far and easily the largest available energy source, but the infrastructure is nowhere close to sufficient to replace our dependence on dead brontosauri.
The documentary paints a rather bleak picture of society after peak oil. In the final section “Life After the Peak,” some of the talking hands argue that the search for alternative fuels is just false hope. We’re just going to have to settle for a lower standard of living, especially since oil is peaking at the same time that India and China are ramping up their consumption of it.
Is it time to be petro-fied? Some of the dire warnings expressed here sound an awful lot like the doomsayers predicting the END OF LIFE AS WE KNOW IT after Y2K. But just because Y2K proved to be as threatening as a Penny Marshall film doesn’t mean the peak oilers are all three slices short of a loaf. Oil will peak sometime in the near future, and we do not currently have any fuel source that yields anywhere near as much energy. LIFE AS WE KNOW IT may indeed end, at least if you consider that LIFE AS WE KNOW IT (the fossil fuel age, that is) is merely a tiny blip on the timeline of human existence. Human ingenuity may produce something even better. Otherwise all that fat we’ve built up in the last 30 years is going to serve us well on those long walks to work.

Christopher Long


Theatrical Release:

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DVD Review: Docurama - Region 1 - NTSC

Big thanks to Christopher Long for the Review!

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Region 1 - NTSC

Runtime 85 min.

1.78:1 Original Aspect Ratio

16X9 enhanced
Average Bitrate: 5.53 mb/s
NTSC 720x480 29.97 f/s

NOTE: The Vertical axis represents the bits transferred per second. The Horizontal is the time in minutes.


Audio English - Dolby Digital 5.1
Features Release Information:
Studio: Docurama

Aspect Ratio:
Widescreen anamorphic - 1.78:1

Edition Details:
• Extended Interviews
• Bonus Chapter: Petrostates

DVD Release Date: July 31st, 2007
Keep case

Chapters 14




The interlaced transfer is a mediocre one at best, with numerous examples of combing evident, some of which are pretty bad. The audio transfer is somewhat better.

The “Petrostates” extra is very brief (4 min.) and just rehashes material from the documentary, but the four extended interviews sure as heck are extended at about 90 minutes total running time. I’m afraid I didn’t watch them so I can’t comment on their quality.

This alarmist documentary isn’t entirely convincing, but it should serve its call of “awakening” viewers who have never even heard about peak oil and its potential ramifications. The score by Phillip Glass seems out of synch with the relatively staid visual style.

 - Christopher Long


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