As the glitter is polished out by Rodeo drive, the role of documentary films reveals itself yet again. Today’s headline at the New York Times features the potential contaminating effects of Natural Gas exploration. The “right” want to convince the population that cheaper natural resources are imperative to our energy independence. On the “left” the debate hovers around saving the pristine – the essence of life: clean water.  At both fronts, big money is at stake.

Hollywood needs to dramatically impact our lives to stay relevant.  Thankfully so.  Without the reprive, each of us would loose sight on what is important to our own well being.  The debate that cinema can raise is evidenced each time you leave a theater and ask (hopefully with others) what did you think?

The commerce/business side of the debate is something other – typically what will you earn?  T. Boone Pickens and independent film maker Josh Fox (backed by HBO), have a David vs. Goliath story.

Because a little self promo never hurts – LUBIE LOVE was screened first in 2009 (Tribeca, Denver, DC)  to raise awareness of the consumer/commerce role in this very essential national debate.

Fox, the successful thespian and Brooklyn based film maker, took his own encounter with big oil to the next level.   His ownership of a plot of Pennsylvania land had a natural resource that could fuel his future – Natural Gas.  All he had to do was sell out.

Yet to sell out too low or not at all, Fox decided to uncover the problems associated with Natural Gas exploration.  His fill, today up for an Oscar, is GASLAND.  In it, his road trip carried him to Colorado.  His now famous scene – a flame bursting from a rural Colorado landowner’s kitchen sink is at the heart of the debate: Will the need for consumer energy outweigh the need for consumer essentials – clean drinking water?

As T. Boone Pickens may point out, we just do not need clean water but “conflict free” cheap energy.  Since both commodities society has to pay a price for, consumers must quickly decide if we would rather have more water to drink or more fuel to carry us on in our consuming ways.

As an economist, it is essential that we have affordable energy supplies.  Boone and Fox are each accurate.  The unfortunate fact is that either Fox has to sell a great amount of tickets or Boone has to convince congress that your next car should be natural gas powered.

Any rancher – typically the same as a landowner – in Colorado knows the importance of water rights.  The water feeds each of us ultimately.  Keeping this depleting resource pristine is essential – for all of us to survive.  Cattle, feed, crops, corn, little Sally to your sister Ella require first, water, and than a means to get a product to market.  As has been mentioned so many times on this site, selecting a Clean alternative to oil should be left to the market.  With humans at the controls we hopefully will find ourselves with a clean environment.  Yet hope is not a good method to get an effective outcome – be it in horseshoes or hand grenades.  Policy changes, in Washington and at the state level, need to be made.  Energy policy that affects each of us – individually and as companies.

GASLAND underscores the essential problem with shifting from oil to an alternative.  We have the same issue whether considering nuclear power, “clean coal”, tar sands or natural gas – using some substance to extract energy.  The real alternative is a bridge to Solar and Wind.

When funded correctly, electricity can be cleanly produced with a lower external cost to our environment.  The same Colorado land owners in GASLAND, along with many others be it farmers, home owners or oil companies can solve the natural “NIMBY” debate.  By rationally positioning each structure optimized for southern exposure, built to local code and guidelines broadly set at the federal level, a viable upgradeable infrastructure can eliminate our fuel dependency.  In areas less served by wind and solar, natural resources like “conflict free” Natural Gas should be used.  It is not in the interest of us collectively to loose options – specifically if our national economic success depends on it.   Our future economy must be driven by advanced, clean techniques.

Kudos to both T. Boone Pickens and Josh Fox for raising the awareness and debate.  See GASLAND!