WASHINGTON – Maryland Congressman Roscoe Bartlett never spares words in his fight to prevent an American energy crisis, but the platform for his views on “peak oil” will jump from the House floor to the silver screen this weekend.
Bartlett, R-Frederick, appears in the film “OilCrash,” which could reach thousands of viewers in its world premiere Saturday at the South by Southwest Film Festival in Austin, Texas. The 90-minute documentary examines whether oil demands have hit a breaking point. Its promotional material says, “This is the prediction of a worldwide catastrophe in six years from now . . .”
Bartlett has delivered roughly 10 speeches on an impending oil crisis to his fellow lawmakers, making him a natural source for “OilCrash” filmmakers Basil Gelpke and Ray McCormack, of Lava Productions AG in Zurich, Switzerland.
“My name’s out there,” Bartlett said. “If you do a Google search for ‘peak oil,’ my name will come up.”
Peak oil refers to the theory that oil production has or will soon peak, creating a drastic fuel deficiency as the demand for energy continues to rise.
Bartlett is confident that peak oil is a real danger. In past remarks, Bartlett noted Marion King Hubbert as the man who identified the peak oil issue in 1956. Hubbert predicted that U.S. oil production would peak around 1970, and production has indeed declined every year since then, Bartlett said. Experts differ on whether the world’s oil production has or will peak, but most predict the problem is imminent, according to Bartlett. Swiss filmmaker Gelpke interviewed Bartlett in the congressman’s Rayburn office and in the Capitol’s Statuary Hall. Bartlett was also filmed in his car, a hybrid Toyota Prius, which reflects the film’s energy theme. Although the congressman has not seen the finished product, Bartlett’s office estimated he is on-screen for roughly 10 minutes. Bartlett said appearing on film differs from a television interview, because 90 percent of the film footage will end up on the cutting room floor. “A TV appearance is very structured,” he said. “This is not structured. It’s very casual. You can be relaxed.” Bartlett believes peak oil will be the No. 1 issue for the planet in the next decade, so he takes advantage of any opportunity to address it. CNN interviewed Bartlett for “CNN Presents ‘We Were Warned: Tomorrow’s oil crisis,'” which will air March 18. “OilCrash” has the potential to receive thousands of viewers this weekend. The film festival, SXSW for short, attracts roughly 40,000 guests annually with celebrities Charlize Theron and Ray Romano expected to attend this year, said Matt Dentler, film festival producer. The film segment is part of the South by Southwest Festivals and Conferences held March 10 to March 19. It will screen 230 short and feature films from around the world. Bartlett hopes “OilCrash” will be well-received and distributed in the United States. “I hope it has a big impact,” he said. Bartlett himself is trying to make an impact on energy habits through Congress. He was happy to see President Bush address energy in his State of the Union address, but the congressman does not think current policy goes far enough to shake Americans’ dependence on oil. “If you don’t do something about this today the sky probably won’t fall,” Bartlett said. “If you’re in the administration, you have to deal with the Iraq thing; you have to deal with the port thing.” Bartlett introduced a House Resolution in October 2005, calling on Congress and international allies to “establish an energy project with the magnitude, creativity, and sense of urgency that was incorporated in the ‘Man on the Moon’ project to address the inevitable challenges of ‘Peak Oil.'” The resolution was referred to the Subcommittee on Energy and Air Quality in November. But Bartlett believes the longer federal officials wait to address peak oil, the harder an inevitable switch to alternative energy sources will be. “Whether we like it or not,” he said, “there will be a transition.”