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Switching It Up

Lawmakers of all stripes constantly tout their support for an “all of the above” domestic energy strategy, but no one has yet to propose a policy that promotes domestic fossil fuel development while simultaneously building out the various renewable sectors that can win sufficient backing.

“Switch,” a documentary set for release Friday in Washington, D.C., doesn’t offer specifics on a strategy that Congress might employ. But it does utilize original data and interviews with top officials in government and industry to make the case that every energy resource, no matter where it comes from in nature, has its pros and cons. That’s the sort of gray area lawmakers usually try to avoid, at least publicly, but what the hey.

Director Harry Lynch and Scott W. Tinker of the University of Texas take viewers on a journey around the world — from hydropower plants inside the mountains of Norway to a Gulf of Mexico deepwater drilling platform — examining the traditional methods of extracting coal and oil and juxtaposing those “foundational” energy sources with wind farms dotting rural landscapes and streams of water and sand cracking open previously untouchable underground gas reserves.

The objective of the film and its accompanying website, which contains a video library with more than five hours of content, is to provide a baseline, macro-level energy education to the public that is rooted in science, Lynch said.

Lynch said he and Tinker went into the project with their minds open as to what the ultimate message would be, which is that efficiencies achieved by individual consumers are vital to pushing mankind through the switchover from coal and oil to renewables used in concert with natural gas and nuclear power to maintain baseload grid needs.

The point is hammered home by measuring each power plant or resource shown in the film by the number of people it would power in a year. The filmmakers estimate that the global average is 20 million watt-hours per person.

“I think changing the culture to prioritize efficiency is an extraordinarily important thing to do,” Lynch said.

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