Peak Oil News: Syriana: Hollywood's Oil Flick

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Syriana: Hollywood's Oil Flick

Toward Freedom

By Rob Williams

SyrianaDirector Stephen Gaghan’s gripping new film "Syriana" explores the roots of 21st century civilization’s biggest dilemma: Peak Oil. Inexpensive fossil fuels – oil and natural gas – have floated both the corporate-controlled global economy and U.S. imperial planetary hegemony for the past several decades. Now, the party is over, as "elephant" fields like Kuwait’s Burgan are peaking, oil companies are maintaining sagging portfolios by buying up other companies’ reserves (real and fictitious). The world is beginning to grasp the significance of living without immediate and inexpensive access to one of the 20th century’s most vital resources.

Perhaps "Syriana’s" biggest weakness (if one can call it that) is that Gaghan doesn’t pander to his audience. Instead, he seamlessly stitches together a complex and fast-moving narrative that tracks more than a dozen characters on four continents, assuming we know more about the way the world really works than we might.

To fully appreciate "Syriana’s" storyline, it’s important to understand that the world currently consumes 80 million barrels of oil a day, with the globe’s richest and most powerful empire (that’s the U.S.) burning up 20 million of those barrels. Understand, further, that the United States reached "peak oil" (maximum domestic production capacity) in 1970, when it produced 10 million barrels of oil a day. Now, as U.S. supply dwindles, the country currently produce only 5 million domestic barrels a day (while consuming 20 million, remember), for a yearly consumption total of 7 billion barrels, while possessing only 28 billion barrels in strategic reserves. That leaves fifteen million barrels of oil the U.S. needs each day that we can’t produce ourselves. If oil-producing nations (say Iran or Venezuela) cut the U.S. off tomorrow, we’d have only four years of oil and natural gas left.

Rather than give the oil-producing nations of the world that kind of power, U.S. based energy corporations (the fictional Connex and Killan corporations, who merge in "Syriana) and the U.S. government (now essentially the same entity, with Team Bush/Cheney/Condi/ Wolfy/Rummy running DC) have worked tirelessly during the past few decades to secure control over the world’s remaining fossil fuel reserves.

Make no mistake – under cover of a post-911 "war on terror," the U.S. government is waging a sequential struggle to control the planet’s known remaining oil and natural gas reserves - Afghanistan and Iraq are but stepping stones to increased U.S. geo-strategic control over the greater Middle East.

The C.I.A., represented in "Syriana" by George Clooney’s Bob Barnes, an agent who moves from true believer to angry skeptic, exists primarily to do the unpleasant but necessary work of funding Wall Street bankers and fueling U.S. imperial expansion by employing a wide variety of tools to ensure that the right deals are made by the right governments: drug smuggling, money laundering, weapons smuggling, election skullduggery, and assassination. Access and control of oil reserves is integral to their mission, as "Syriana" suggests.

And, as "Syriana" makes plain throughout the story, energy corporations and the U.S. government are doing this, not just to make huge profits, but to perpetuate the current oil-lubricated American way of life for as long as possible. Many of us may pay lip service to opposing Team Bush/Exxon/ Cheney/ Halliburton’s plans, but as long as we refuse to make a radical energy shift, we are complicit in this whole exercise. Without being heavy-handed or preachy, Gaghan reminds us of this in subtle ways throughout the film.

And, lest we get too cranky with ourselves, other powerful nations (China, with an economy exploding at an annual 10% rate, takes center stage in "Syriana") are desperately looking for fuel, and the often-corrupt patriarchal emirs of Middle Eastern oil-producing nations are happy to sell, especially if it means enriching their own pockets and building their own palaces as part of the bargain. And what if a more enlightened desert despot (Iran’s Prince Nasir in "Syriana) wishes to sell his country’s black gold to the highest bidder (say, China) to make possible a more democratic, tolerant and prosperous society for his own people? Declare him a terrorist ("communist" or "socialist" are so retro) and eliminate him.

"Everything is connected," reads "Syrian’s" tag line. Indeed it is. We also meet energy trader Bryan Woodman (Matt Damon), who ends up backing Nasir’s efforts to nationalize his country’s energy fields; Iranian and displaced oil worker-turned fundamentalist/terrorist Wasim Khan; investigative lawyer Bennett Holiday (Jeffrey Wright) and a host of other characters whose lives converge in one of the most provocative and true-to-life stories of our time.

"Syriana" is probably the closest Hollywood will ever come to presenting on honest picture of our Peak Oil dilemma. Don’t miss it.


At 4:53 PM, December 27, 2005, Anonymous rkelly said...

The best answer that I have found is what these folks have done, Findhorn, et al. or

Also, this is incredibly interesting:

I am of the opinion that should we continue to waste time in waiting for people who are supposedly our leaders to lead US into a sane and sensible future, well then, we deserve the climax that awaits us.

With or without peak oil is not the point, really, the issue is over-population and that is why these war mongers belive in killing. They actually believe it is one of the natural ways to take care of the problem.

And it does appear that we as a species don't quite get that we can't overpopulate the planet without consequences.

It doesn't look like this is the first time we've gazed into the crystal ball and determined our Homo-sapiens destiny.

Thus, small ecovillages that are NOT a full scale modern civilization that becomes a gluttonous vampire, seems to be what our natural balance as a planet and species is all about.

We'll see what happens when the reality enema of conservation becomes manifest.

In the interim, those of us who want to be part of the solution and not the problem must begin our conservation act and that was 60 years ago now so today is a good day to begin.

Energy is an infinite concept but technology is highly limited without energy and the sun, moon, stars, planets, CO2, O2, water, are renewable, sustainable, reliant. Thus, how do we tap into all these energy resources and use them to make plastic or petro-chemical medicine, and what about fertilizer for the billions of people to survive, our necessity of agriculture for the staff of life?

If there was an alternative to oil, as greedy as the people who think they've been chosen to inherit the Earth are, they'd be selling it like it is the hottest commodity on Wall Street.

So far I haven't seen any stocks for an oil alternative that can produce the infinite products that petroleum can and does. There are no publicly traded nor privately traded stocks for a petroleum solution. This says much.

Again, focus on finding ecovillages and figure out how to demand other people be part of the solution rather than the problem. As long as we are mass consumers for things that are not life sustaining, then we are part of the problem.

Lastly, the fundamentalist loons who believe this is finally their armageddon, at long last here to rapture them into heaven, well this is our greatest problem because they will use peak oil to hasten the end and convince themselves that it is from god almightly.


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