Kilowatt Ours: A Plan to Re-Energize America by Jeff Barrie is the best energy film on the market. No wonder this independent documentary has spawned a nationwide movement to conserve energy. In fact, one of the central thesis of the film is that the best possible energy choice is the conservation of energy. A brilliant, humorous, extremely accessible energy film.
The film opens with Barrie explaining that he wanted to discover solutions to the energy crisis starting in his own home. He demonstrates how even the most modest of home can conserve energy. He asks, “If we had a better option for energy, what would we choose?” Most people would respond that green energy is the best solution, but in fact North Americans can do a lot to stop wasting energy right now. Conserving energy can be implemented a lot quicker and more cheaply than switching to any clean energy alternatives.
Kilowatt Ours follows the electricity from the wall to the mountains being excavated for coal. He interviews activist Larry Gibson from the Appalachian Mountains who explains just how incredibly unviable coal is for an energy option. “You need to move 24 million tons of earth to get 20 million tons of coal,” he explains. Another local activist explains that each day more than 20,000 tons of explosives are detonated to get at the coal in the Appalachian Mountains. In the USA, more than 450 mountains have been destroyed to mine coal.
Coal is an important part of the American energy story considering that more than half of the electricity in America comes from coal-fired power plants. One-kilowatt hour of electricity requires one pound of coal.
Kilowatt Ours covers a lot of basic energy information that most people are unfamiliar with. For example, the average American home uses more than 900-kilowatt hours of energy per month. Which translates into the average American home using about five tons of coal per year. In total, the country uses more than one billion tons of coal each year and coal fired power plants remain the largest source of carbon emissions in America.
After explaining energy basics, including a good overview of climate change, Kilowatt Ours focuses on solutions. One of the solutions to the energy crisis that is often proposed is nuclear power. However, nuclear power is neither economically nor financially viable. If you consider that there is still no safe and permanent disposal solution for the highly radioactive reactor waste and voluminous quantities of lower level contaminated waste. The USA is currently proposing to build a $60 billion dollar facility for storing nuclear waste in the Yucca Mountains in Nevada. This is only temporary storage for the lethal nuclear waste until a better solution is found. One scientist remarks that nuclear power is the most expensive way of making electricity when you take into account building the facilities and disposing of the waste.
The remainder of Kilowatt Ours is spent on tangible energy saving solutions with examples from businesses, homeowners, towns, cities and governments who are leading the way on energy conservation. Perhaps one of the most interesting parts of the film (and there are a lot to choose from) is when Kilowatt Ours shows how communities, rather than building new power plants, opt to reduce the equivalent amount of energy needed. Austin, Texas and California are just two of the American communities that successfully adopted the conservation approach. The message in Kilowatt Ours is that conservation should be our first step in ‘greening’ our homes, businesses and communities.
Kilowatt Ours is the rare environmental filmic jewel – it is well made, filled with just enough facts and figures to galvanize people to action, good for all ages, humorous and extremely accessible.
Kilowatt Ours is The Inconvenient Truth of energy. A must see film for every person in North America.
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