In the Q & A session following the New York premier of “Pump”, a guest asked, “When will the world run out of oil?”

The former President of Shell Oil Company John Hofmeister responded, “it’s not a matter of when the world will run out of oil, but when the world will run out of inexpensive oil.” “Pump” makes clear one thing: oil is used in everything, from clothing to furniture, plastics to medicine and, yes, even engines to power cars. And increased demand leads to, you guessed, higher prices. “Pump” explores this in a holistic, appreciative and thoughtful way.

 

Through history, cars have been man’s way of signifying freedom, liberation, and empowerment. In developing countries, cars act as the ultimate status symbol, an indication of financial security and self-worth. But as the world grows increasingly sophisticated (and with that, more mobile) the demand for oil will skyrocket. According to “Pump,” this increase in oil price has been planned for decades. Centuries, even.

 

“Pump”, narrated by Jason Bateman (“Arrested Development”), describes the conspiracies behind oil’s rise in value, from the very beginning with John. D. Rockefeller and the destruction of America’s comprehensive trolley system, all the way to the EPA forbidding drivers from tampering with in-car computers as a way to sustain traditional oil dependency. It’s reasonably convincing. What replaced the trolleys? Gasoline and diesel buses. Why forbid drivers from changing settings in a car? They might cause a fault, voiding the warranty.

 

Of course, “Pump”, directed by husband and wife Joshua and Rebecca Harrell Tickell, breaks down the US interest (and therefore, warfare) in the Middle East by crediting it to the need to protect oil reserves. Easy target? Maybe, until you realize the proximity of US army bases to oil reserves and refineries. It’s not a coincidence. How about here, in the US? Oil was discovered in huge reserves in N. Dakota, potentially changing the outlook for US oil production forever, moving it to the forefront- a top producing country. But at what cost to human health? And whatever the expensive, evasive construction? The controversial act of fracking has crept into commonality, with pipelines littering Midwestern state lines. All this, for just a bit more oil? Again, “Pump” finds this relatively unsustainable.

 

“Pump” goes great lengths showcasing the many types of cleaner oils that can power automobiles, and highlights – perhaps more importantly – that many of these cars are on the road today (Flexfuel vehicles). Additionally, “Pump” considers electric vehicles as well. “Pump” uses the 2008 crisis as an example of what is likely to happen in a future that is dependant on today’s oil. In July 2008, oil reached $147 a barrel, unprecedented. The purchasing power of Americans dropped, and economics shifted. It verified and vilified the world’s dependence.

 

To look at examples of independence for big oil, “Pump” looks to Brazil, which gives its drivers options and forces competition at the pump. Brazil has ethanol pumps in addition to typical gas. The two prices work against each other. And Brazil can function without one or the other. Many experts apply this measure (which stimulated the economy of Brazil and created jobs) to the rest of the world, with Brazil being the (successful) guinea pig.

 

 

“Pump” explores a range of alternative fuels including ethanol, methanol, natural gas among others, but never suggests humanity stop driving cars altogether. It would be a major technological step backward, damaging decades of effort. Instead, “Pump” offers reasonable, grassroots-style progress that enables anyone to make a sustainable change. Primarily, the Fuel Freedom Association funded the film.

Ashleigh Banfield, Sir Richard Branson, Lady Lynn de Rothschild, Haim Saban, Andrew Tisch Marion and Elie Wiesel invite us to join producers Eyal Aronoff, Yossie Hollander, Jana Edelbaum at the film’s New York premiere at the MoMA hosted by distributor Submarine Deluxe. A fun party followed at Harlow.

It is now playing in select New York City and LA theaters.