Films on Energy

Powering the Future

Documentary 2010 TV-G 4 Episodes. This four-part miniseries from Discovery Channel provides an in-depth view of the future of energy, examines various alternatives to our dependency on fossil fuels and sets the stage for a new energy economy. This series is a highly realistic and unbiased presentation of the pros & cons of potential improvements to existing technologies or entirely new technologies for renewable energy. Amazing show and extremely inspiring, showing us the problems and providing us the solutions, down to what we can do as individuals. It’s fantastic that they showed all sizes of green initiatives being undertaken from the US Navy down to neighborhood coalitions started by average people to install solar panels on their roofs and sell energy back to the grid — every neighborhood should do this. This documentary showed that geothermal, wind and solar offer us a real solution IF we can scale up fast enough, which will be challenging to say the least. It is a very interesting and informative series that I highly recommend you watch.


Documentary 2010 NR 107 minutes. In this Oscar-nominated documentary, director Josh Fox journeys across America to examine the negative effects of natural-gas drilling, from poisoned water sources to kitchen sinks that burst into flames to unhealthy animals and people.

The Last Mountain

Documentary 2011 PG 1hr 35m. This is a gripping documentary that follows ordinary citizens in West Virginia’s Coal River Valley as they wage a campaign to prevent the infamous Massey Energy Company from expanding ruinous mountaintop removal mining operations. Robert F. Kennedy Jr. and the people of Coal River for show us that corporations have to be held accountable for their greed and belief that profits trump life. Explores wind turbines as alternative use of the mountaintops. See Full Review

Dirty Business
“Clean Coal” and the Battle for Our Energy Future

Documentary Center for Investigative Reporting, 2010 88 min. Dirty Business is the best and most comprehensive look at global dependence on coal, and explores some promising alternatives. The film by Peter Bull is built around the work of Jeff Goodell, who wrote the important book Big Coal. Goodell begins with the devastating impact of coal mining in Appalachia. He remembers when he first saw the impact of mountaintop removal mining: “It was like the first time you look into a slaughterhouse after you’ve spent a lifetime of eating hamburgers.” The film travels to Mesquite, Nev., where residents are fighting a coal-fired plant, and also to China to explore the health impact of coal there—an important piece of the story not included in any of the other films reviewed here. The film’s strength is its exploration of alternatives to coal—wind, solar thermal, increased energy efficiency through recycling “waste heat”—which makes this a valuable resource for science as well as social studies classes. The treatment of carbon dioxide sequestration may confuse students; the film simultaneously suggests that this is a terrible idea in North America but a good one in China. But, on the whole, Dirty Business is a fine and lively overview of a complicated issue.

Patagonia Rising

Documentary 2011 NR 1hr 27m. This documentary investigates a controversial plan to build five large hydroelectric dams in Chile’s famed wilderness, leaving a lasting cultural and environment impact on the region and its gaucho residents.


Documentary 2010 NR 101 minutes. An unsettling wake-up call to all Americans, this documentary dissects the country’s dependence on foreign pipelines, exposes rich oil companies’ devious dealings, and explores alternative fuels as a viable solution to our global energy crisis. Narrated by actor Peter Gallagher, the film includes interviews with government officials, scientific experts, academics and politicians from both sides of the aisle.

The Big Energy Gamble

Documentary Nova 2009 NR 53m. Looking ahead toward the challenges associated with global warming, this “Nova” special examines California’s strategies for dealing with emerging energy crises and asks whether they can be applied to the nation as a whole. Highlights include a look at Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s decision to cut carbon dioxide emissions and champion energy efficiency in the state, an approach that has drawn some controversy.

Houston, We Have a Problem

Documentary 2008 NR 81 minutes. Taking viewers inside America’s oil industry, this documentary from director Nicole Torre goes straight to the source to get the skinny on the global energy crisis and the voracious American appetite for oil that’s fueling it.

Fuel (Fields of Fuel)

Documentary 2008 NR 111 minutes. With America so dependent on oil, filmmaker Joshua Tickell sets out to prove that biodiesel, made from vegetable oil, is a viable alternative. Although politicians and energy execs have done their best to quell it, the benefits of biodiesel are real. This documentary (winner of the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance) chronicles Tickell’s quest to popularize the untraditional fuel source, citing the environmental and economic advantages the country could reap by adopting it.

Revolution Green:
A True Story of Biodiesel in America

Documentary 2007 NR 1hr 10m. Filmmaker Stephen B. Strout’s inspiring documentary focuses on entrepreneurs Bob King and his wife, Kelly, who in 1996 — without financial funding — developed a method of converting waste vegetable oil into a renewable source of biodiesel fuel. See Full Review

e2: Energy

Documentary 2007 NR 180 minutes. Oscar winner Morgan Freeman narrates this thought-provoking examination of an environmentally friendly future through the lens of policy, technology and innovation. Segments cover California’s accomplishments in emission control; inefficiencies in transportation; ethanol in Brazil and its future in the United States; solar energy used to fight poverty in Bangladesh; wind power in Minnesota; and the future of coal and nuclear power.

Solar Energy: Saved by the Sun

Documentary Nova 2007 NR 56 minutes. From Germany’s wildly successful renewable energy program to the possibility of “solar paint,” “Nova” explores the technologies, research, innovation and economics behind the efforts to harness the sun’s power. The program delves into research at Colorado’s National Renewable Energy Lab, tours solar-paneled homes, visits the world’s largest solar thermal plant and examines the potential to capture the sun’s energy using nanotechnology.

Renewable Energy

Documentary 2006 NR 50 minutes. With an eye on the future, this thought-provoking History Channel special examines the potential of wind, water and the like to literally change the way we live. The higher gas prices climb, the more people look to alternative energy sources that are reliable and renewable. Could harnessing the power of biofuels, geothermal energy, the sun and shifting tides be the key to humanity’s long-term survival?

Transforming Energy

Documentary 2006 NR 60 minutes. Anyone despairing about the effects of global warming can take heart after watching this documentary about the hope offered by alternative energy sources. Introducing viewers to a raft of individuals working to create a new energy paradigm — from the president of the world’s largest solar panel company to a family living off the grid in Iowa — the film brings a wealth of new ideas to the debate about global warning.

Revolution Green
A True Story of Biodiesel in America

Documentary 2007 NR 1hr 10m. Filmmaker Stephen B. Strout’s inspiring documentary focuses on entrepreneurs Bob King and his wife, Kelly, who in 1996 — without financial funding — developed a method of converting waste vegetable oil into a renewable source of biodiesel fuel.

Tortillanomics: Food or Fuel?
The Competition for Mexico’s Corn

Mexico is among many countries worldwide dealing with unrest caused by rising food prices. Frontline/World reporter Malia Wollan discovers that increasing demand for corn-based biofuel in the United States is driving up the cost of Mexico’s staple food, the tortilla.

The Smartest Guys in the Room

Documentary 2005 R 110 minutes. Based on the book of the same name by Peter Elkin, director Alex Gibney’s documentary takes a behind-the-scenes look at the powerful energy company whose downfall forever changed the landscape of the business world.


Documentary Frontline 2001. Frontline Power shortages. Rolling blackouts. Skyrocketing utility bills. California’s power disaster has made “energy” a national front-burner issue. The state’s power crunch has affected everyone from homeowners and small businesses to the big-business consumers of electricity who originally pushed for deregulation. Now, the state’s largest utility, PG& E, has filed for bankruptcy. But is California’s energy crisis the result of flawed deregulation and the weather-or, as some charge, market manipulation by a new breed of power entrepreneurs? Or a bit of both? And could other states face similar energy shortages?


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