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Switch: The Film and the Project

Switch, a new documentary film directed by Harry Lynch and co-produced by and featuring Scott Tinker as narrator and interviewer, explores the question: What does the future of energy really hold?

According to Tinker, the choice of film as the medium to explore the various types of energy and our evolving energy mix “was the most powerful way to investigate the subject.”

Tinker wears many hats. He is director of the Bureau of Economic Geology and the state geologist of Texas. And he is the acting associate dean for research and a professor holding the Allday Endowed Chair in the Jackson School of Geosciences at The University of Texas at Austin.

Harry Lynch, the film’s director, co-producer, and co-writer, found it important to make the film “because energy makes modern life possible.”

Tinker says what sets Switch apart from other documentaries that explore the topic of energy is “We started with a question then went out to find the answers, working hard to remain unbiased and open to new ideas.”

According to Lynch, the basic goal is “to start a balanced … energy conversation with this film.”

Going Where Few Have Gone Before

Even for people who work in the energy industry, the breadth and scope of the subject can be elusive. The filmmakers set out to bring its vastness into the purview of the average citizen of our planet.

They drive deep into a mountain in Norway and show us a hydro project whose soaring ceiling and art reminiscent of stained glass make one think of the grandeur of a cathedral.

They take us inside the virtually impregnable walls of a nuclear facility, to fields of sorghum and switch grass, to the vast expanse of the world’s largest coal mine, to an enormous liquefied-natural-gas tanker with a protective cascade of water falling over its hull in Qatar, inside and up to the top of a wind turbine in Denmark, inside a steam plant in the oil sands of northern Canada, to the Perdido platform 200 miles offshore Texas, to the steaming waters outside a geothermal plant
in Iceland.

They fly us over the Strait of Hormuz in the Middle East to glimpse an Iranian platform in the waters, and across Roscoe, the world’s largest wind farm, located in west Texas. We see the crowded streets of India, the shining arrays of solar panels in Spain, the complex inner workings of an electricity-grid switching plant in Texas.

The Film’s Experts

Within one film, the viewer gets a chance to learn why gasoline is such an attractive fuel; how the US electricity grid is an almost miraculous interplay between supply and demand; why nuclear energy might not be so scary after all; how clean alternative energy sources, such as solar, wind, geothermal, and hydro, are so rooted in geology and location.

Fifty-three expert interviews were conducted, 44 of which were included in the film. The experts include renewable energy specialists, fossil fuel energy specialists, plant managers for all energy types, many of the world’s leading energy experts in government and academia, and several chief executive officers of international fossil fuel and renewable energy companies.

Forecasting the Switch

According to Lynch, “If we’re going to take viewers around the world and investigate the pros, cons, and future of different energy types, we’d better show how it all fits together to form our energy transition, and exactly how and when that could happen.”

About his energy forecast, Tinker says “Many find it hopeful, in that if we work together, we can supply the world’s growing demand for energy. Others find it sobering in that the switch doesn’t happen as fast as they hoped it could.” He stresses, “What each of us does, matters.”

The Switch Energy Project

Switch took 2 years to film and 1 year to edit. It is being rolled out in a series of screenings, and is also available to book for private screenings. Find out more by visiting www.switchenergyproject.com/­.

The documentary film is part of the Switch Energy Project (www.switchenergyproject.com), whose broad purpose is to provide a source of information covering the full spectrum of energy types. Almost 300 short interviews are available on the site, covering the project’s wide range of subjects, technologies, locales, and experts.

In addition, by early 2013, the Switch Energy Project will provide an education program for US elementary, middle, and high school curricula, available free, with downloadable guides for teachers.