Mark Mathis admits everything he used to know about oil came from the mainstream media.
“Ten years ago I was like most Americans. I didn’t know anything about energy, didn’t think about it, took it for granted. It never crossed my mind,” Mathis says.
Mathis’ re-education began when he took a gig with an oil and gas trading group’s media team. n 2002 The job required intensive research into the product in question – oil – which led to some remarkable discoveries.
“I was 40 and had been pretty successful in life. I thought I was a pretty smart guy,” he recalls. “I couldn’t believe I could get to that age and not even think about how dothings work."
Mathis is the director of “SpOILed
,” a new documentary debunking popular myths about the oil industry. The movie explores why politicians prevent oil drilling in various areas across the U.S., shares how alternate energy sources remain far behind the more practical oil reserves and deplores how the media refuses to honestly discuss energy issues.
It’s a shot across the bow of most film documentaries which either target oil companies (“The Big Fix”) or sing the praises of green technology (“Revenge of the Electric Car”).
Mathis’ first taste of the film business came with “Expelled,” the Ben Stein documentary about Intelligent Design. He went from helping out the film’s crew on a fairly casual basis to being more hands-on than he expected. And when Mathis shared some of what he had learned about oil to "Expelled's" writer during that film's production, the idea for “SpOILed” came into focus.
If “SpOILed” debunks just one media meme, Mathis hopes it’s the notion that we can move away from oil in the near future.
If only that were the case.
“That’s a profoundly ignorant and dangerous statement,” he says. “It is impossible for that to happen. I fully expect 40 years from now we may be even more dependent on oil then we are today.”
“Oil provides 98 percent of all transportation [energy] … there is no one thing that could possible replace a portion of that,” he continues. He learned through years of research that natural gas, hydrogen cells, electric cars and bio-fuels will all help in some fashion some day, but even combined they can’t replace oil.
Mathis puts plenty of the blame on the mainstream media for our collective ignorance on the subject. It's an industry he once called his own. As a television news reporter he would breeze past a complicated energy issue without fully informing the public about the finer points.
“We'd spend five minutes talking about record profits [for oil companies] and not about profit margin,” he says.
Mathis credits those with an anti-fossil fuel agenda for leading Americans astray on the subject of oil.
"They either naively believe or cynically know this is impossible [to live without oil], but they'll push it anyway," he says.
Mathis has been holding screenings of the film for the past few weeks as part of the movie's slow roll out, and one of the first questions that comes up during both Q&As and press interviews is, “who’s funding the film?”
“I don’t mind that question, but the troubling thing is that question doesn’t get asked for people pushing other agendas,” he says. “I came to this stuff mid-life. I didn’t go to film school. I’m as independent a guy as you’re going to find.”
For the record, no major oil company poured money into the film. Nor have film festivals shown any interest in the project, he says.
“We were turned down by most of the major documentary film festivals,” he says, adding SpOILed” also got rejected by a major cable content provider without explanation.
“We have been shut out,” he says. “We’re presenting ideas that fly in the face of people who run those festivals.”