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A clear expose of how profit threatens climate collapse

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An important documentary that premiered at the Sheffield Doc Fest last month investigates the link between the banks and North Sea oil, writes Josh Largent
Issue 2812
A photograph of an oil rig in the middle of the north sea, an example of an industry which puts profit before climate

The Oil Machine exposes how the system puts profit before climate (Picture: Gary Bembridge)

The Oil Machine acts as a warning of a heating planet where oil and gas are entwined with ­government and finance.

The first scene forces us to acknowledge that oil as a commodity is everywhere. The film goes on to show the terrifying reality of North Sea oil taken from public control and sold to corporations.

The search for oil in the North Sea cost millions, even before anybody thought it likely to find oil there. The documentary goes on to explain how links between finance and oil keep society tied to fossil fuel use. 

An expert describes North Sea oil as an “engine” driving forward Britain’s finance sector. Increasingly large parts of the economy are reliant upon future North Sea profits. In 2000 30 percent of any given pension fund in Britain was directly invested in BP or Shell. An economist explains there’s “3.5 degrees of heating locked into the London Stock Exchange” and “pensions savings and investments are invested in financing a future no one wants to see.”

The film features oil bosses, who shirk responsibility and fake concern—Nonsense. But young activists, experts and ­scientists pick apart the nonsense. With some North Sea rigs extracting 1.7 million barrels a day one of them points out the impossibility of ­“decarbonising the oil and gas sector.”

The film explains in easily ­understood terms what fossil fuels are and the role they play in ­warming the planet. Young people and children will feel the worst end of a heating planet. Some of those interviewed worry about food shortages and where people will be able to live.  Others suffer “eco-anxiety.” Experts explain in blatant terms the reality we face if action isn’t taken. 

Shots of the ferocious ocean ­surrounding the rigs sit like a ­warning of what’s to come if the globe heats by 1.5 degrees, let alone 2 degrees or more.

The ­documentary also raises one of the most important questions that faces everyone today—the clash between business and the climate. As one young activist asks, “How could you know about such a massive issue and still worry more about profit?”

It’s a stark question—but one that also points to an answer. If the problem is a society that prioritises profit above all else, the answer is to fight for a new society.

  • The Oil Machine is set for theatrical release later this year

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