Saturday, August 05, 2006

This month's self-explanatory environmental doc.: WHO KILLED THE ELECTRIC CAR?

WHO KILLED THE ELECTRIC CAR? is another in the current trend for interesting high-quality consumer advocacy and environmental documentaries. Written and directed by newbie, Chris Paine, the clue is as ever in the title. To quote the tagline, "In 1996, electric cars began to appear on roads all over California. They were quiet and fast, produced no exhaust and ran without gasoline...........Ten years later, these cars were destroyed." The story is a chilling one. Back in the early 1990s General Motors developed an electric car, followed closely by a number of other car-makers. They were spurred to do so by the California state legislature, which enacted a law demanding that a certain percentage of cars sold in the state were zero-emmision. That percentage was going to be ramped up over the years until the old gas-guzzling, pollution-emmiting combustion engines were a matter of history. Paine interviews a bunch of people who had these cars and loved them - from ordinary drivers to the likes of Mel Gibson and (via Letterman?) Tom Hanks.

What happens next is the dark side of capitalism. A whole host of people from Big Oil to Big Autos to the Federal Government combined to squish the electric car. California withdrew their pioneering state legislation and soon all the cars had been withdrawn and just tossed on the trash-heap.

This documentary is a pleasure to watch, not just because it has structure and is well-filmed. It is one of the most balanced documentaries I have seen. Chris Paine is not afraid of presenting the opposing case - something that Michael Moore is often loathe to do - and even the website catalogues the pros and cons of each side's argument.

In short, watching WHO KILLED THE ELECTRIC CAR? may not be the most fun time you can have at the cinema, but it is definitely worth checking out, if only on DVD. And remember, this isn't some local dispute. California is the world's fifth largest economy. What happens there impacts on the rest of us.

WHO KILLED THE ELECTRIC CAR? showed at Sundance 2006 and is currently on limited release in the US and UK.

1 comment:

  1. Let me guess, was it big oil, the republican party, and Ford of America?