Q&A with Gregory Kallenberg, director and producer of 'Haynesville: A Nation's Hunt for an Energy Future and the new Rational Middle Energy Series.'
Published: July 25, 2012
What sparked the Haynesville doc and eventually this new project?:
I was actually back in Shreveport, Louisiana, which is my hometown, and I was actually working on a different documentary project and then started working on a film about the discovery of the Haynesville. At the time it really was just basically a story of three people's lives. But we wanted to put context there. And once we found that the reserves were proven and the Haynesville was real, we wanted to put these stories together that kind of told what all this could mean. It sort of led to this bigger idea that our energy future means taking coal out of our diet and replacing it with natural gas when we can, and working renewables into what we have and to bolster what we have with more of it — all that stuff, which is really looking at what a clean energy future could be. One of the things that was kind of interesting was that as we traveled around we found that people really are under-informed as far as energy's concerned. People don't think of energy that much.
What do you mean under-informed? What main questions are being missed in the discussion over natural gas production and fracking?
For example, I don't think that our audiences knew we use so much coal. In Texas, there’s so much coal that's used here. In Louisiana, there's a lot of coal used. There are facts like that out there. Or the fact that people really don't think a lot about that a light is actually powered somewhere by some source. I think one of the issues is we as Americans have been gifted with unlimited affordable power. And one of the things I've always wanted to do, and hopefully did through Haynesville, is try to think deeper about energy sources and how much we use. That's what the project became. We want to come up with a sustainable, affordable, and environmentally sound idea policy and initiative that would take us to a clean energy future down the road.
You got a lot of recognition for the Haynesville film, but there was also some criticism about your background, your family connections to the oil and gas industry.
Again, we have talked about it since the beginning of Haynesville. Basically my family is involved with oil and gas. I'm not, is basically what it is. I've said it so many times. Again, I have highlighted how I've worked for my dad. I've helped him with a website, I've helped with rehabilitating a building in downtown Shreveport. My connection is — I'm not connected to oil and gas. And again, what I'd say beyond people taking me at my word: go look at my films. They're not nice to the oil and gas industry. It's not mean, but it's something where I'm trying to strike balance, which is something that's not out there today. The polarization is such that there aren't a lot of places that people can get balanced information about energy.
Another criticism about calling this the “rational middle” is the worry that discussions over oil and gas exploration need to have the stamp of approval by Shell, who's funded this project, to be balanced. What about those concerns, that this is the industry-approved way we should talk about oil and gas?
I'm not sure the discussion is all about oil and gas. Just looking at the first three pieces of the Rational Middle that are out there, you can see I'm trying to at least give people a general understanding about energy. At the end of the day, Shell sponsored us. Shell gave us money. But they don't approve the final product. And if you see the films, I think it's pretty clear that we address some issues that make Shell pretty nervous.
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