Tour and training from Grand Teton National Park to Black Thunder Coal Mine

Mark has officially taken his training to the next level.  On June 24th he traveled to Jackson Hole, Wyoming where he trained for four days at the base of the Tetons.  The trip had beautiful weather, though Mark is quick to point out, “Anything is better than Laramie wind.  That has definitely been tough stuff to train in.”  The trip was packed with a mix of training activities that centered on exploring the incredible natural features of the area.  To start things off, Mark rode his bike 30 miles from the southern tip to the northern end of the park, the magnificent Tetons towering over his left shoulder the entire way.  But training wasn’t limited to bike riding, it also included hiking, swimming in Jackson Lake, and weight training. Though admittedly impromptu, the weight training ended up being a great workout for a few hours.

Mark explained, “I had this idea to work on carrying a heavy log through waist deep water. This type of training technique works the shoulders, arms, and also the legs as they push through the water.”  Mark has been working on full-body training in order to be in the best possible shape for his adventure. “You never know when something might block your path when you’re on a bicycle.  There is a very real possibility that I might have to carry my bike and gear over ditches, rock fields or through rivers.”

After Mark finished his training at Teton National Park, he made his way towards Gillette, Wyoming where he toured the Black Thunder Coal Mine. Not just any mine, Black Thunder is the largest surface coal mine in the United States. Mark gained a huge amount of background information and insight into the coal mining industry, but the most exciting part of this tour was the opportunity to see a blast in person. What an amazing example of the energy behind getting energy. One of the main energy resources that the film Energy, Oh Energy will be investigating is coal. In the United States, coal is the largest fuel source for electricity generation; about 45% of all electricity is generated from coal-fired plants (the next closest source is natural gas at 23%).

After his coal mine tour at Black Thunder, Mark stopped by a dam just outside the town of Thermopolis, Wyoming. Even though this dam was much smaller than the Flaming Gorge dam, Mark said that it was still very interesting to see the water turbines producing hydroelectricity. This spring has been a wet one in Wyoming, and the dams have definitely had their work cut out for them.

If all Mark had to do was tour energy sites things would be easy, but when you’re preparing for everything that goes into making an adventure documentary things can get pretty hectic. “My days are filled with trying to organize the send-off event in Pinedale and the welcome back party in Laramie, finalizing the route, interviewing professionals and training every day,” Mark explains.  Half chuckling, half sighing he admits, “I’m looking forward to departing on my journey.  I am so busy right now that it is going to feel like a break.”  The long days, late nights, and early mornings have been taxing on Mark, but he certainly hasn’t lost his focus yet. We hope everyone has a fun and safe 4th of July weekend.

Burning Torch Productions will be traveling to the western part of the state for more meetings and hopefully finalize the interviews for the journey.  Check back on Tuesday for a special blog on one of Mark’s largest struggles, energy storage, or, more specifically, “How to keep the cameras rolling while out in the middle of nowhere without hauling around 50 pounds of batteries.”

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Some things you should know about the Wyoming Red Desert

This week, Burning Torch Productions is taking you to the heart of Wyoming’s Red Desert to talk about some of the challenges Mark will face when travelling through this segment of his journey.

The Red Desert is a vast 9,320 square miles of high altitude buttes, dunes, sagebrush steppe, and mountain landscapes. One of this region’s most prominent features is the Great Divide Basin, a drainage basin of the Continental Divide dominated by sand dunes, bluffs and alkali flats. As with many deserts of the American West and Southwest, water has played powerful role in shaping the Red Desert, though you wouldn’t guess it based amount of rain the area currently receives. Some would call it barren, but this couldn’t be further from the truth. In terms of energy resources, the Red Desert is one of the richest areas in the United States with deposits of oil, natural gas, coal, as well as uranium. Approximately 84% of the Red Desert has been industrialized by oil and gas drilling, mining operations, and the associated roads. Though the geology on the surface of this landscape is both fascinating and beautiful, the geology hundreds of feet below is what truly draws Mark to this place.

A large amount of the land in the Red Desert is public land managed by the cities of Rock Springs and Rawlins, as well as field offices of the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM). This means that Mark will have access to multiple routes through the region, though none of them will be particularly easy going. But it’s not a steep dirt path or a rocky traverse that has Mark the most worried. In contrast to the dirt roads that wind their way through the landscape, Interstate 80 – one of the longest and busiest interstates in the nation – cuts through the southern part of the Red Desert. Ironically this well-paved, smooth, flat throughway actually poses a huge threat to Mark on his journey. He is going to steer clear of the interstate for the majority of route but some sections will be unavoidable.

At least Mark won’t be completely alone during his ride through the Red Desert. Regardless of the hostile weather, lack of water, and scarce vegetation, this area is a habitat for great number of wild animals: birds such as ducks, trumpeter swans, snowbirds, and white pelicans; large migratory herds of pronghorns, wild horses, and bison; and also threats like rattle snakes, scorpions and mountain lions.

After researching the Red Deserts we have determined the possible risks of Mark’s journey through this region:

Dehydration: due to the hot and dry environment of the desert and scarcity of available water sources.

Wild animals: encounters with rattlesnakes, scorpions, and mountain lions.

Exhaustion: brought on by the length of the journey paired with the unrelenting heat and strong winds.

Crashing: caused by the landscape or a careless I-80 motorist.

All of these risks and challenges have the potential to result in severe injury or even death. However, Mark is continuing with his training, preparing himself mentally and physically to handle all the possible difficulties as best he can. So, even this harsh and desolate expanse will not stop a young man’s motivation to come up with the answer to the question: “What’s the best energy source for our future?” Could there be another part of the journey Mark is not ready for? Follow our blog to find out.

For more information on the Red Desert, check out these resources:

www.nwf.org/Wildlife/Wild-Places/Red-Desert.aspx

www.utexas.edu/utpress/books/prored.html

Welcome Marty Pool!

Burning Torch Productions would like to welcome Marty Pool to our team as our Technical Consultant. Marty has been helping behind the scenes but now is officially part of Energy, Oh Energy. We know Marty’s background and experience will help us tremendously.  We could spend all day introducing Marty, but we figured we would just let him speak for himself.

“I was born and raised in Littleton, a suburb of Denver, Colorado. I perused a degree in Architectural Engineering at the University of Colorado’s College of Engineering and Applied Sciences. Originally, I did not know what aspect of buildings I wanted to study, but as I learned more about the industry I quickly discovered that energy use in buildings was a very hot topic.  Though I was interested in my classes at the University of Colorado, my most eye opening course was ‘Energy Resources’ which I took while studying at the University of Otago in Dunedin, New Zealand. Taught by Dr. Bob Lloyd, the structure of the course was to analyze one energy source per week for fifteen weeks. For the first time I was introduced to where energy comes from, not just how it is used. The course was fascinating because it really picked apart the underlying pros and cons of every energy source.”

Interestingly enough, Marty also met Mark during his time in New Zealand. After becoming close friends and being a part of Mark’s 2008 release, The New Zealand Story, he and Mark went their separate ways: Marty back to Colorado and Mark to Chicago. The two have remained close friends and now that Mark is based out of Wyoming, their paths cross quite often, especially with Mark’s recent trips to Colorado working on this film.  However, it is not just proximity that keeps the two close. Marty is currently involved in the consumer side of the energy industry, and when he heard about Mark’s project he was very excited to become a part of it.

 

 

Marty explains: “After graduating with a BS in Architectural Engineering with a focus on mechanical systems in buildings, I moved to Fort Collins, Colorado and I am currently working as an engineer at a consulting firm. My main job is to perform energy assessments on commercial buildings. I am constantly studying and analyzing all different types of building systems, mechanical equipment, control strategies, and new energy efficiency technology. Each building is sort of like an energy-mystery, and my job is to figure out where energy use can be reduced. I love teaching people about energy and ways to be more efficient. And no matter who they are, in the end, I can show them that saving energy also saves money: win-win. As citizens of a developed world, we use so much energy every day, and I feel like so many people just don’t understand what it takes to provide us that luxury.

 

Beyond my work in the energy efficiency industry, I am extremely passionate about the beautiful outdoors, especially what we have here out West. I enjoy backpacking, rafting, skiing, snowboarding, climbing, mountain biking, and basically anything that involves playing outdoors.

I would say above all, I am a proud Colorado native and have a deep love and respect for the American West. I would consider this region both rich in natural beauty as well as energy resources, making it the ideal setting for this film. I am happy to be able to assist Mark throughout this project as a technical consultant. I am extremely excited about Mark’s endeavor, and believe his exploration of energy resources is a story that needs to be shared with as many people as possible.”

Things are moving so fast!

This summer’s exciting story is Burning Torch Productions’ latest film, Energy, Oh Energy, which is reaching the ears of massive audiences all over the world. A number of people have been showing their support by adding us on their Facebook and MySpace page while many others by requesting more frequent updates of our weekly blog to stay involved in the project. As requested by our audiences we have begun to update our blog posts at least two times a week in order to let you in on exactly what we’re doing.

Our friends, family, and even some new faces have all been very supportive in the making of Energy Oh, Energy. Word-of-mouth is also greatly helping us with the promotion of the film. Media outlets such as the Rocket Miner, daily newspaper of Rock Springs, WY, have also expressed their interest in covering the story by also providing us a section for a weekly editorial in the newspaper.

Burning Torch productions is also proud to announce that the key production crew has rose from five people to seven people. Check back for a bio on our latest addition to the team, Marty Pool.The production crew is regularly conducting research on energy in order to build a strong intellectual foundation for each type of energy sources.   We are still striving to avoid an opinionated outlook. In addition to the research, we are also interviewing and speaking with more energy experts to hear what they have to say about each of the types of energy. As we have mentioned in the previous blog, production has already begun and things are moving very quickly. Mark is consistently keeping up with his training and preparing both mentally and physically for his upcoming journey.

We appreciate all of your support and please continue to follow our updates on our blog, Facebook, Youtube, Twitter, MySpace pages, and our website!  Check back tomorrow for the introduction of our newest member.

Egla gathers sound for an interview

Flaming Gorge Adventure/training

Just when you think the adventure had already begun, it just gets better and better.
Mark met up with an old friend, Marty Pool, who is currently involved in the energy and engineering field, to discuss some things about the upcoming film. Mark says, “Marty’s knowledge of energy and how it’s used has helped me gain a stronger foundation for the film.” Marty Pool, a recent graduate of the University of Colorado at Boulder is currently employed for an engineering consulting firm in Fort Collins.

Marty Pool

Mark decided to spice up his training a little bit, so him and Marty drove to Dutch John, Utah to float down the Green River. Mark’s parents, Gary and Libby Pedri, along with Carrie McCarthy joined Mark and Marty for the weekend adventure. The river in which they floated is the river that comes out of the Flaming Gorge Dam, which is one of Mark’s stops during his journey. On the way to the river, Gary helped scout out part of the road in which Mark will be riding his bike on next month. Mark anticipates quite a predicament on this road, because it is very winding and hilly, with virtually no shoulder. He is thinking that it might be wise to take an extra day and stay off of the treacherous road and take an alternative route on a dirt road through the mountains.

Mark is trying to find an alternative route around the Bad Lands.

“There is one section that passes through an area called the Bad Lands. There aren’t any roads through it and I might have to take a 20 mile detour to get around it. There are many issues like this that I am trying to address before I actually get on the road,” Mark says.
Once they got to the dam, Mark said they watched 8000 cubic feet of water per second being let out due to the high snowpack levels in the surrounding mountains. It was a sight in itself just to watch the water pounding out of the bottom of the dam. They ran the river two times and then headed back to Rock Springs for the night. Check out the video to see what it was like being in the raft.

The Rock Springs community has been very receptive to the film. Mark aspires to stay as unbiased as he can and give everyone a fair chance to explain why the energy they choose is the best for our future. He has been in contact with many large companies in the area and they have all been very accommodating to his vision. “My goal is to be honest and up front with everyone. I’m not trying to trick anyone. I just want to make a movie about energy,” Mark stated. This unbiased approach has led many people from different backgrounds to start following the production of Pedri’s film. Mark is working hard but he comments that it can’t be done alone. “It’s going to be huge but I can’t do it alone. Spread the word about what’s going on in Wyoming this summer. It’s not everyday we get an opportunity to be a part of something like this.”

The day ended around a fire in Rock Springs, WY

This week we will be busy with another trip to Fort Collins, an interview for an online magazine featuring Burning Torch Productions in their July edition, and getting ready for a coal mine tour this weekend in northern Wyoming. The days are full, and with every free minute, Mark is trying to keep up with his training. July 24th is getting closer and closer, brining us almost within a month of his departure! Tell us what you think of the project in the comment section below and don’t forget to check out our video clips and photos!

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Production has begun and Mark is counting down to his departure!

Burning Torch Productions has started the production of the film Energy, Oh Energy. Please refer to our first blog for brief description of the film and its main theme.

One of the things in which the movie is based on is the incites from experts in various fields such as petroleum engineering, energy management, chemistry, green engineering, resource management, and environmental studies. We have currently contacted a number of selected experts from various universities in order to conduct interviews and obtain all of the information that we need to successfully complete this film.  However, before shooting the interviews with the selected experts, we did an interview with our producer Mark Pedri. The interview was shot with Mark at his house in Laramie, Wyoming.

Mark talks about his inspiration for the film, "Energy, Oh Energy"

In the interview, Mark concisely explained what the film Energy, Oh Energy is about, and why his inspiration to make the film. He also shared his thoughts about his upcoming adventure, his +700 miles bike ride through the Wyoming desert looking for the “best energy” for our future. Mark also elucidates his anticipation on finishing his journey without any support crew, and how he is preparing for it. The interview footage shows Mark’s training bike and the actual bike he will be riding during the expedition.  Check back in for a specific entry about his equipment.  He talks about his training and the potential obstacles he expects to face during his journey like, food and water, weather difficulties, exhaustion, wild animals, and dehydration. The interview reveals Mark’s motivation for making this movie and also why he is choosing to ride his bike on this challenging journey rather than just driving.  He is determined to answer questions about one of the main issues the world faces, regardless of the life threatening obstacles he might face.

MacKenzie Mixer took production stills for the day. Here's a shot of her hard at work.

We are very excited that everything is moving along smoothly and Mark is keeping up with his training and getting ready for what’s to come next.  Check back tomorrow and find out where he spent the weekend and what he incorporated into his training on Saturday!

Burning Torch Productions' interns help with setting up a shot for the interview.

The Interviews Have Begun!

Thursday, June 16th, Bridget and Mark traveled to the University of Colorado at Boulder to interview Professor Robert Erickson for the documentary. Professor Erickson teaches in the College of Engineering and Applied Science and is the director of the Colorado Power Electronics Center. During the interview, Professor Erickson informed us more about his specialty areas in power electronics and the whole situation surrounding energy production and use. Mark has decided to get a number of expert interviews in order to make a firm foundation for when he interviews industry professionals. “Knowing the situation is half of the battle” Mark stated when talking about handling interviews within the industry. “I have learned so much about energy in these past few weeks. It’s incredible! I want to teach everyone else what I have been learning. Energy is huge!” Mark is very excited to be talking to such distinguished professors in the field. Professor Erickson gave us some insights into solar energy, hydropower, as well as introduced a few methods of energy storage. The first involves transporting water from one reservoir to another to produce energy when needed. The second method of storage deals with pumping compressed air into old mines in order to create potential energy. Both of these methods have been used recently in Colorado. He will be featured in the film alongside other energy professors and experts as well professionals in the energy industry. On Friday, Mark returned to Boulder to interview another professor, Dr. Ewald Fachs. Dr. Fachs gave Mark a tour of his personal solar energy generating system before the interview took place. Dr. Fachs discussed the electricity grid in the United States and how each different type of energy affects it. Dr. Fachs provided a good amount of information about the pro and cons of each energy source. He also offered us his own personal future prediction for the production of energy. Check back for a video clip from Dr. Fachs and Dr. Erikson. Expert interviews will continue through the next few weeks until Mark leaves for journey and he begins the industry professional interviews. Mark has also been in contact with professionals from the natural gas and coal industry. He is looking forward to getting the opportunity to see a behind the scenes look at both of these industries. “There is so much that we don’t understand about all of these industries and it has been truly great getting to learn about each of them from the people that deal with it everyday.” Mark