It’s that time of the year. Everyone is traveling, spending time with family, and busy with the holidays. Burning Torch Productions would like to wish everyone a happy holiday season, and say thanks for all of your support. We have been traveling a bit ourselves, about 3000 miles so far. Carrie and I have traveled by train, bus, and car in our most recent adventure to the Pacific Northwest. Everything is finally starting to make sense. Having a large amount of the filming done, I have decided to dedicate a number of blogs to writing about the people who I have met on my travels. The list spans from energy industry workers to drifters on the street. There is an entire story alone about the people I have encountered. Make sure to check back to get a glimpse into the lives of some of the most interesting people I’ve ever met.

In the meantime, enjoy the holidays and stay warm! Here’s a picture that hopefully brings a chuckle to your day. Whoever said making movies couldn’t be fun?

Mark jumps on down to Phoenix with Carrie


Pondering in the Mist

The trip to the Northwest has been well worth it.  It has been enlightening, humbling, and inspirational.  Between the huge change in scenery, the interviews with Bonneville Power Administration, and stumbling across more power plants than I’ve ever seen, I have finally found some answers. What is the best energy?  Well, I have definitely come a long ways since I first asked this question.  I have traveled coast to coast, through rain forests, deserts, canyons, and mountain passes.  I’ve traveled by foot, bike, train, bus, car, truck, four wheeler, and plane.  Now that I’ve journeyed over 8000 miles, it’s time to make sense of everything.  The next few months are going to be busy editing interviews and piecing together the puzzle with Marty Pool.  As much as I want to tell everyone what I’ve learned, I have to wait until the film is finished.  As the footage unfolds, Marty and I will be blogging to keep the conversation going.  We will also be blogging about whatever we feel is relevant to Energy! O Energy!  I will be on the road for another 2 and a half weeks gathering footage. I’ll leave you witha few photos of the last two days.  If you’re just joining us, check out some video clips from the first bike ride through Wyoming to explore energy.

Happy trails.

Portland Pictures

We’ve made it to Portland and haven’t stopped shooting since we’ve arrived.  The nice thing about traveling to make a movie is that you enter each location with a fresh perspective.  Even the most beautiful landscapes can become boring if you see it everyday.  The change of scenery from Wyoming to Oregon has allowed me to capture the surroundings with a new eye.  The key to getting this perspective is to notice the small things and build with it.  Every moment is different in its own way.  The challenge of making films is making harmony out of those moments; all 29.9 per second.  One of the things that the Northwest far surpasses Wyoming with is water.  Check out our photo blog to see how I’m capturing this idea of water and how a society can be built around it, including energy production in the form of hydro power plants.


For the first time in 6 months I’ve been able to sit down and take a second to think.  I spent my first weekend at home in I don’t know how long.  The topic of energy is grazing in more headlines than ever.  Between pipelines being proposed, talk of exporting natural gas, new wind development, solar plants being constructed, and the never-ending debate about coal and nuclear, it seems that we can’t get enough (news about energy).  There’s a reason for this though.  In order for something to be news, it has to be relevant to people.  In a discussion with the cowriter of “Energy! O Energy!”, Marty Pool, we talked about how energy has become something that we need.  It started out as a luxury and it has become something so integrated into our society that the world as we know it would cease to function if our energy system were to fail.  Is energy comparable to any other “product”?  It’s obvious that we need food and water to survive but would we be able to get this without the large-scale energy production of the modern world?  Think about farming, livestock, processing, transportation, purifying…  They all require massive amounts of energy.


I have been trying to strike up this conversation with some people while I am home and this entry is essentially a columniation of how that conversation has been going. Could we survive without the energy production that we have come to expect?  A common answer, especially in Wyoming, to this question has been, “I could live off of the land.  If the world fell apart tomorrow, I could provide for myself and my family by hunting, chopping wood, planting food, and building a house.”  I think this is great and everyone should have some kind of basic survival skills.  However, my question is, how many people could truly sustain their self, based on their surrounding environment.  In Wyoming it would be easy.  We have plenty of land, natural resources, and wildlife.  You could cut down trees to make a house.  You could hunt elk and deer for food.  You could grow a garden with all of the space.  You could get water from a near by river.  You could heat your house with wood that you chop down.  All one would need is the knowledge on how to utilize these abundant resources.  Think about how much space it would take to do this.  Now multiply that times 7 billion and you have planet earth.  What about places New York City though?  How many people could Manhattan support without importing anything?  What about any major city?  Without the large-scale production system in our world, cities would cease to exist.


Let’s bring it back to energy.  If you were responsible for generating the energy that you use, could you do it?  I think this is a fascinating question because it takes something that we never think about and makes it relevant to our every day life.  The same question exists in every suit.  Could you grow as much food as you eat?  Could you carry or pump as much water as you drink?  We have created a magnificent system of trade that allows us to not have to provide everything we need for ourselves.  This couldn’t ring any louder with energy.  There are those select few who do choose to generate as much power as they use and that’s great.  It is often cheaper in the long run, has environmental benefits, and gives you a sense of accomplishment for being self-sufficient.  The only issue with this is that it isn’t accessible to everyone.  You can’t put a wind turbine on your apartment in downtown Salt Lake City.  It’s not easy to build a nuclear reactor in your garage.  You can’t build a dam on a river that you don’t own. You can’t put solar panels on your dorm.  Even if you could, our energy demands often dwarf what is realistic for each person to generate.  I was talking to colleague about generating power using a generator hooked to a bicycle.  It sounds like a great idea!  You can get a workout, save money, and create your own energy!  Where is bad?  The issues start rise when you consider how much power you use on a daily basis.  According to a number of sources that I have interviewed for the film, the average person can generate around 70 watts of electricity.  That’s enough to power one standard light bulb.  Ask yourself; do you use more than one light bulb?  What about your computer, TV, dishwasher, dryer, washer, AC, stove, phone, toaster, coffee pot, and everything else in your house that plugs into the wall?  Who is going to pedal the bike to power these things?  Even Tour De France athletes can only produce 300-400 watts.  Your air conditioner can use as many as 4000 watts.  That means that 10 world-class athletes pedaling like made would be able to power that one thing.  I’m tired just thinking about it.


In conclusion to this thought, I want to say that it is interesting to think about if you had to make everything that you use.  I am by no means asking anyone to generate their own power or grow their own food.  It isn’t my place to tell anyone what to do.  I just enjoy the conversation and find it interesting to think about.  Until one understands the magnitude of this idea of “energy”, it’s hard to effectively make decisions about how to use and generate it.  I have been tirelessly learning about energy for the last 6 months.  The more I learn, the less I discover that I know.  I will never know everything about energy, not even close.  No one will but that’s not the point.  After putting in all of this time these last 6 months, I don’t regret a second of it. Everything I learn applies directly to me because I use energy.  That’s why I’m interested.

You Can be in the Film!

I have received some criticism for riding my bike on my previous journey through Wyoming this past August.  People have accused me of being slanted because I was riding a bike.  Apparently riding a bike is a “green” statement.  My only statement about riding a bike is that it’s the most enjoyable method of transportation that I have come across in my lifetime.  What other type of transportation can you see the world at a reasonable pace and jump of the occasional cliff when you’re bored?

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For the next leg of my journey I will be setting off in my 1990 Oldsmobile 98 Regency.  This certainly should clear my record.  What is the statement that I am trying to make by driving this car?  It’s my only method of transportation other than my bike and a month-long road trip in the winter, covering over 3200 miles is definitely a limiting factor when it comes to selecting transportation. As much as I would like to take my Olds on the entire trip, I’ll be borrowing a car midway to take to Seattle, riding with friends for another leg, taking the Greyhound bus for a section of the trip, riding the Amtrak train, and then finishing the trip by picking up my car where I’m leaving it halfway to get home.  I am estimating about a month on the road.  Here is a map of my tentative route.



 If any of you are located anywhere on my way, I would love to stop in and meet you.  I am always conducting public opinion interviews from people who use energy.  Do you use energy?  If you answered yes, this is your chance to be a part of something great!  I am also looking for people who work in the energy industry to comment on their perspective.  Comment or send me an email in a reasonable amount of time and I’ll do my best to give you a voice in the film.