Fuels From Hell

bp-texas-fireCreate a 21st Century Book & Movie to Mobilize the World. A non-fiction graphic novel about the fossil fuel industry — a film noir-style chronicle of infamy. A complement to current campaigns promoting divestment.


OUR AUDIENCE FOR THIS PROPOSAL: Anyone who is concerned that we’re heading toward climate catastrophes –especially people accustomed to active engagement, who over past decades asked, “What can I/we do about the Vietnam War, South Africa, nuclear disarmament, global human rights?”

 OUR CHALLENGE: What keeps the human race from rescuing itself and avoiding the worst consequences of climate change? The largest single obstacle to awareness and action is the fossil fuel industry (FFI): the coal, petroleum, and natural gas producers and the economic systems built around them. Its stakeholders buy, bend, break, and block laws. They are largely immune from prosecution — and they disproportionately shape public opinion.

Even when individual and national energy enterprises don’t evade or undermine laws, they still act as global wreckers. As long as they are allowed to continue business as usual (BAU), they will pursue their missions to mine, drill and sell polluting fuels from hell — and pumping poisons into our earth, water, and sky. The fossil fuels they already own can destroy the world five times over. These enterprises are villains — demons heedlessly threatening our physical world and all that lives in it.

We can’t counter the FFI’s immense economic and political power until we recast it as a multi-headed criminal monster. We aim to help build a public mindset that recognizes the urgent need to rein in the FFI. Internationally and nation-by-nation, we can then rise to this challenge and aggressively control the FFI’s activities. It may be possible to incentivize a transition in which some break ranks and begin to transform their business models. Our demands: stop searching for new extractable resources; leave 80% of proven reserves in the ground; go all-in deploying fuels from heaven. Building an angry and aroused populace saying “stop” can give us a fighting chance to preserve most of today’s world.

OUR INITIATIVE: We will create a gripping, dazzling, chilling, controversial non-fiction graphic novel that chronicles the FFI’s dark history. Each page or two-page spread will depict an imagined inside view of an evil, sordid, or banal episode as these firms plunder, risk, manipulate, disinform, all in the name of the world’s most profitable business.

We will align this effort with today’s growing campaigns to close coal plants, fight fracking, stop arctic and offshore drilling, and, most recently, build a broad divestment movement like the one that was aimed at South Africa.

“Fuels from Hell” (working title) will be shocking and sensational, but carefully grounded in fact. For our chronicles of infamy , we will create a globally sourced project, with a virtual production using ideas and art from everywhere. Possible chapters include (see sources etc. below):

*  Inside Dick Cheney’s first meeting of his 2001 Energy Task Force.

* Inside BP executive meetings the first days of the Deepwater Horizon Gulf Coast catastrophe

* The obscure Caspian Sea blowout, also from BP, two years earlier with similar cause

* The greatest U.S. scandal before Watergate: the Teapot Dome

* Early coal and oil stories with the tone of the bloody film, “There Will Be Blood”(based on “Oil” by Upton Sinclair)

* Energy-related 20th century global conflicts in the Middle East and Asia

* Documented stories of FFI involvement in environmentalist deaths in South America, Africa

* Stories emerging from tar sands, fracking, and other contemporary controversies

STORIES AND CHANGE: For centuries, print books helped inspire revolutionary and evolutionary movements. Those days may be gone. But graphic books still reach giant, mostly-young audiences. And movies and videos still inspire change. We envision this non-fiction graphic novel serving as a storyboard for Phase 2: “soon to be a major motion picture.” If we produce a compelling a work of art, we are optimistic we can recruit leading directors and dozens of top stars to take cameo roles. As we proceed to online publication of the graphic version and streaming video episodes, we will prepare for possible lawsuits. Confident in our content’s truth, we will enlist pro-bono defenders, gain attention, and win cases.


* Assemble a core working group, develop executive and editorial decisionmaking

* recruit an advisory board, and (if non-profit) a fiscal sponsor

* Reach out to leading graphic artists for samples

* Solicit endorsements, blurbs, and supporters

* Link to parallel campaigns focused on divestment, coal plant closings, etc. (see resources)

* Recruit fundraising, artistic, research, legal, narrative, promotion, and distribution teams

* Crowdsource submissions for stories, subscriptions to chapters, and pre-purchases of digital and printed versions


Distracted by other great issues and challenges, we have not slowed the growth of greenhouse gases. Enduring FFI misinformation campaigns backed by deep pockets have overshadowed scientific consensus. Few everyday citizens or influencers don’t recognize that we face humanity’s greatest crisis. Fewer understand that acting now is conservative: delay will be immensely costly and will force regulation of every facet of our daily lives.

Uncountable millions of people around the world are worried about the climate crisis. It’s already upon us and likely to get far worse within years. Yet most feel powerless. And deniers remain a problem. Identifying the sources of passivity and discouragement can spur active emotions: outrage, anger and self-preservation can become powerful fuels for action. And once more people are aware, when they become fearless, and sense and hope that their power can make a difference, we can start digging our way out. (Move this paragraph into body of proposal?)

If there was ever a time to be angry, we’re in it. We have a multitude of social and technical solutions we can’t use. Our ambitious and broad responses are blunted by forces of the status quo citing limited resources, and evoked threats to jobs and property, and how unrealistic it is to phase out fossil fuels. Every argument based on a continuation of “business as usual” ignores the fact that those very priorities and assumptions have led us to our crisis.

Lots of people and interest groups are committed to BAU. But who wants it most? It’s only because of BAU that the fossil fuel industry can continue profitably plundering the commons.

Their ads say “We’re all this together; let’s talk.” But they don’t deserve a place at the table. With the emerging campaign for divestment, we are at a meeting of the minds. We have a chance to redefine the FFI as a clear and present danger to every living being on earth.


* News and analysis about climate change: ClimateProgress.org (one-stop); RealClimate.org (scientific); ClimatePlace.org (the full inconvenient truth)

* “Global Warming’s Terrifying New Math” http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/global-warmings-terrifying-new-math-20120719 — the popularized version by Bill McKibben of research by the Carbon Tracker Initiative, recently validated by the International Energy Agency and investor Jeremy Grantham

* Related organizations: http://math.350.org (Bill McKibben), gofossilfree.org (divestment campaign), Beyond Oil and Beyond Coal (sierraclub.org), carbontax.org (James Hansen endorses)

* Sources: “The Prize” by Daniel Yergin, “Coal” by Jeff Goodell, “Private Empire” by Steve Coll, and reports by Greg Palast, et. al. Environmental murders: http://www.radford.edu/wkovarik/envhist/murder.html

* Fear & motivation: “Without a doubt, fear is the most ancient, efficient, and effective security system in the world. Over many thousands of years, our magnificently wired brains have sensed, reacted, and then acted upon every imaginable threat. Practically speaking, when you manage fear, your chances improve in almost every situation. But if your alarms go haywire, your odds plummet. http://greenworldcenter.org/iwebsite/Its_Your_Movie/Hug_The_Monster.html

* Crowdsourcing precedent: “Silver Cord:” Volume 2 of this brilliant and beautiful graphic novel was funded on Kickstarter. Of interest also for its artistic team and its promoters, including Kevin Kelly (Wired), others from Pixar etc., and Mark Frauenfelder (BoingBoing/Make). http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/silvercord/the-silver-cord-a-techno-epic-graphic-novel

* “Sicko” movie research: http://www.michaelmoore.com/books-films/facts/sicko/facts

* Books that Changed the World (list in progress), Common Sense, Uncle Tom’s Cabin, The Communist Manifesto, Uncle Tom’s Cabin, 1984, The Second Sex. Movies that changed the world??

* “Fuels from heaven/fuels from hell” metaphor by Rochelle Lefkowitz, cited by Thomas Friedman in “Hot, Flat and Crowded,” 2008, page 32.

* When Liggett & Myers broke ranks with the tobacco industry http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bennett_S._LeBow

* Develop lists of people and organizations to contact at different stages

* Founder: Serial entrepreneur Felix Kramer spent a decade in the successful campaign to bring plug-in hybrid cars like the Chevy Volt to market. In 2005 he wrote about the climate crisis as an asteroid approaching earth http://www.alternet.org/story/21264/kyoto_and_beyondand in 2010 he addressed the oil industry in Texas http://thinkprogress.org/climate/2010/10/02/206815/blue-skying-petroleums-future/