What happens when an industry has too much power? “Greedy Lying Bastards” presents a searing indictment of the influence, deceit and corruption that defines the fossil fuel industry. From the Gulf Coast to the tiny nation of Tuvalu, from Nigeria and Uganda to Peru and Alaska, filmmaker and political activist Craig Rosebraugh documents the impact of an industry that continually puts profits before people, wages a campaign of lies designed to thwart measures to combat climate change, uses its clout to minimize infringing regulations and undermines the political process in the U.S. and abroad.
Rosebraugh’s in-depth investigation into the industry took him to five continents and nine countries. “Greedy Lying Bastards” is the disturbing and revealing portrait of what he uncovered on his journey, a tale of devastating consequences. By interweaving the stories of the victims of the Gulf oil spill and the global climate crisis with a look at the practices of fossil fuel companies and the climate change deniers they support, he lays bare the industry’s deliberate pattern of irresponsibility. And, while oil companies worldwide exert undue influence over policies that will protect their revenues, those who speak out against the industry’s reckless practices risk their livelihoods, imprisonment, and in some instances, their lives.
The 2010 tragedy of the Deepwater Horizon that cost 11 men their lives, is but one byproduct of the industry’s unchecked--and often unregulated--drive for profits. More than a year later, the documentary shows how Gulf Coast residents continue to pay a steep price. Settlements promised by BP are proving largely insufficient and thousands of claims remain outstanding.
“Greedy Lying Bastards” goes inside emotionally charged meetings with BP, where those most affected by the spill share their anger, frustration, and hopelessness. Businesses are being forced to close, families are being rendered destitute, and people are desperate. Perhaps one of those victims puts it best when he asks a single word be relayed to BP…“Help.”
Even more alarming, is the increasing number of health problems related to exposure to the crude oil and the toxic dispersant Corexit used to break up the spill. And while the federal government on up to the President has declared Gulf beaches and water clean, and the seafood from the region safe to consume, experienced scientists conducting tests in the Gulf are arriving at very different conclusions. According to one recent test¸ shrimp we’re now eating from the oil-spill affected region showed petroleum hydrocarbon levels ten times the amount now considered safe.
Reassured of its safety, people returned to the beaches with dire—even fatal—consequences. Steven Aguinaga and his friend Merrick Vallian, healthy young men, went swimming off the coast of Florida. They emerged covered in an orange goo. Within 30 days, Vallian was dead and Aguinaga has exhibited and continues to experience severe symptoms associated with chemical exposure.
“They allowed a chemical that was banned in nineteen countries to be sprayed,” a Mississippi resident says. “And now, when people start saying ‘I'm sick, I've got all these problems,’ they want to ignore them."
“I was shocked to learn of the lasting impact and how little had been done for residents economically impacted or those who have experienced serious health issues from chemical poisoning from the crude or the dispersant,” says Rosebraugh. “The Environmental Protection Agency told BP to stop using Corexit in June 2010 yet the oil company continued to use it through the rest of the year and into 2011.”
How can you right the wrongs when the fossil field industry wields so much influence over energy and environmental policies? The film tackles the reason behind stalled efforts to tackle climate change despite consensus in the scientific community that it is not only a reality but a growing problem that is placing us on the brink of disaster. “Greedy Lying Bastards” details the people and organizations casting doubt on climate science and claims that greenhouse gases are not affected by human behavior. Among those deniers are Republican Presidential candidates, Texas governor Rick Perry and Minnesota representative Michele Bachman, as well as other prominent politicians like Senator James Inhofe, from oil-rich Oklahoma.
Millions are spent each year by oil and related interests to fund the think tanks, groups, scientists and politicians waging what the film deems a campaign of deceit regarding the science of climate change and its dire impact on the planet. Between 1998 and 2008, “Greedy Lying Bastards” reports ExxonMobil and Koch Industries have each spent nearly $25 million to dispel claims of global warming.
A far different story about climate change is told by the residents of Kivalina, a small Alaskan island above the Arctic Circle. Over the last fifty years, winter temperatures have risen nearly seven degrees and the ice that once protected the land is not forming properly leading to increasing erosion. As one tribal administrator notes: “The debate is over, we are dealing with the realities of climate change.”
A month and half before the Gulf disaster, floods caused an avalanche of mud and rock to decimate three villages in eastern Uganda, killing some 350 people. More extreme weather thought to be caused by climate change has affected people living there at a subsistence level. Unpredictable cycles of floods and droughts are damaging crops and leaving farming practices into disarray.
In Peru, glaciers are melting at accelerating rates. And the Pacific Ocean is consuming the nine islands that make up the nation of Tuvalu. The tiny Polynesian country is in danger of totally disappearing, and a people and culture along with it.
There’s no worse example of environmental devastation from extraction of oil than in the Niger Delta region. Ken Saro Wiwa, an environmental activist in Nigeria, spoke out against the policies of Shell Oil in the area. The nation’s military dictatorship backed by the oil giant conspired to bring him up on charges largely believed to be politically motivated. Wiwa, along with eight others, were hastily tried, found guilty and subsequently hanged.
Filmed in the US, Tuvalu, Peru, England, Uganda, Kenya, Belgium, Denmark and Germany, “Greedy Lying Bastards” includes interviews with scientists, industry experts, international political delegates, climate change victims as well as deniers, and people affected by the practices of the fossil fuel industry. Among them: UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon; Rep. Henry Waxman; former EPA head Christine Todd Whitman; leading climate science skeptics Myron Ebell, Christopher Lord Monckton, and Jay Lehr; Ken Wiwa, the son of the slain Nigerian environmentalist; farmers in Peru and Uganda; and Mike Robichaux, one of the few doctors willing to treat Gulf residents sick with chemical poisoning from the BP spill.
“This film is an investigation into an industry that is simply out of control,” Rosebraugh contends. “The fossil fuel industry has shown that it will stop at nothing to maximize profits for shareholders, whether its cutting corners on safety, employing highly paid lobbyist to impact the political process, giving huge amounts to climate change denialists to ensure that no legislation is passed that would impact the bottom line, or complicity in the murder of individuals who speak up against environmental degradation.”
“Greedy Lying Bastards” was co-written and edited by Patrick Gambuti Jr.