Another hard-hitting segment of the acclaimed documentary series The Empire Files, The Tyranny of Big Oil paints a sharp critique against the oil industry, and its stranglehold upon the highest levels of the United States government.
The filmmakers rely heavily on the insights of Antonia Juhasz, the author of the film's namesake, as well as freelance investigative journalist Greg Palast. Collectively, they speak of the industry's influence in dictating domestic and international policies, avoiding meager environmental regulations, and using every weapon in their arsenal to protect and expand their interests.
The all-encompassing power of the oil industry is nothing new. It began with the world's first billionaire - John D. Rockefeller - who used strong-arm bribery tactics to monopolize 90% of the globe's refineries. The U.S. government attempted to enact legislation to break up this monopoly, but these efforts were in vain. The oil industry, and the elite class who controlled it, became too big to adhere to government regulation.
This dynamic has only become more inflamed over time. Today, oil reserves are sparse and harder to reach. As the world's largest consumer of oil, the United States military considers oil procurement a matter of national security. According to the testimonies offered in the film, they are even willing to wage wars in an attempt to lay claim to these reserves.
The environmental impact of dirty energy dependency is even more catastrophic and immoral. The British Petroleum oil spill of April 2010 killed eleven citizens, nearly a million birds, untold quantities of marine life, and has set the stage for decades of life-threatening health repercussions. Even in the face of the biggest environmental disaster in recorded history, the industry has reframed the narrative by offering generous payouts to climate scientists and ecologists and negotiating to speak on their behalf. Meanwhile, they've been ordered to pay less than 10% of the fines required of them by law.
Sobering and infuriating, The Tyranny of Big Oil examines a nation where laws and principles are determined entirely by greed, and whose immoral practices in defense of the oil industries likely endanger the future of our planet.