| July 27, 2020
Juice: How Electricity Explains The World is an infomercial for fossil fuels, masquerading as a documentary about the importance of electric power. It’s a high-quality infomercial, and while the facts are spun, the filmmakers don’t present any factual inaccuracies.
Oil industry representative Robert Bryce wrote and narrated the film. His central thesis, which is accurate, is that global poverty, women’s rights, climate change — many of the world’s most pressing challenges — are directly related to the availability of household electric power. The wealth of cultures around the world can be assessed by whether or not power is present. Power, in other words, is power. This is a perspective that we may not have considered before, as electricity in the developed world is like oxygen: generally noticed only if it’s absent.
The film’s marketing website claims that “The defining inequality in the world today is the disparity between the electricity rich and the electricity poor. In fact, there are more than 3 billion people on the planet today who are using less electricity than what’s used by an average American refrigerator.”
“…an infomercial for fossil fuels, masquerading as a documentary about the importance of electric power…”
Bryce takes viewers to Beirut, Reykjavik, Kolkata, San Juan, Manhattan, and Boulder to tell the cultural story of electric power. It’s a compelling tour, and an eye-opener, particularly in places like Lebanon, where Beirut has been hiring power plant barges from Afghanistan to provide power. Beirut also deals with neighborhood power gangsters…small power generating units owned and operated by organized crime. Like a local Don, your power supplier makes an offer that is very difficult to refuse. Following Bryce, we see places where theft of power is the norm in some neighborhoods. Delhi is a great example of where dangerous illegal taps are common.
Watch this film cynically: Bryce has ties to the fossil fuel industry. He takes the position that global poverty can be addressed with clean, cheap power and that resolving economic disparity is a more important problem to solve than renewable energy. He couches the push for sustainable energy as a privilege of rich countries. He has also made statements as a climate science denier.