UW Graduate Student Produces Documentary about Energy

April 13, 2012
Man biking
Mark Pedri biked more than 700 miles last summer to make a documentary film about energy production in Wyoming. (Burning Torch Productions)

By Alex Edwards, College of Arts and Sciences writing intern

Rock Springs native Mark Pedri, a graduate student in the University of Wyoming Department of Communication and Journalism, rode his bike 701 miles across Wyoming last summer to film a documentary on energy production.

"I decided to ride around the entire state on my bike with all my equipment and survival gear, and go to various energy sites," Pedri says. "I wanted to ask the guy in charge, ‘What is the best kind of energy?'"

Pedri says he started the project because he, like many Wyoming citizens, has grown up in the middle of energy production.

"I have close friends and family within the coal industry, within the renewable energy research field, and also within environmental activist groups," Pedri said. "This really created an interesting perspective, because I have people very close to me who depend on the energy industry to make their living and others whose livelihood is dedicated to preserving the natural beauty of Wyoming."

"Energy O Energy," Pedri's documentary, examines various types of energy production, including natural gas, coal, wind, solar, hydro and uranium. The Jonah natural gas field, the Jim Bridger Power Plant and the Flaming Gorge Dam were among sites he visited.

"Wyoming is interesting because we have the lowest population, but we export more energy than any another state," Pedri says. "When I was talking with Governor Mead, he told me that if you look at the amount of BTUs (a measurement of energy) that Wyoming exports and the amount of BTUs that the United States uses, one could say that almost every other house is powered by Wyoming energy."

Pedri found that energy production cannot be fully grasped without understanding energy consumption, so he continued his journey to New York, Portland and Seattle.

After learning about energy production and energy consumption, Pedri realized there is a critical in-between stage -- the distribution process. In Portland, he visited two of the highest officials at Bonneville Power Administration, a public service organization that strives to deliver an adequate, efficient, economical and reliable power supply.

To wrap up his research and get a sense of the larger picture, Pedri interviewed Gov. Matt Mead.

"We talked about the importance of public opinion, politics and energy," Pedri said. "I also wanted to know what someone in his position thought the best type of energy was."

Pedri says he answered his question, "What is the best kind of energy?" but he doesn't want to give the film away. Nonetheless, he did learn that renewable energy sources tend to be more expensive but do not produce carbon dioxide, and wind energy wouldn't be nearly as attractive without government incentives.

"From meeting with experts, I learned that the issue of running out of fossil fuels is no longer a debate," Pedri says. "Everyone agrees that there is a finite amount of coal, oil and gas."

More than just a story about a quest to find the best energy, "Energy O Energy" is about a biking expedition.

"This film is about exploring and discovering something interesting, and then trying to spread the word to inspire people," Pedri says. "I want to inspire people to think about how they live -- not in a positive or negative way but in a way that asks if they are self-aware."

Pedri has entered a short version of the film, "Western Wandering," in the Wyoming Short Film Contest. "Western Wandering" explains Wyoming's unique relationship with the energy production industry.

Find the film at http://www.wyomingshortfilmcontest.com/VideoContest/1198276/About.

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