German film offers answers to Gore climate concerns

BERLIN (Reuters) - Al Gore raised some alarming questions about climate change in his Oscar-winning 2006 film “An Inconvenient Truth” that a German filmmaker has now tried to provide some answers for in a new documentary.

Carl Fechner’s “The Fourth Revolution - Energy Autonomy” is an attempt to show how the world could be getting all its energy from renewable sources in 30 years -- and help slow the climate change that Gore warned about in his blockbuster film.

An unabashedly provocative look at renewable energy in countries from the United States, Germany, Denmark, China, Mali and Bangladesh, Fechner’s new film has attracted rave reviews and fierce criticism in Germany since it opened last week.

It has been lauded by some newspapers for spelling out a fossil fuel-free route the world could follow but denounced by others as political propaganda for suggesting powerful special interests are blocking wider use of renewable energy.

“The film takes a clear-cut position that it would be possible for the world to rely on renewable energy for 100 percent of its energy needs,” Fechner told Reuters. “But it is still nevertheless a piece of solid journalism.”

Fechner added: “It’s a documentary. Every film takes a position. You can’t achieve 100 percent objectivity in any film. Ours is especially noticeable because we offer solutions. Can a film offer solutions like this? In my mind, yes it can.”

Fechner, who has been making documentary films for 20 years, said he was inspired by Gore’s film that thrust the issue of global warming into the spotlight. Fechner said he wanted to show one path that could be taken to help fight climate change.

“Who isn’t inspired by Al Gore?” said Fechner, 56. “He’s a star of our times because he so effectively showed the problem.”

Fechner’s film tries to offer solutions by showing a concentrated solar power plant in Spain that produces enough electricity for 100,000 people, a wind energy network in Denmark and solar power projects in Mali and Bangladesh.

The film points out that two billion people have no access to electricity, a problem that could be alleviated in the years ahead with a greater use of de-central renewable energy that would have the added advantage of combating poverty.

“Poverty and a lack of energy go hand in hand,” Fechner said. In one segment a small solar power system is installed on a roof of a village hospital in Mali -- its first electricity.

Fechner spent four years on the film, which also shows how Germans in a 60-year-old apartment building saw heating bills slashed to almost zero through an energy efficient makeover.

It includes interviews with Nobel laureate Mohammad Yunus describing how micro loans can help rural regions get access to energy as well as Elon Musk, co-founder of California’s Tesla Motors car company that builds electric cars.

Also featured is Fatih Birol, the chief economist of the International Energy Agency in Paris, who casts doubt on the future of renewables by saying there will never be enough wind and solar energy to meet the worlds’ needs.

Fechner argues it is possible from a technical standpoint. It is, he said, only an open political and economic question.

editing by Paul Casciato