If I had any question as to whether or not I was in the right theater to see the energy doc Houston We Have a Problem, that question was answered when a guy sat down two rows in front of me wearing a 10 gallon hat. Not a modern Stetson, mind you, but a Old West 10 gallon hat. He seemed to fit the part of the Texas oilman.
As director Nicole Torre said following the screening, the film is a call to action, urging both oilmen and clean-energy pioneers to work together to solve the country’s energy problems. In Torre’s interviews, a consensus emerges: wildcatters got us here, and wildcatters are going to lead us out.
Put another way: The wildcatters who discovered all that Texas oil (like those profiled in the recent book The Big Rich) had a common thread among them: a willingness to take risks in the hopes that they would hit it big. Houston argues that that same spirit is needed in the search for renewable energy.
Late in the film, we start to meet some of those modern day wildcatters, and it was about this point that the same 10 gallon hat sitting two rows in front of me also appeared on the big screen. In both instances, it was sitting on the head of Steve Munson, the head of Vulcan Power Company, a developer of clean, renewable power.
I suppose it’s good to know that the pop culture image of the cowboy oilman is staying the same, even as the thing he’s looking for has changed.