Concerning the entrenched power of the oil industry on the United States and the lack of consumer choices for alternatives to gasoline, Pump is invariably political, though it does a good job of avoiding partisan caterwauling, limiting its argument to a clear thesis and well-articulated supporting statements. It’s understood that we’re using more and more fuel as a country (and a planet) and that that fuel’s finite nature hasn’t been properly addressed from an economic or even practical perspective—and it’s not for nothing, the filmmakers argue, that Henry Ford called alcohol “the perfect fuel” and even built his cars to run on it, not long before prohibition. Pump is replete with enough such information that it summarily dismisses all arguments to the contrary.
Many films of this ilk would take the opportunity to rail against hydrofracking, but when the topic comes up here, the doc is content to define the basics of the process, noting its controversial nature and general lack of regulation as understood givens and part of the bigger issue at hand, and promptly moving on. In refusing to even give the time of day to talking points driven primarily by corporate-funded greed and scientific ignorance, the filmmakers have made a valuable political statement, and the most of their running time. In carefully tracing the history of oil’s cephalopod grip on the economy, from the streetcar conspiracy committed by General Motors, Mack Truck, and others to the rise and fall of Detroit, Pump places its cards were it knows they count the most: sobering data. Heck, even your FOX News-loving elderlies might admit they learned a thing or two.