Ryan Chartrand

There was a time, not too long ago, when the price of a gallon of gas was cheaper than a Slurpee from 7-Eleven. Signs a few years ago used to say 91 cents per gallon, and now people would freak out if it was to be that low again.

Globally, the rise in refined oil prices has soared past what anyone thought gas would be. The problem is there are too many factors contributing to the crisis, and there aren’t easy solutions to it either.

Two guys from Los Angeles – Scott Roberts and Jeremy Wagener – have taken the question of why gas prices are the way they are and have made a feature-length documentary called “Gas Hole,” in which they explore the oil industry. The film, which is narrated by Peter Gallagher, will be showing at the Palm Theatre tonight.

“I was reading an editorial piece in the Modesto Bee from Fresno more than two years ago, and there was a gentleman talking about how he had met a man back in the 1990s who invented a fuel-injected carburetor for his Buick, and he sold the patent to Shell Oil. They gave this man millions of dollars for it, as long as he promised never to make another one,” said Roberts, 37. “That got me thinking, ‘What happened to that patent and why don’t we know more about it?’”

Roberts and Wagener bounced around the idea of the documentary for a while before they actually started filming. The duo thought the story of how the oil industry got started and the life of the business would be a compelling one and decided to go for it.

“In my opinion, the reasons of the high prices for oil and why the technology is not advancing is because of the oil industry and the auto-manufacturers unwillingness to invest in alternative sources for transportation,” Roberts said.

Roberts then told the story about how Shell Oil tried to shut down its plant in Bakersfield because they claimed it wasn’t making money or producing enough oil. Later, the Attorney General opened its books and found that the Bakersfield operation was making more money than any other oil producer in the state.

“The experience of making this documentary was amazing and challenging. One, because we were almost entirely self-financed, and two, it was hard to get people to talk to us,” Wagener said. “The intention when we started out was not to be activists, because we are Republican and capitalists, but we did find that the more we got deeper into the questions, the less corporate companies wanted to talk to us.”

“Gas Hole” will show at the Palm Theatre tonight at 7 p.m. and 9:15 p.m. After the showings, there will be a question-and-answer session with the directors.

“We wanted to take this movie on tour because it opens dialogue and the art of debate. People will be able to voice their ideas in an open forum,” Roberts said. “If people are interested about the rise in gas prices, they’ll want to see this documentary.”

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