NEW YORK (AP) — As half of HGTV’s “Property Brothers,” Jonathan Scott is all about transforming interior spaces. Now he’s revealing a massive space he’d like to transform — the Earth.
“Jonathan Scott’s Power Trip” is his new documentary about solar power and why this clean, renewable source of energy is being stifled by what he calls an “archaic, old boys system” that’s financially addicted to fossil fuels.
“It’s just so frustrating when you see how rigged the game is,” he tells The Associated Press. “I’ve always been willing to be the person that stands up and speaks and says something.”
The film premieres Monday night as part of “Independent Lens” on PBS stations across the country and contains interviews with environmentalist and former Vice President Al Gore and Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont. It takes Scott from Georgia farmers suffering with skyrocketing energy bills to coal miners in Kentucky with black lung. He reveals his own grandfather died of the ailment.
Scott, who directs and co-wrote the film, argues that utility companies have fed disinformation about renewable energy and purposely frustrated consumer choice with a government mandated legal monopoly.
“There’s so much misinformation, I’m taking all of the truth and I’m putting it in one place. Everything that I’m showing in the film, there’s no discussion or debate or doubt about it anymore,” he said.
In some cases, he found utilities shifting the cost of coal ash cleanup onto the very same customers who contracted cancer from the waste. “We constantly keep letting them take away our rights and we let them pollute our communities,” he said.
In an interview with the AP, Scott discussed why he believes solar isn’t a partisan issue, why he’d like to install more solar panels on “Property Brothers” and why he wrote a song for the film. Answers have been edited for brevity and clarity.
AP: What’s fascinating in the film is that pro-solar voices can be found from die-hard Democrats like Al Gore to Tea Party leaders like Debbie Dooley.
Scott: I intentionally wanted to make sure that both sides of the political aisle were represented in the voices because what I discovered during the journey is it’s not a partisan issue. It’s just there are a lot of very powerful corporations that have realized if they can try and make us think it’s a partisan issue, they’re more likely to succeed in slowing things down and keeping the status quo.
AP: You spend a lot of time outlining that the industrialist Koch brothers protect a monopolized system. But you also go after Warren Buffett and his Berkshire Hathaway investments in oil, gas and coal, too.
Scott: I’ve had this conversation with some friends: They say, ‘Look at people like Warren Buffett. He’s a good guy.’ Yeah, he’s a smart guy. And how do you think he’s making his billions of dollars? When he donates millions and millions to charity, that’s wonderful. But he’s making that money mostly through his energy holdings.
AP: You’re also passionate about climate change, but it barely gets a mention in the film. Why?
Scott: There’s a large contingent of the population who as soon as they hear ‘climate,’ they tune out and they’re not interested because they think it’s just a bunch of hubbub. I didn’t want that with the film. I’m not trying to create a film to pander and preach to the people who are already converted. I wanted to create a film that starts a dialog and lets people listen long enough that it piques their interest and then maybe they’ll start to take a new interest in renewable energy or change their opinion.
AP: Why don’t you do more solar installs on “Property Brothers”?
Scott: I’d love to. We’ve done a few episodes of our shows where we have put solar in, but that’s a far cry from the 400 episodes that we’ve done. And the reason is most of the homeowners on ‘Property Brothers’ usually they have next to no budget for everything that they want to accomplish. So we’re trying to get them the things that will functionally make their life work now.
AP: A song you co-wrote and sing called “Being Honest” plays over the end credits. Tell us about it.
Scott: I was trying to find the right song that would express the seriousness of what we’re discussing in the film. But it’s also sort of just the political climate right now, and it even relates to people in their relationships. I think we are so fed up that we just want a little honesty in our lives.