Day 1 – Houston Refineries

Day 1 – Houston Refineries

The trip begins in Houston!

We spent the day touring Houston refineries from the outside. The goal was to gather footage to use for our interviews with TEJAS and the Tar Sands Blockade, two groups we are scheduled to meet this week. We filmed a playground that was across the street from a major refinery. Many other smokestacks could be seen in the distance. As Noga and I walked around the slides and swing sets, a long train came barreling by loaded to the brim with products heading to the refineries and chemical plants. The neighborhood of Manchester is surrounded by industry. An intense smell was noticeable at first but we became used to it as we walked around.

We continued on into the Manchester community, which led to even more power plants and refineries. These plants, and plants like them, are the source of all the energy I have used throughout my life. Until now the source of that power had been a simple light switch. Now a larger picture was emerging.

On the side of a small street, as I was getting a great shot of a towering refinery, a Valero Security Van drove towards me. The security guard was a friendly woman and kindly asked me why I was filming. I told her I’m working on a documentary about where our energy comes from and the communities that live nearby. She suggested I go to front entrance of the power plant and try to speak with the plant manager. I said I didn’t think to try because I assumed they wouldn’t have time for me. She assured me Valero always has time for the community. Then she received a call on her walkie-talkie. Her higher-up ordered that I must leave immediately. No filming. My new friend the security guard followed orders and made sure Noga and I left the premises. She took down my name and website. Valero, I hope you enjoy looking at ashbournefilms.com!

For hours after I kept expecting someone to tell me to stop filming. We traveled down to the Port of Houston, where the finished products from the refineries begin their travels elsewhere, through large cargo ships. We went for a hike through a small prairie and swamp by the Port. Refineries still surrounded the horizon. I think we found one spot where we could look around without seeing a refinery. On the trail we crossed over buried petroleum pipelines and warning signs explaining so.

It was a long first day of filming and we returned to the Hostel exhausted. But it’ll be nothing compared to the days ahead. I am grateful for the opportunity to go on a trip like this, and determined to make something important from it.

What a way to start the New Year. Happy New Years!

– Alex

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