NEW YORK – After years of trying to wean Americans off oil with warnings about arctic drilling and air pollution, some environmentalists are focusing their appeals on national security — and using the movie "Syriana" to help make their points.
The critically acclaimed George Clooney film blames oil dependency for everything from political assassinations to the spread of radical Islam but scarcely mentions the environment. It has, however, helped partner the lefty save-the-Earth movement with an unlikely ally, right-wing national security hawks.
Jon Coifman, a spokesman for the Natural Resources Defense Council, said some members of his group were wary about the alliance but have swallowed their doubts in favor of the greater good.
"A lot of liberal coalitions and a lot of liberal individuals will look at these people and say, 'We don't like these guys,"' Coifman said. "But the lines on the political map are being redrawn. I don't think this is going to be a short-term marriage of convenience."
Each side still "reserves the right to knock heads" on other issues, he added.
Anne Korin, co-director of the Washington, D.C.-based Institute for the Analysis of Global Security, acknowledged she "couldn't care less" about global warming or protecting the environment from oil drilling.
"I'm involved in this because most of the world's oil reserves are owned by countries that finance people that want to kill us, that finance radical Islam," she said.
The institute organized the Set America Free coalition, which unites the NRDC and other environmentalists with such hawks as former CIA Director James Woolsey.
"Syriana" has become one of the allies' rallying points because of its argument that oil dependence results in stunted Middle Eastern economies, terrorism and violence. The NRDC and the Sierra Club are working with the film's producers to educate people about how they can reduce oil use.
Participant Productions, which is backed by former eBay President Jeffrey Skoll, aspires to release films that make people get involved in social issues. A company Web site includes oil-saving tips and invites visitors to e-mail form letters to Congress calling for a national commitment to reduce oil dependence by at least 2.5 million barrels a day within a decade.
The company isn't surprised by the movie's diverse supporters because there are so many good arguments for conservation, said Participant Productions spokeswoman Meredith Blake.
"It's a political issue and it's not a political issue," Blake said. "It's also an ethical and a moral and an environmental issue. And it's clearly a security issue and an economic issue. Everyone, regardless of background, has a stake in the outcome."