Fuel The Movie [Video]

August 29, 2011 | 23:34
Fuel The Movie [Video]
Fuel The Movie [Video]
Fuel, the Sundance Film Festival award winning documentary by director and biodiesel enthusiast Josh Tickell is now viewable online. [Embedded below]

Fuel exposes many of the disadvantages of using oil as our primary energy source. The narrative is arranged as a collection of little stories in which different issues are addressed. Such as environmental pollution as a result of oil disasters which often aren't even covered by the media; the cascading negative effects of climate change; the corrupting power of oil companies and geopolitical warfare  to secure oil wells.

Fuel also offers solutions. Tickell is a fervent supporter of biofuels and a lot of attention goes to these alternative sources of energy. Ethanol is made of crops such as corn and potatoes and can be used to fuel gasoline engines. Biodiesel is made of vegetable or animal fats and can power diesel engines without any alteration needed to the motor.

The documentary's story arc is hung on Tickell's personal coming of age as a biofuel activist. It starts out with portraying his motives from seeing his beloved Louisiana fall pray to the devastating pollution of oil refineries. In response Tickell leaves his home and sets out in a bio-fueled  van to promote biodiesel. At first he is successful, the idea catches on and more and more people start using biofuels. But in every story there comes a point where the protagonist is confronted with what is called the dark night of the soul. That moment when everything he believed in and fought for is thrown into doubt. For Tickell this moment comes when biofuels fall from grace.

In 2008 a series of articles focus on the negative aspects of biofuels. Most importantly, the crops grown for the production of biofuel threaten to occupy farmland that would otherwise be used for the world’s food production. So that the energy for the rich will come at the expense of food for the poor.

His reality check pushes Tickell to look for alternative biofuels. Renewable organic matter that does not compete with food production. He finds it in a laboratory: algae based biofuel.

Algae use sunlight to grow. Converting the sun’s energy into chemical energy that can be turned into biofuels. In the right conditions these micro-organisms reproduce really fast and they can be farmed in areas that are not suited for food production. Like plants they extract carbon dioxide from the environment in order to grow. The CO2 is released in the burning process making it a carbon neutral source of energy. In fact, a good place to built algae farms is near conventional power plants that produce CO2. The unwanted byproduct can be captured and fed into the algae growing cycle.

But even if algae farms live up to their promise, Tickell concludes, biofuel alone will not a sustainable future make. To get the world off its addiction to oil radical changes need to be made. The positive message of Fuel is that these changes can start anywhere. In countries that commit to renewable energy and in small communities that decide to make a difference.

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