Monday, June 28, 2010

Doc Review: Fuel (2008)

In addition to my errands by bike this weekend, Josh Tickell’s documentary Fuel came up on my Netflix rotation and it was the perfect complement to a weekend where everyone wanted answers to what they could do about the Gulf oil spill. Made in 2008, there are some eerie statistics and images of Louisiana (did you know that an amount of crude oil the size of the 1989 Exxon Valdez spill was released during Hurricane Katrina in the New Orleans area? No, that’s because no one reported it.) that seem quaint now compared to our current crisis. Tickell’s main sell is bio-diesel fuel, rather than ethanol or even gasoline-based hybrids. I got on board thinking ‘great let’s trade in the ‘brid and buy an old VW and get off oil dependency!’ but not so fast, Tickell puts the brakes on the positive side of biodiesel halway through the film by telling the audience that all the advances made to the biodiesel industry (the announcement that every single diesel engine in the country: buses, trucks, trains, could run on biodiesel today WITHOUT ANY MODIFICATION dropped my jaw) had all been shut down due to scientific studies and reports that biodiesel was not as clean and safe as everyone was led to believe. Definitely an interesting way to prove a point. In the final act, the documentary begins the uphill slog after these setbacks by giving updates on the biodiesel industry: companies that harvest used cooking oil, the planting of mega trees that have shorter growing spans and can be harvested for biomass fuel production, and the most intriguing: algae-based biodiesel farms which use waste water from other industries to grow algae quickly, cleanly and in a very small space. The film easily proves its tag line: change your fuel, change the world.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

1,000 Mile Summer

So in lieu of attending the big cross country rally “Hands Across the Sand” yesterday to protest offshore oil drilling (to attend I would have had to drive approximately 60 miles round trip to stand at the beach for an hour), I decided to continue with my trying not to use my car and did all my errands by bike again. Still on that same tank of gas from May 17th, though the ‘low fuel’ light is starting to pop on and off. (Great thing about a hybrid is that light can go on and off for 20-30 miles depending on your current gas mileage). But a new realization came to me while I was riding yesterday, that I am now officially addicted to not driving my car. The more I ride my bike, the more I want to ride my bike. I had one of the best rides yesterday and I am realizing that I can do pretty much all my errands using my bike or my feet. I can go to the library (I remember once carrying 10 books home in my CamelBack). I’ve carried a 6 pack of beer and a bag of chips home in that bag too (separate occasion, of course). And this week I rode my bike to work 4 days out of 5 with my brand new computer strapped to my back. It can be done! So during yesterday’s errands (pharmacy, bank, grocery store, 2 libraries) I devised a little challenge for myself: I am naming this the “1,000 mile Summer” to see if I can ride my bike at least 1,000 miles this summer. Including what I’ve ridden this month so far, I’m up to 96, but there are at least 10 weeks to go. The big challenge is that while I would ride my bike to work every day if I could, I have a job with hours that wildly fluctuate (sometimes I’m in as early as 7am, and out as late as midnight, sometimes 6 and 7 days a week), and the summer temps in LA get up over 90ยบ. But that’s why they call it a challenge.