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.

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