Film Review: FUEL (change your fuel change your world). Rated A.

March 29, 2009 by · Leave a Comment
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This is a documentary about the odyssey of Josh Tickell, an advocate for bio-fuel. In college Tickell became interested in the diesel engine invented by Rudolf Diesel in the latter part of the Nineteenth Century.

Tickell who was born in Australia, to a Louisiana born and raised mother and an Australian father. He spent his pre-teen years in an idyllic, bucolic life in Australia . When he was eleven, Josh and his brother returned to the Louisiana bayou country with their mother.

This area of Louisiana was heavily involved in the production and refinement of petroleum products. A by product of this activity was severe pollution and the heath problems caused by a polluted environment. The picture infers that his mother’s eleven miscarriages were a consequence of her exposure to this pollution.

A major attribute of this film is its positive outlook on the solution to the problems created by our oil driven world.

Tickell in the film promotes the development of bio-fuel which he has done for most of is post college life. In particular he converted a “Veggie Van” to run on a diesel engine using waste vegetable oil. He drove the colorfully painted van 25 thousand miles around the U.S. promoting the use of bio-fuel for eleven years while gathering materials for this documentary.

This is a thinking person’s film and it gives the history of petroleum and the relationship that has developed between the oil companies, the auto manufacturers and the politicians. This relationship, driven by greed and shortsightedness, has done much to create our present dilemma. The pace, levity and positive viewpoint of the film also make it entertaining.

The purpose of the film is not to blame or condemn. It mostly explores the ways to solve our energy crisis and in particular advances the argument for bio-fuels, both for gas engines and diesel engines. In doing so it points out that most of the news stories we see discounting bio-fuels as a viable energy source are unfounded or the result of a public relations barrage by big oil and automobile interests.

Rudolph Diesel originally built his engine to run on vegetable oil and he used peanut oil for his fuel. Today’s diesel engines can run on bio-fuel, even discarded vegetable oils from restaurants as Tickell has shown in his journey.This fuel is cleaner than oil based diesel fuel.

Gasoline engines can run on ethanol also a bio-fuel. This fuel is usually derived from corn and soybeans and other food crops. When these crops are diverted, usually by government subsidies to make them economically competitive with oil based gasoline, they drive up the cost of these crops on the world market. This means hunger for those who can not meet the price rise created by the increased demand for such crops when also used as bio-fuel.

Bio-diesel has a 1 to 3 ratio of efficiency whereas the ratio of efficiency is nearly equal in ethanol used in gasoline engines. In other words the energy used in producing ethanol is nearly the same as the amount of energy produced by the ethanol.

The true cost of gasoline is hidden. It is not the price paid at the pump for a gallon of gas. If you factor in the cost of a military to protect our sources and supply lines as well as subsidies to the oil industry made directly by the Government or through tax breaks the cost to the taxpayer is much higher. Then the cost of the damage to the Earth and our climate must also be taken into account.

When all this is added in it is better to spend about eight dollars a gallon for bio diesel while giving tax breaks or subsidies to bring the pump price down to about $3.00 as we do with gasoline and ethanol now.

In Brazil ethanol is made from their sugar crop, this product would be a competitor of our ethanol but is prevented from import to our market by tariffs.

The film makes the point that no one energy source will solve the energy crisis but bio- fuels can be used to solve our transportation needs and that the need to import oil can be eliminated for this purpose. This will go a long way to divorcing ourselves from hostile regimes in the Mid East.

It also advances the proposition that algae grown in sewer waste water can be made into bio-fuels sufficient to meet world demand for transportation energy.

The pace of the film and the information and ideas it advances are always entertaining as well as presenting food for thought.

This film is well worth seeing.