Fuel (Fields of Fuel)

In Fuel (Fields of Fuel), filmmaker Joshua Tickell sets out to prove that biodiesel, made from vegetable oil, is a viable alternative to gasoline.  Although politicians and energy execs have done their best to quell it, the benefits of biodiesel are real. This documentary (winner of the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance) chronicles Tickell’s quest to popularize the untraditional fuel source, citing the environmental and economic advantages the country could reap by adopting it, with America so dependent on oil.  Fuel features Tickell’s various journeys promoting the use of biodiesel.  This is an upbeat documentary about how biofuels can help reduce our dependence on fossil fuels.  It is also a documentary on alternative fuels, not just biodiesel.  This is a solid movie that discusses our current petroleum addiction situation, the negative environmental impacts of this petroleum addiction, and a clear-headed look at the alternatives.  More hopeful ways, such as algae biofuel instead of corn oil biofuel, are laid out.  This is a good primer on the state of renewable energy as of 2008. It begins by discussing biodiesel and goes on to discuss other forms of green energy. It also explains the history of when and why the USA first started research on renewable energy — and when and why we dropped the ball. Some universal principals and concerns about plant-based oil are discussed. Emphasis is eventually placed on the idea that many plant-oil crops can be grown on marginal soil not suitable for growing food. Algae oil is also discussed.  The movie provides a balanced looked at the pluses and minuses of fossil fuel versus biofuels. Within biofuels, it also provides a balanced look at ethanol versus biodiesel. The most important thing that I learned here is that not all biofuels are created equal. But let’s be clear about one thing: corn-based ethanol (gasoline) is a travesty – it was a political solution motivated by what were once-excessive levels of American corn production. Biodiesel is something else entirely — it need not interfere with the world’s food supply, and does not require petroleum to produce. In fact, it’s about three times more energy-efficient than corn-based ethanol, and will not add to greenhouse gases. Of course moving to maximal use of carbon-free renewables (solar, wind, etc.) would be best. But that’s simply not possible, as the documentary explains. We have to have some type of high “energy density” fuel which is environmentally sound in the sense that: (1) it’s efficient in terms of energy costs (unlike corn ethanol); (2) it doesn’t create new greenhouse gasses; and (3) it’s sustainable in terms of the world food supply, etc. Let me repeat: not all biofuels are created equal. That’s why everyone who has seen all the myriad documentaries on energy should watch this one.  I found the last 45 minutes of the film the best. Here, the bad press on biofuels and its effects is shown.  But petroleum is doing a whole hell of a lot worse of damage than solar panels or biodiesel — if you can’t figure that out then you need to seriously reevaluate your source of information.  It ends with some promising sources for biofuel.  This is simply a movie everyone needs to watch. It has lots of information that everybody should be aware of. I thought I had a decent knowledge of biofuel and some of the corruption of oil companies, but I learned so many things I had no clue about. It’s very informative on many newer methods of energy — that alone makes it worth watching.  I learned a lot from this documentary, like that the diesel engine was originally made to run on peanut oil, and that biodiesel has fewer emissions than gas. I checked out the benefits and drawbacks of biodiesel on the internet, and they are pretty much as specified in the movie. Also, this film wasn’t boring. Two thumbs up!  Watch this!  All of it!  If this movie doesn’t make you get up and go, or open your eyes to the gross woolen blanket muscled over your eyes by the oil and gas industry, then nothing will!  Americans must stop waiting for the big oil companies to solve our problems. If the people lead the leaders will follow.  This kind of movie really makes you think. These kinds of movies should be on mainstream television.  This is a wonderful, insightful film.  For even more up-to-date information, check out the web site for The Union of Concerned Scientists. There one can find peer-reviewed journal articles and White Papers describing the latest developments. Also do a web search on the type of renewable energy of interest.  A must-see for everyone. Changing the world for the better seems possible after watching this documentary. Documentary 2008 NR 111 minutes.

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