Fuel: One Suggestion for Our Petroleum Addiction

Screened at SIFF as Fields of Fuel (now expanded with new material), this documentary about the virtues of biofuel heavily interpolates the life of director-evangelist-narrator Joshua Tickell. Born in Australia, he moves as a boy to Louisiana’s “cancer alley,” where gasoline refineries regularly befoul the bayous with accidentally-on-purpose spills. Or so the class-action lawyers tell Tickell, who’s no less credulous about every Internet crank and claim made about the oil industry, Iraq War, Bush, Cold War, Prohibition—all a plot by John D. Rockefeller to kill ethanol!—etc., etc. Naomi Klein (The Shock Doctrine) is treated like an oracle, and there’s not a single (even moderately) dissenting voice heard on the biodiesel bandwagon. You’re either in the cult or raping the planet. Among the celebs (Sheryl Crow, Neil Young, Willie Nelson, etc.) and talking heads is our own Rep. Jay Inslee. Sen. Maria Cantwell shows up in a clip where Sen. Ted Stevens—every movie needs a villain—shouts her down in some committee meeting. Biofuel is Tickell’s rosebud, and he attempts to explain everything, everything, in the world via the greasy substance that so clearly gave his life direction. (The film took 11 years to make, including an awkward Veggie Van-driving, Phish-listening, tie-dye period during the ’90s.) Tickell is preaching to the converted, who already fill their vintage Benzes with French-fry grease from Dr. Dan, Propel, or other local vendors (at nearly $4 per gallon). But they already know the gospel, and already have DVDs of the better told, better argued Who Killed the Electric Car? and An Inconvenient Truth at home. Those outside the bio-church aren’t likely to drive (at under $3 per gallon) to see it at their local theater.