Can Changing Our FUEL Change The World?

Goodlifer: Can Changing Our FUEL Change The World?

Josh Tickell grew up in carefree Australia, running around the outback, playing with wild animals and swimming in pristine waters. When moving back to the Louisiana bayou with his American mother, he discovered a desolate wasteland that was merely a shadow of its glorious cajun-spiced past.

Our dependence on oil is so profound, it is currently impossible to maintain our modern lifestyle without it. We could try to drill, baby, drill our way our of foreign oil-dependence all we want, but the fact is that there are not enough oil reserves in this country to even be considered a realistic short-term band-aid. What we do know is that the effects of drilling and refineries on the environment and personal health cannot be denied. People are dying in cancer alleys all over the world, in the name of corporate profits and upholding of a highly unsustainable status quo.


Cancer Alley protesters.

It is true that good old American blue collar jobs are being lost — a tragedy but also a blessing. A good crisis is a terrible thing to waste. Those are the, very true, words of White House chief-of-staff Rahm Emanuel. The American car industry will never be what it once was, true, but lamenting on the past without looking into future possibility has never been very productive.

Josh Tickell cares about biofuels, so much that calling it an obsession would be an understatement. He gained a fair amount of fame driving around the country in his self-engineered Veggie Van, spreading the biofuel gospel. FUEL is clearly a labor of love, one that took a little over a decade to make. The film employs an Inconvenient Truth-style narrative to tell a story of dependence, desperation and danger, but more importantly of hope and promise. Celebrity appearances include known eco warriors like Sheryl Crow, Laurie David, Woody Harrelson and Richard Branson but also less obvious names like Robert Kennedy Jr, Willie Nelson, Neil Young and, my personal favorite, on-screen oil man turned environmental activist Larry Hagman. As many other self-propelled labors of love, it could have been a half hour shorter without loosing any of its impact. The good news, to students and people with short attention spans, is that a 45-minute educational version is available.

Larry Hagman, a.k.a. J.R. Ewing, with a small cup of algae, the possible future of biofuels.

Larry Hagman, a.k.a. J.R. Ewing, with a small cup of algae, the possible future of biofuels.

FUEL won the Best Documentary Audience Award at the Sundance festival. If you live in Yakima, WA, L.A. or Santa Monica, you can catch it in select theaters this weekend. For future screenings in other cities, check the website.


“Change your fuel. Change the world,” in Tickell’s vision of the future it is really that simple.


About author
A designer by trade, Johanna has always had a passion for storytelling. Born and raised in Sweden, she's lived and worked in Miami, Brooklyn and, currently, Ojai, CA. She started Goodlifer in 2008 to offer a positive outlook for the future and share great stories, discoveries, thoughts, tips and reflections around her idea of the Good Life. Johanna loves kale, wishes she had a greener thumb, and thinks everything is just a tad bit better with champagne (or green juice).
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