Greetings again from the darkness. Documentaries with a message are usually most effective when they engage in debate … share both sides of the argument, if you will. Preaching from a soapbox typically causes the viewer to tune out, and the opportunity is missed. The one exception to this is when the stance is heavily supported with history, facts, data, research and pertinent interviews. Husband and wife co-directors Joshua Tickell and Rebecca Harrell Tickell deliver what amounts to a visual thesis on how to break the big oil monopoly.
Beginning with a montage of beautiful and colorful automobiles, we are quickly reminded of Americans love of their cars which leads to the addiction to oil. The next 90 minutes provides a trek through the key historical events that led to our oil dependency, and ends with a proposal on how to stop it.
The history lesson discusses John D Rockefeller and his Standard Oil monopoly, followed by his political influence to get Prohibition passed. This after Henry Ford called alcohol “the perfect fuel”. We then learn of how large companies drove out the trolley system in favor of an interstate freeway system for cars. We re-live the 1973 gas shortage as the Arab countries flexed – or extorted, depending on your take. Jumping to 2008, the surge in oil prices to $147 per barrel is described as the economic earthquake, with the Stock Market crash termed an aftershock. In other words, oil is the foundation of our economy. Today’s global market is discussed along with the exponential growth of China’s car industry – 15 million cars sold this year. This time-line with specific data leads to the impressive second half of the film … how to get ourselves out of this mess.
For those who say it’s foolish to discuss breaking our dependency on oil because it is used in so many other ways, they are missing the point. The cause is less oil dependency for cars, not a total break from it’s use in products such as medicines, clothes, plastics, etc. The filmmakers offer the options of both electric cars and alternative fuel sources.
Elon Musk’s Tesla Motors is briefly discussed, with the acknowledgment that battery technology improvement is vital to the future success of electric cars. A more immediate solution comes in the form of alternative fuels – ethanol and methanol. We see the exceptional strides Brazil has made with strong leadership. We see how our current vehicles already have the capability to run on these biofuels, if not for a simple software adjustment built-in by auto-makers. Nine million flex fuel cars on the road now, and many of these owners remain unaware of their options. Why? Because fueling stations are so tough to come by, as only the most independent of stations are not contractually obligated to big oil companies.
The film is exceptionally well researched and the data delivered in an easy to understand format. The Tickell team won the Sundance award for the 2008 documentary Fuel, and their message is even stronger this time out. By the way, Ms. Tickell is a former child actress known as Sam Elliot’s daughter in the 1989 Christmas classic Prancer. She and her husband are now renowned environmental activists, and this project is really a call to action … the choices are available NOW to break the oil monopoly.
watch the trailer: