Saturday, April 18, 2009
FUEL film follow-up
Dave posted a introduction to the Josh Tickell film "FUEL" which is now showing at Harkins Camelview 5 in Scottsdale. I was invited to this Saturday's 7p show; afterward there was a short Q&A with Greg Piraino of Applied Engineering (who's helping with local promotion of the film), Greg Pitz of Logos Solar, and me. Friday's panel included Mark Edwards of GreenIndependence.org.
Saturday's audience included Dan Rees of AZ Biodiesel, who answered questions about getting biodiesel into local school buses, and James Towner of AZ Sustainability.com and the Arizona Alternative Fuel Alliance.
The film itself was visually compelling and told Josh's personal story around biodiesel, with a liberal sprinkling of political muckraking. Tighter editing would help; toward the end of the film not much new is being said. Dorothy attended as my "guest" and Harkins got his $5.50 for Emily. All three of us were fidgeting in our seats by the 90 minute mark of the nearly 2 hour movie. The soundtrack was fantastic.
Many of the issues are more nuanced than the somewhat histrionic version Tickell presents, and some of the interviewee's proposed solutions would only exacerbate our current problems (new government mandates and subsidies are mentioned more than once as "obvious" solutions).
One of the reasons *why* we are in this pickle: we don't pay, at the pump, the true cost of petroleum (we pay in other ways, though: through higher taxes to pay for foreign entanglements, and Superfund cleanups, for example). These externalities subsidize our petroleum dependence, and prevent alternatives from competing on a level playing field. This is a *hard* problem for which lots of solutions have been proposed.
And it seems, at least to me, that few people want to acknowledge the obvious: we benefit greatly from cheap energy, in the form of, well, everything! Food, clothes, housing, ... Whatever the solution is it better be consistent with first principles. Is massive social engineering really required? To quote David Boaz: "A socialist system - or an interventionist state, which is just partial socialism - requires uniform solutions to problems rather than the myriad variety of solutions available through the market process." 
Here's a simple question: Are we willing to pay for what we use?
Despite its faults the movie achieves its main purpose: to inform and, more importantly, to motivate those rapidly diminishing number of persons who are unaware that we have serious and immediate issues with our continuing dependence on petroleum. It'll also be interesting to see if Tickell can generate enough buzz, and money, to fund a follow-up: something that provides a "deep-dive" into some of the proposed alternatives to oil.
After all, folks (especially those for whom this is all new) want to know: what do I *do*? Suggesting CFLs is good as far as it goes, but kind of misses the point. Using his own logic, if the situation is really as dire as Tickell suggests, then we *really* need to focus on the big wins.
But enough nit-picking: FUEL is *definitely* worth checking out.
 The Politics of Freedom: Taking on the Left, the Right, and Threats to Our Liberties, David Boaz, 2008