Get Your Motor RunninApril 1, 2009 By: Marianne Dougherty American Salon
Activist Josh Tickell has been a fan of biodiesel, the alternative fuel made out of vegetable oil, for years. In fact, in 1997 he toured the country in a diesel Winnebago that ran on the stuff to spread the word about something he believes could end our dependence on foreign oil. People he met along the way as he "gassed up" at fast food restaurants willing to part with their cooking grease started calling his vehicle The Veggie Van. Now Tickell has directed a documentary called Fuel that won the Best Documentary Audience Award at the Sundance Film Festival last year.
I was lucky enough to attend a New York City screening of the film recently as a guest of John Paul Mitchell Systems. CEO and co-founder John Paul DeJoria is executive producer of the eco-documentary that investigates the replacement of fossil fuels with renewable energy. DeJoria has been a longtime supporter of alternative energy, from utilizing solar power for the harvesting of awapuhi at the Paul Mitchell farm in Hawaii to supporting the development of solar-powered vehicles via the Stanford Solar Car Project. "Alternative fuels are one of the most efficient answers to our nation's and the world's energy needs," DeJoria says. "This film is a great example of exactly how alternative energy makes sense."
The film is terrific, a stirring indictment of the petrochemical industry—who knew that Standard Oil's John D. Rockefeller tried to halt Henry Ford's production of ethanol cars?—but ultimately a rousing call to action. Tickell presents a range of available solutions for re-powering America, from vertical farms that occupy skyscrapers to algae facilities that turn wastewater into fuel, and he is joined by environmentalists, policy makers and celebrities like Julia Roberts, Willie Nelson (another fan of biodiesel) and Sheryl Crow, who are all passionate about the cause.
The film's structure is built around Tickell's personal journey of enlightenment, which started when his family moved from idyllic Australia to Louisiana, where he observed how the oil-rich environment was being ravaged by the omnipotent petrochemical industry. Let's just say that he's been a man on a mission ever since. As for The Veggie Van, it gets 25 miles per gallon, which is pretty darn good. Better yet, the exhaust smells like french fries. —Marianne Dougherty, editor in chief, email@example.com