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Saturday, July 2, 2011

Peak Oil got you depressed? Check out "Fuel"

Fuel, the film, available on Netflix

Josh Tickell has been a bio-diesel advocate for over a decade. In his 2008/9 documentary Fuel, Josh goes way beyond bio-diesel to show how the world can realistically become petroleum independent and go carbon neutral.

This film is a pleasure to watch - it has:

  • Beautiful graphics,
  • A David versus Goliath personal story,
  • Comments from the rich, famous, and learned,
  • A message that not all need go dark when fossil fuel runs out.
Oh, and lovely music, sung by Josh's now-wife, Rebecca Harrell.

The diesel engine was originally designed to run on a vegetable oil-based fuel. Ford originally designed his cars to run on ethanol (derived from corn). But the availability of 'inexpensive' fossil fuel and the distribution might of Standard Oil combined to make fossil-based products the fuel of choice.

Interesting tidbit - Josh Tickell makes a case suggesting Prohibition in the United States may have become law because it made ethanol illegal. Henry Ford continued to offer the ethanol-compatible version for several years, but finally folded to economic necessity in 1932 and gave up offering the ethanol-fueled engine option. Coincidentally, Prohibition was allowed to be repealed the following year.

Josh also lays out the idea that the recent US war in Iraq was motivated by oil. This isn't a new idea, but he does a particularly good job of connecting the dots.

Back to how we move past fossil fuel towards a sustainable future - bio-diesel is a clear winner, requiring only 1 part energy to produce 3 parts diesel (ethanol requires 1 part energy to produce 1 part ethanol, and fossil fuel requires 1 part energy to produce 0.8 part fuel). Solar and wind can work, where conditions are adequate. There's even mention of trees that were designed to remediate contaminated soils that grow to maturity in 3 years and regenerate from a cut stump, making wood-based energy creation a viable green option as well.

My only complaint is the discussion of wind didn't show my favorite wind turbine, the vertical Windspire. Traditional wind turbines kill birds due to the high differential pressures at the blade tips, not even counting the birds killed by being hit by a blade. The Windspire doesn't have this problem.

So, if talk of Peak Oil and/or soaring energy prices get you down, take a breather and watch this film. It won't make the immediate crisis go away, but does offer hope that there is a future, even after cheap fossil fuels go away.

1 comment:

  1. I like the idea of using used cooking oil for fuel, but I'm opposed to using fuels that are based on grains or soy. They have already created a severe competition to human food in areas where people are already close to starving. There are plant based fuels that come from non-food plants that are far more appealing. I like the vertical windmills. For one thing, they can surely be placed closer together. They would not be impractical for suburban installation.