Toppling Big Oil's tyranny: at the Bijou


Greg Harman

I was a little worried 30 minutes into last night's pre-screening of FUEL, the Sundance award-winning film opening in San Anto's Bijou tomorrow. Bright-eyed biofuel evangelist and Veggie Van traveler wouldn't quit preaching the Simple Solution.

Yeah, petroleum = death. I think most audiences get that. But it's been a long time since anyone could look at corn-based ethanol with anything resembling love.

The heart-stabbing imagery of 9/11 mayhem wasn't sitting well, either. Turbaned heads flashing over the screen were intended to gut-link our gluttonous domestic oil appetites with nefarious “foreign” oil and an instable OPEC. Instead of tackling the xenophobia and continuing anti-Arab sentiment now folding into political rhetoric about energy “independence” and “security,” the film appeared like it was calling on viewers to simply accept that buying oil from the Middle East is inherently bad â?? not the economic disequilibrium undergirding it.

Thankfully, filmmaker Josh Tickell, did twist the narrative to tackle Cheney's manipulation via secret energy task forces and challenged Americans gluttonous appetites which, in turn, made it easier to look the other way when it came to the dramatic expansion of our oil-protecting military overseas these past decades. Blood for Oil, is the charge. It would have only taken a few extra frames to explain how U.S.-Saudi oil politics, engaged at the expense of human rights, created the environment for terror-minded extremists to board those planes.

Still, the linkages between Diesel's development of the diesel engine â?? his original intent behind the peanut-oil-powered machine being the liberation of the farmer by providing the means to till their fields and grow their own fuel â?? and Standard Oil's use of Prohibition to quash that other fuel, ethanol, while ensuring total consumer dependency on Baby Big Oil from those most defining of days.

The story leads into an inspiring study of the range of choices we must make to eradicate oil from our market. The dramatic potential of algal-based fuels shares equal time with nods to solar, wind, and energy efficiency measures that will certainly one day break the back of Big Oil.

The path will be by no way as simple as Tickell suggests, but will come, as our global economy is now making clear, with chilling pangs. However, to watch FUEL is to be grounded more deeply in the energy debate. And, after the terrifying visions offered by Al Gore and Leonardo DiCaprio, those interested in saving ourselves, our country, and the world, will enjoy walking from the theatre believing, thanks to the director's optimistic delivery, that these things are actually possible.

The switch is coming. How fast it occurs depends on you. Over the next two weeks, your insistence on a sustainable future can, in part, be measured by how many seats you warm at the Bijou in the coming two weeks.

Sometimes changing the world really does mean just showing up. Popcorn is optional.

For more info:

FUEL, film information and blog

Journey to Forever: making your own biofuels

Yes, Ban Ki-moon, the world does need a climate revolution

Recommended Read: The Tyranny of Big Oil

Books by Josh Tickell


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