You’re with Fuel or You’re Raping the Planet


This documentary about the virtues of biofuel relies heavily on the life of director-evangelist-narrator Joshua Tickell. Born in Australia, Tickell moved as a boy to Louisiana’s “cancer alley,” where gasoline refineries regularly befoul the bayous with accidentally-on-purpose spills. Or so the class-action lawyers tell Tickell, who is no less credulous about every Internet crank and claim made about the oil industry, the Iraq War, Bush, the Cold War, Prohibition—all a plot by John D. Rockefeller to kill ethanol!—etc., etc. There’s not a single (even moderately) dissenting voice in Fuel; you’re either on the biodiesel bandwagon or raping the planet. Naomi Klein (The Shock Doctrine) is treated like an oracle, and Sheryl Crow, Neil Young, and Willie Nelson also make obligatory appearances. Biofuel is Tickell’s rosebud, and he attempts to explain everything—everything—in the world via the greasy substance that so clearly gave his life direction. (The film took 11 years to make, including an awkward “Veggie Van”–driving, Phish-listening, tie-dye period during the ’90s.) Tickell is earnestly preaching to the converted, who already fill their rusty old Mercedes Benzes with French-fry grease, and who already have DVDs of the better-argued Who Killed the Electric Car? and An Inconvenient Truth. Those outside the bio-church aren’t likely to drive—even on regular and currently cheap gasoline—to see Fuel at their local theater.