“Freedom” : Powerful documentary film reminds viewers that ethanol is THE bridge to energy independence

Written by Jonathan Eisenthal

“Let’s not let ‘perfect’ be the enemy of ‘good’,” Josh Tickell tells the viewers at one point in the documentary film he made with his wife Rebecca, called “Freedom.”

The ‘good’ is getting off our addiction to oil. The quest for a perfect alternative has held many back in a status quo that is far more dangerous to our environment, our economy and our national security than many people believe–lulled by messages from the oil industry and its allies.

The Tickells won the audience award at Sundance Film Festival in 2008 for their documentary “Fuel,” and “Freedom” picks up where the first film left off. This month, the pair premiered a third film that packs a knock-out punch to oil, telling the story of the cover-up of the extent of BPs wrong-doing in the Gulf oil disaster.

Enlisting the help of a host of celebrities and politicians spanning the political spectrum–from Democrat Wesley Clark to Republican Newt Gingrich, and actors Ed Begley, Jr., Michelle Rodriguez and Amy Smart, and musician Jason Mraz, the film tells the story of how we can get ourselves off oil.

Grain ethanol, according to the film, is the bridge to a future of freedom.

Using E85 now helps farmers, builds the American economy and is friendlier to the environment than oil. It’s not perfect, but it’s a lot better than oil. And biofuels, as they grow into non-food crop based feedstocks–ag waste, grasses, yard clippings and even garbage–a whole future of energy self-sufficiency unfolds. In one scene, a ‘closed-loop’ biorefinery is shown: grain and biomass are used to produce ethanol; the distillers grains are fed to Tilapia (a warm-water ocean fish) raised for human food, and the carbon dioxide from the fermentation process turbo-charges an onsite greenhouse that raises cucumbers.

“Freedom” documents the terrible effects of oil–how oil fills the treasuries of enemy countries that fund terrorism, how it despoils the environment in disasters like the Deepwater Horizon spill in the Gulf of Mexico, makes a moonscape in Alberta thanks to Tar Sands mining, and endangers pristine wilderness like Alaska’s north slope, where oil spills are a daily occurrence according to the film. Oil drains off dollars that could be building our economy, but instead build the economies of the petro-producing nations. And the legacy of oil is the loss of many American lives in wars fought to protect natural resources we don’t even own.

The film delves at length into the assertions that increasing biofuels use would bring hunger, deforestation and intensification of agriculture–disproving each assertion and tying them in to the corporate entities that deliberately set out to smear ethanol on behalf of big oil and big food–to give them cover to raise their prices.

“The change over to renewable energy could pump $150 billion dollars into the US economy and create 8 million jobs,” Boise Thomas, the “Freedom Film tour captain” told a movie audience.

“Freedom” was screened Sunday in Minneapolis, the 23rd stop in a 50-city tour. A three-person crew have brought the film from Los Angeles through Arizona, Colorado, Wisconsin, Illinois and Iowa, with a score more locations scheduled, on their way to three final showings in Washington, DC. Boise Thomas and Tracy Mork introduce the film and conduct a discussion afterward. The tour is being documented by videographer Tyler Holtman.

A focus of the film is to empower the audience, to suggest choices that the oil industry does its best to deny even exist.

The film catches up with people who run their conventional vehicles on E30–a thirty percent blend of ethanol. Conversion kits can change a conventional engine into a flex fuel engine that can run up to 85-percent ethanol. Not only does the film show a conversion and then show a mechanic taking apart and examining an engine that has run on E85 for 100,000 miles–showing how it is cleaner and less worn than engines operated over that distance on regular gasoline.

The Tickells have also set up a web site for the film, so people can sign up to purchase copies of the film and screen it themselves. The address is www.thefreedomfilm.com

“Have a screening party for your friends and neighbors who couldn’t make it today,” said Thomas.

Kelly Marczak of American Lung Association of the Upper Midwest joined the discussion after the film, offering information about gasoline and diesel fuel’s impact on lung cancer and on asthma, which is why ALA has supported ethanol and E85 and biodiesel for more than a decade.  The ALA is the state’s clearinghouse for “flex pump” station grants and flex fuel vehicle information.

ALAUM’s communications director Bob Moffitt also attended the screening along with other ALA colleagues and staff from Minnesota Corn Growers Association, which has supported ethanol since the organization was formed in 1978. Moffitt provided information for the discussion, notably that Minnesota leads the nation with 360 E85 locations. Motorists can find those locations at www.cleanairchoice.org.



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