After seeing the documentary Fuel (www.thefuelfilm.com) I had the opportunity to talk with Kevin Vickery, Co-Producer about his involvement in this insightful portrait of America's addiction to oil and uplifting testament to the urgent need for new energy solutions. It is directed by Josh Tickel, author of Biodiesel America and opens at Laemmle's Sunset 5 on Friday, February 13, 2009
Tell us a little about yourself leading up to your involvement with this project?
I have always been interested in renewable energy. I have had the privilege of living on a farm and care deeply about our land and sustainability. My involvement with Josh (Tickel) started a couple years ago when I was launching a PR Practice focused on renewable energy. He convinced me to go to the national bio diesel conference in San Antonia and raise money for his film. I did and I kept going!! My passion grew as my involvement grew.
In what way is your work on renewable energy and this film in alignment with what you have identified as your authentic purpose and calling?
I turned 40 last year, and everything started to come together. I realized I had a very strong passion and drive in conjunction with a set of skills that could help make a difference. Life ends...I had a friend on flight 175 on 9/11. He died that day with his partner and child. It was a bit of a wake-up call, because he was like me, a workaholic. I learned that life is random You really want to embrace what you have when you have it regardless of the circumstances. I live my life by this now.
How are you looking at the world differently as a result of your work on Fuel?
I'm getting less sleep! We screened at United Nations last week. I watch people's response and they get very excited. The film is focused on empowering people to make a change. We are running our whole society and economy on a limited resource, oil, which is in the hands of people who could really care less about our well being, and it is just not sustainable. I see the difference that this film is making. People wake up and start making different choices to do something as simple as changing the light bulbs in their house.
I know you were at Sundance in 2008 and just last week at The United Nations, what has been the overall response?
We won the audience award for documentary at Sundance last year, and got 11 standing ovations. This kind of response is the "fuel "that moves the machinery. The attention is important because it pulls focus to the subject. I receive e-mails all the time from people like school teachers in upstate New York asking what they can do to get involved. We were recently short listed for the Academy Award nomination and although we didn't get the nomination, people who might not have otherwise seen the film, have now seen the film.
What do you see as the significant barriers between where we are currently in our collective consciousness and making a complete shift into sustainability consciousness and the use of renewable energy?
I think people would be very surprised if they knew that the plastic cups that they drink iced tea out of at Starbucks could be turned into renewable energy. However, there are also lot of people who take a lot for granted. For instance, I know of retail outlets in Los Angeles who leave it up to the homeless to sort their recyclables.Nonetheless, I think we have a cultural revolution under foot on many levels. Just look at the new administration and our tumbling economy. We haven't been raised with the notion of unlimited resources. We have been raised with the paradigm that things are limited and prices go up. In actuality, with renewable energy, prices will go down overtime. That is actually hard for some to comprehend. This limited thinking has been a barrier. Showing this film around the country we see people respond with a sigh of relief that there is something that we can do. The economy in its current shape is actually advantageous for us to move in the direction of a green economy that is more sustainable. Innately, people know what to do and what is right, and they are ready.
What will happen if we don't make the shift?
In the movie Sheryl Crow says, "We don't even know what a war over oil looks like yet!" Every other day in China they are building a new power plant, most of them coal burning. As Americans we make a relatively small percentage of the population but we consume a huge amount of the energy. It is really out of balance. It won't be pretty if we don't get back into balance.
It becomes apparent in the film that there have been critical moments in history, in which we have been so close to fully adopting renewable energy. What stopped us?
First, learning this history has reinforced something that I have always known, which is that we really do have the answers. Rudolph Diesel designed his engine to run off of peanut oil. Henry Ford made the Model T to run off of ethanol and gasoline, which it did for 12 years. Rudolph Diesel died mysteriously and was found floating in the ocean. Rockefeller came in and put massive amounts of money into prohibition, which killed the ethanol production. Also, Jimmy Carter had solar panels on the White House when he was in office. They were removed by Ronald Reagan.
People are bright, but we get bullied and sidetracked by other things. Corporations came in, oil companies in this case, and dominated the playing field before anybody could catch up and figure out what was going on. It set the standard for the way we live our lives. Following this we went into World War II and the consumer age. And now after "partying all night" we are getting a rude wake up call.
What is next for you and the film?
I am currently raising money for a new cut of the film. We want to make a 45min. version to distribute to schools for free. I am talking to investors. Kids get it like a sponge! When my nephew saw this film he got really upset and turned to my parents, his grandparents, and asked them, "What have you done?!?"
A final word?
We really do have the ability to shift the conditions of our lives. Special interests do have some power, but they don't have all the power. During the course of this film I have watched people do amazing things. In Las Vegas the whole school bus fleet now runs off of biodiesel. Jim Hightower says in the film, "People are made to believe that they don't matter...but they do!"
Fuel opens on Friday, February 13, 2009 at Laemmle Sunset 5 in West Hollywood.
For more info go to www.thefuelfilm.com