How can we end our addiction to oil here in America? Many people—electric carmakers, advanced biofuel researchers, public transit advocates—are working to answer this question from different angles. But a new documentary boils it down to this simple equation: Give Americans a choice of different fuels at the pump and watch the market do its work.
Pump The Movie, which opens in New York this weekend, makes the case that increased fuel choice isn’t as far-fetched as many people think it is, and shows how some Americans are figuring out ways to beat a system that seems rigged to keep us on a single-fuel track.
Narrated by actor Jason Bateman and financed by Fuel Freedom Foundation, a nonprofit that advocates for fuel choice as a way to end U.S. reliance on foreign oil, Pump points the finger at oil companies for suppressing access to alternative fuels like ethanol and methanol—which can be made from a variety of plant-based sources—leaving our economy and pocketbooks at the mercy of volatile fuel prices controlled by oil-producing countries. The film also lays blame on the U.S. government for failing to pass the so-called Open Fuel Standard, which would require automakers to make all cars run on flex fuels (blends of ethanol and gasoline).
Many cars on the road today could run on these fuels with inexpensive upgrades or simple software fixes, according to the film. But even flex-fuel car owners, who are already able to use a combination of ethanol and gasoline in their engines, have a hard time finding stations that offer higher ethanol blends. According to the film, two-thirds of gas stations are under franchise agreements with oil companies and don’t have the ability to offer a fuel choice to customers.
The film features some powerful people building the case for fuel choice, including John Hofmeister, former president of Shell Oil Company, who admits that the American fuel system is a monopoly. Also interviewed is Luiz Inacio Lula de Silva, former president of Brazil, who helped his country gain energy independence by promoting the production and use of sugarcane-based ethanol. But one of the most eye-opening moments of the film is when John Brackett, an automotive engineer from Colorado, demonstrates how to reprogram your car to run on other fuels by tapping into its software system.
Check out the trailer:
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The options emphasized in Pump aren’t the only ways to reduce the demand for foreign oil. Sustainable America believes that shifting to a reliance on ethanol made from corn or other food crops would create problems for our food supply, so we advocate a combination of solutions including increased efficiency and conservation, advanced biofuels, electric vehicles and natural gas. But we do hope this movie will inspire Americans to pay closer attention to the cars they buy and think about the impact of the fuel choices they make.
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