Green Revolution: A True Story of Biodiesel in America

For our movie assignment this week, I chose to watch the documentary entitled Green Revolution: A True Story of Biodiesel in America.  This movie begins by displaying just how dependent we have been on fossil fuels within the last hundred years.  The world’s petroleum has been used to create chemicals, plastics, and fuel for our automobiles. BUT, ten years ago…a man named Bob King used the transesterification process, an organic chemical process that when applied to vegetable oil creates an alternative form of diesel fuel. This process is not a new one, it was discovered in 1853. The movie then flashes back in time and looks at three important fellas: Dr. Rudolf Diesel, Henry Ford, and George Washington Carver.

What do these three individuals have in common? Dr. Rudolf Diesel used peanut oil as fuel, Ford used ethanol as fuel for the Model T, and Carver used fuel derived from peanuts and soybeans. What do we have in common with these individuals? Well, based on our constant use of petroleum…it would seem we hardly have anything in common with them. These men believed that agriculture was the essential component of fuel production. Ever since Rockefeller and standard oil came around and shaped our industrial revolution…we have had such easy access to oil that we have not really looked to other sources until the recent green movement.

What I had not realized AT ALL, is how much of an influence WILLIE NELSON has had on the biodiesel movement. He even runs his tour buses on it. In the film, Nelson states that he wants to see his family enjoy life and wants them to have the ability to do what they want to do. He does not want them to have to deal with wars over oil. One of his relatives states that “you have some duties as a citizen of the world”, but the problem is that not all citizens of the world realize this. What I find interesting is the fact that Willie Nelson is wealthy enough to not worry about gas prices, but he is behind this movement to biodiesel 100% because he cares about the future, the air, and Earth. I feel like it is rare to find famous musicians or movie stars making a huge effort to change current unsustainable trends (and often times those who do, the passion for the cause is short-lived and is mainly to gain popularity points).

Bob King, who I mentioned briefly, is from the island of Maui, where he started a biodiesel plant that converts the waste cooking grease into usable fuel..or as he calls it..”turning garbage to gold”. In the year 1995, there were 80 tons of waste fats on the island of Maui; why waste what can be extremely beneficial to the local population?

When this movie was produced, the Environmental Protection Agency estimated that 4.3 pounds of garbage are thrown away per person per day. We don’t realize how much trash is accumulating because it is “out of sight, out of mind”.  In my AP Environmental Science class I learned an acronym NIMBY- Not In My Backyard. If you were all in favor of more landfills to deal with all of the accumulating trash, are you okay with it being in your backyard? Living right next to it? Sure makes you think about it differently, huh? When this movie was released, only two landfills produced biodiesel from local waste vegetable oil, but several projects were in the works. The cool thing about these projects is the key word: local. It treats waste from nearby and then provides the fuel right back to them.

What is really great about biodiesel fuel is that it provides farmers with jobs, helps truckers be more environmentally friendly, and helps the environment. If you think about it, the average trucker is on the road 10+ hours per day. One trucker interviewed in the documentary said that biodiesel increases his gas mileage by over ½ per gallon. Might not seem like a lot to us, but with the amount of miles they drive per day..this is pretty significant. Willie Nelson has had a HUGE impact on getting truckers to use biodiesel fuel and frequently promotes it on trucker radio shows.

What I think is one of the most important things to take away from this film is the fact that we don’t NEED to be dependent on foreign oil, we have the ability to provide for ourselves. We can turn waste into fuel and eliminate many environmental risks (such as oil spills) in the process. I’m not saying that we need to get off of oil completely right away, but biodiesel would be great to complement our oil use until biodiesel becomes bigger and more prevalent. This movie stated that we use 20 million barrels of oil PER DAY & it seems as though our appetite is never fulfilled. Why not supplement our oil use with biodiesel if we have the resources available to do so?

 

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