Posts

Film asks U.S. to PUMP down the oil volume

“What can you expect from a movie that’s produced by a group whose advisers include a former CIA director, a onetime Shell Oil Co. president and a man who once headed the Rockefeller Foundation? If you answered, ‘a spirited defense of America’s oil industry,’ guess again.”

Read the full story by Rudy Herndon of the Moab Sun News.

This Oklahoma mechanic helped us out. Now it’s our turn

When director Josh Tickell went looking for a true believer about compressed natural gas for the 2014 documentary PUMP, he rang up about 50 CNG-conversion businesses all over the country. Todd Bradshaw stepped up and offered to help.

The owner of Bradshaw Automotive Repair & CNG in Owasso, Oklahoma, just outside of Tulsa, “was totally honest and invited us to come into his shop right away,” Tickell says. “He just seemed like a really great and genuine person.”

Todd turned out to be one of the most endearing stars of PUMP, extolling the benefits of CNG as a cleaner, cheaper alternative to gasoline for cars and trucks. In the film, he notes that the fuel is produced with domestic resources. “I believe in this. I believe in CNG with all my heart. … It’s cleaner, it’s better, it’s abundant. It’s right here in America. It’s American.”

Dana2Now Todd and his family need some help from his fellow man. He says his wife Dana has a tumor in her brain, wrapped around her pituitary gland. She’s scheduled to have surgery to try to remove it next month, but she only recently started a new job, and doesn’t qualify for the family leave she needs to recover. The Bradshaws created a GoFundMe page, where they’re asking for donations to help pay the bills while she takes a few months off to convalesce from surgery.

“Honestly, I wish I was well-to-do, where she could just stay at home and rest her head until she has the surgery,” he said. “But I’m not, so she’s doing the best she can.”

Todd, 46, started with CNG conversions in 1999, “before it was cool,” he said. But the price swoon in gasoline that started last summer has reduced demand for installing the systems, which start at about $5,000.

“We’re just treading water,” he said. “We do automotive work too, but CNG was our bread and butter. So we’re hanging in there, but it’s really tough. If it was strong obviously, I never would have asked for help. ‘Cause that’s just not me. I’ve never asked for a dollar. But my wife’s important to me.

“She’s awesome, and she deserves to rest and get this thing fixed, and get back to where she was.”

Dana, 45, started showing symptoms several months ago: She’d forget to shut the door of her SUV when she’d returned to their home in Collinsville. Such memory lapses were unusual, because “Man, she can remember stuff like you wouldn’t believe,” Todd said. He and their two children — Dylan, 21, and Ashley, 17 — grew increasingly worried when Dana’s headaches, which started about a year ago, steadily worsened.

Doctors discovered the mass around her pituitary gland, a pea-sized gland at the base of the brain, behind the bridge of the nose. It not only promotes growth, but controls other hormonal glands as well, including the thyroid and adrenal glands. The surgeon will go through Dana’s nose to reach the tumor. Only after analyzing it will doctors be able to tell whether it’s benign or cancerous.

The procedure is scheduled for spring break, in late March, so Dana won’t have to miss any time from work: She’s a cafeteria cook for schoolchildren in the nearby town of Sperry.

“The doctor said she needed to be off a long time, and there’s no way her bills and our bills are gonna allow that,” Todd said.

Many people in the alternative-fuel industry, including some of the contributors to PUMP, have been hit hard by the volatility in the oil market. So we felt compelled to share Todd’s story and spread the word about his dilemma. Please help him if you can.

 

Angry about rising gas prices? Do something about it

Silly American driver. Did you think gas prices were going to stay low forever?

When we say low, we should really say “low,” with derisive air quotes, because gas prices never really got to what a historian would certify as “low” anyway, even after crude oil dropped 60 percent between June and January. As New York Times columnist David Leonhardt noted in late January, for 17 years — from the beginning of 1986 to the end of 2002 — gasoline averaged $1.87 a gallon.

But gasoline had soared so high over the past decade that a sudden drop late last year, which pushed prices down to $2 or less in many places, felt like a tax holiday.

Well, holiday season is officially over. Oil set another 2015 high on Tuesday, with Brent crude, the international benchmark, rising $1.13 to $62.53. The peak of the session, $63, was the highest level it’s reached since Dec. 18.

The surge — which caught analysts and experts off-guard, just as the plunge did before it — wasted no time in carrying over to the pump. According to the AAA’s Daily Fuel Gauge Report, the national average Tuesday was $2.259, up from $2.185 a week before and $2.076 a month before.

In some states, obviously, it’s climbed higher and faster than others. At my neighborhood station in Southern California, the price for basic 87-octane went from $2.39 to $2.85 in only a few weeks. At a different station across the intersection, the price has tracked an identical arc. I imagine the owners watching each other with infrared binoculars late at night, ready to hoist new digits onto their respective marquees when one rival dares to up the ante a dime.

Patrick DeHaan, senior petroleum analyst at Gas Buddy, wrote Monday:

“Motorists in California are getting a taste of the sourness that will hit across the country in a month or two as Los Angeles switches over to cleaner burning gasoline, followed by San Francisco in short order, with the rest of the nation making moves in the weeks and months ahead. I’m also starting to hear more frustration from motorists about rising prices- and while the concerns are well rooted, they should take solace that gas prices this summer are still expected to be some $1/gal lower than last summer.”

Raise your hand if you’re in the mood for some solace.

Drivers are more likely to feel confused and exasperated by the inexplicable price spikes and the baseless predictions.

If you’re angry about rising gas prices ebbing away at the money you thought you were saving last fall, you can do something about it: First, watch PUMP the movie, on Amazon, iTunes, DVD or at a public screening. Second, convince your friends to watch it, or volunteer to host a screening in your city. (Do you get the idea we want people to watch this important film?) Third, sign our petition urging fueling retailers to make alternative fuels, like E85, available to consumers.

Ending our reliance on oil as the only fuel option for vehicles is possible in the next few years, but only if we act. It sure beats complaining about the price of gas.

Now you can watch PUMP the Movie on Amazon

PUMP has landed on Amazon, so viewers now have multiple ways to watch this terrific documentary in the comfort of their homes. Or the comfort of their offices, commuter trains or coffee shops. Wherever they feel comfortable, really.

PUMP is available for download onto your favorite digital device, or for viewing on Amazon’s video streaming service. The cost for purchase is $12.99 ($13.99 for high-definition). To rent it for seven days, the cost is $4.99 ($5.99 HD).

Visit the PUMP link on Amazon to learn more. If you’ve seen the movie already, post a review!

As Chris Meloni points out, it’s important to search for the right flick: It’s PUMP the Movie, not something else. But if you want to watch that Arnold Schwarzenegger movie too, go for it.

PUMP, narrated by Jason Bateman, chronicles the story of oil and how it came to be virtually our only choice for a transportation fuel. The film shows how we can use a multitude of domestically produced fuels, like ethanol, methanol and compressed natural gas, to reduce oil consumption. Displacing a portion of the oil we guzzle will strength the economy, improve national security, reduce pollution’s impact on health, and protect the environment. There’s also cool stuff about Tesla and race cars.

PUMP also is available through Apple’s iTunes store. If the big screen is the way you’d prefer to see this important film (and hey, why wouldn’t you, with such great work by filmmakers Josh and Rebecca Tickell), there are several upcoming screenings on campuses and other venues around the country, including Arizona State University, UCLA and the Utah Film Center in Moab. You can also organize your own screening!

Visit PumpTheMovie.com for more information.

If you haven’t experienced the convenience and visual quality of Amazon’s video service, check it out. Not only can you download content onto your laptop, tablet or phone, you can add it at home using certain TVs, Blu-Ray players, gaming consoles and other devices. As Business Insider writes, Amazon is nearly as popular as Netflix.

Speaking of Netflix, PUMP is coming to that service soon. Check back for a date.

Americans used to ride cheap trolleys. Then we burned them

One of the many fascinating storylines in the documentary PUMP (which is now available for download on iTunes) is the yarn about how several companies got together to take on a common enemy: popular, affordable electric trains and trolleys that criss-crossed the nation early in the 20th century. That’s a very different country than we live in today, when the automobile is as ingrained in our culture and economy as ever. As former Shell Oil president John Hofmeister puts it in the film:

“We live in a society in which we rely on personal mobility as the primary means of transportation. And there’s no public transportation system to rely upon in the United States of America as an alternative to high prices or shortages.”

Narrator Jason Bateman follows up:

“America wasn’t always without transportation choices. Once upon a time, we had the best and cheapest public transportation in the world.”

Bateman then gives way to an expert on this subject, Edwin Black, whose book Internal Combustion details the effort to target the trolleys. Black explains in PUMP:

“People loved the trolleys. They could hop off, they could hop on … all the trolleys ran on electricity. It was said that you could go from San Diego to New York City on a trolley just by transferring, transferring and transferring.”

In the 1930s and ’40s, five companies — Standard Oil, Mack Truck, Firestone, Phillips and General Motors — colluded to create a secret company that bought up all the trolley lines and passenger cars.

“… the rails were pulled up, the trolley cars themselves were burned in public bonfires [as seen in the photo above], and they replaced them with smelly, oil-consuming motor buses. Eventually, the federal government discovered that this was a conspiracy to subvert mass transit. All five corporations were indicted, they were tried, they were found guilty. A corporate conspiracy was responsible for destroying the trolleys in America.”

The reckoning was a little late, however. Back to Bateman:

“With cheap public electric transportation eliminated by oil and car companies, the vision of America’s future switched from rails to roads.”

That led to the interstate highway system, which only intensified our love affair with the automobile. A relationship that relies, essentially, on just one fuel type: gasoline. Of course, many of today’s municipal bus fleets run on compressed natural gas (CNG) or liquefied natural gas (LNG). And rail projects are often on the minds of planners. But getting away from gas-burning transport has been a difficult road, as anyone following the fight over California’s $68 billion high-speed rail project knows. To get a sense of how the story of oil’s dominance came to, and to see what you can do to end our addiction to it, watch PUMP. (Photo credit: Submarine Deluxe)

Poll: Most Americans think gas prices are going up

Give the American consumer credit: They know gasoline prices are volatile, and that there’s no guarantee that this vacation from expensive gas will last.

According to a phone survey by Rasmussen Reports:

Ninety percent (90%) of American Adults say they are paying less for a gallon of gas than six months ago, but 69% think it’s at least somewhat likely those prices will go up again over the next six months … Just 19% believe they are unlikely to be paying more in six months’ time. These findings include 40% who say it’s Very Likely a gallon of gas will cost more and only three percent (3%) who say it’s Not At All Likely.

Better start pocketing all that money you’ve been saving with every fill-up.

But how can we make low gas prices sustainable for the long term? If only there were a high-quality documentary that lays this all out in a tidy 127 minutes.

Want to keep gas prices low? Watch PUMP

We’re all watchers of the gas-station “flip sign” now.

They call it that — the flip sign — because it has replaceable plastic numbers, or electronic ones, that “flip” as the price fluctuates. For months the national average for a price of regular unleaded has been flipping in a downward direction, from $3.68 a gallon in June to $2.11 on Tuesday.

We keep track of such details because (relatively) cheap gas means more money stays in our pockets. Depending on where you live, how far you drive, and whether your chariot sips gas or guzzles it, you’re saving $50, $75, $100 a month that can be used for other purposes.

Low fuel prices are great for consumers, but we shouldn’t expect the windfall to last. American drivers deserve the cost certainty of permanently low prices, and the best way to achieve that is through fuel choice, so gasoline isn’t the only alternative when we fill up.

How do we get there? The documentary film PUMP has the answers. And it’s available on iTunes, starting today, to buy or rent.

PUMP, narrated by Jason Bateman, played in theaters in more than 40 cities last fall, receiving favorable reviews from critics and high marks from audiences. Check out PUMPtheMovie.com to watch the trailer, view a photo gallery and read bios of the stars, including Elon Musk.

PUMP traces the century-long history of how gasoline, refined from crude oil, came to monopolize transportation in the United States. It shows how dependent we’ve always been on oil, to the detriment of the country’s economic well-being, national security, health and environment.

The solution is to diversify the U.S. fuels market by allowing other types of fuel to compete on an even footing with gasoline. Technological innovation has brought us cars that can run on multiple types of fuel, including ethanol and methanol (made from a variety of “feedstocks,” including plants, natural gas and landfill waste). Other vehicles are powered by compressed or liquefied natural gas, hydrogen fuel cells, and of course, lithium ion batteries.

The choices are practically endless, and yet the vast majority of drivers are stuck with only one choice: gasoline.

Creating the market conditions that will lead to a diversified fuels market will produce a variety of benefits, but for the moment let’s get back to the economic benefit. No one saw the oil-price drop coming, and experts have been consistently wrong every step of the way. But reasonable people have predicted that prices, inevitably, will rise again. We know this because it’s happened again and again in recent American history.

Fuel choice will ensure that you lock in your monthly savings for the long term, instead of enjoying only short-term relief.

If permanently cheap gas sounds like attractive, watch PUMP. The solutions are in there.

 

 

Read before you download: What the critics said about PUMP

PUMP hit theaters around the country in September, and now it’s about to hit the digital landscape.

You can download it on iTunes now. You can watch the trailer, and learn more about the film and the experts who made it such a success, at PumpTheMovie.com

PUMP was a hit with the public and the critics: On Rotten Tomatoes, 85 percent of viewers said they liked the film, while 73 percent of critics gave favorable reviews.

You should do yourself a favor and read some of these reviews yourself, though: The critics who saw PUMP had very nuanced, well-thought-out views, giving the important issues raised in the film the proper weight.

Below are excerpts from some of the bigger media outlets that reviewed the film. Read all about it, then watch the film and tell us what you think!

The Washington Post:

” … the movie makes compelling points. More important, the film suggests both long-term and short-term solutions.

“… if consumers hate oil so much, why aren’t there more readily available alternatives?

“That’s the question the documentary keeps circling back to, which is a smart approach because it’s aimed at appealing to both eco-conscious liberals and fiscal conservatives.”

The New York Times:
“… the arguments have an appealing logic for those concerned about the environment.

“… the movie goes beyond alarmism with solutions that on the surface would seem to find common ground between environmental advocacy and unfettered capitalism.”

The Hollywood Reporter:
“The historical overview they provide is insightful and lucid … The headline is that most cars on today’s roads could easily run on non-petroleum fuels that are cheaper, cleaner and more plentiful than gasoline. At the heart of the doc is ultra-practical information with the potential to galvanize a broad audience.

“Their thesis transcends red-state/blue-state polarities.

“The shift from quiet how-we-got-here outrage to hope, in the form of hands-on specifics, torques Pump and gives it momentum.

“… the eye-opener is that millions of American vehicles are already equipped to switch between gas and ethanol.

“Pump offers a map to true competition à la Brazil’s, and argues convincingly that there would be profound and wide-ranging benefits if American car owners were in the driver’s seat.”

The Los Angeles Times:
“Viewers of ’60 Minutes’ will experience déjà vu during vignettes on Elon Musk’s Tesla Motors and Brazil’s exemplary national conversion to ethanol, but ‘Pump’ ventures a step further to explore the practicality of flex-fuel vehicles in this country and methanol as another fuel alternative.

“As far as documentaries go, the film is exhaustively researched, interviewed and documented. Its disclosure that General Motors declined multiple interview requests earns the film some credibility where other advocacy docs fall short. It arms advocates with plenty of well-reasoned and compelling talking points …”

Variety:
“This zippily edited docu aims less to chastise than to emphasize that solutions to our oil addiction and much-vaunted desire for energy independence are tantalizingly close at hand.

“For unabashed agitprop, ‘Pump’ is quite entertaining, drawing together colorful archival footage, interviewed experts and ordinary folk, as well as sojourns to China (in the wake of its economic boom now the world’s largest market for cars) and Brazil (whose shift to ethanol production brought prosperous energy dependence), in a lively, professional package.”

The Oregonian:

“The most convincing testimony comes from John Hofmeister, a former president of Shell Oil who has switched sides. But the real stars of ‘Pump’ are the hackers and engineers who’ve devised cheap and easy ways to convert vehicles to flex-fuel capability.

“The inability of our capitalist economy to exploit this untapped market is puzzling until the filmmakers get to the part about the massive political donations made by Big Oil. Switching from gasoline to a cheaper, more environmentally friendly, domestically available fuel won’t address the other negative consequences of car culture — urban sprawl, traffic congestion, increased obesity — and neither does the film. But by pointing out simple things that could make huge differences, it’s a solid first step.”

Bloomberg BusinessWeek:
“This is the second feature about ending America’s dependence on oil from the wife-husband team of Rebecca Harrell Tickell and Josh Tickell. They’re tub-thumpers, but not shrill. Their thrust is roughly that cars = freedom. Americans love their freedom, and they sure do love their cars. Yet strangely, car- and freedom-loving Americans lack freedom of choice when it comes to what their cars run on. What gives? Oil is far from the best fuel for an automobile—not even close, if you factor in extraction costs, energy security, and pollution.

“Determined not to dwell on the negative, Pump introduces us to hobbyists, entrepreneurs, and even indie service station owners already making the break from petroleum.”

Village Voice:
“A car’s high beams trace slow-motion lightning across the highway. An auto worker in suspenders strides the factory floor. These seductive images of the American automotive industry act as dreamy parentheses to Josh and Rebecca Tickell’s compelling and cogent documentary Pump, which examines why Americans are so lacking in options at the gas station, what that means about the future of transportation and environmental health, and why the oil-driven American Dream must die — why it is dying.

“By carefully tracing the history of the oil companies’ legislative and consumer power and influence, the directors explore America’s issue of substance dependence, and indict the companies that act as enablers. If you’re not convinced we’re addicted, ask yourself if you could quit at any time.”

Reuters’ Breakingviews:
“A narrow focus helps “Pump” make its point clearly. The filmmakers don’t take on global warming or automobiles. Their solution is simple and straightforward: introduce competition at the gas station and let the invisible hand do the rest.

“Demand for alternatives, including electric vehicles from Elon Musk’s Tesla, is … growing alongside a crude backlash. On Monday, for example, the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, an $860 million philanthropic organization that owes its existence to the Standard Oil fortune, said it would divest from fossil fuels. The collective effect of all these efforts, including the message from ‘Pump,’ may just help fuel a trend.”

The Source magazine:
” ‘Pump’ makes clear one thing: oil is used in everything, from clothing to furniture, plastics to medicine and, yes, even engines to power cars. And increased demand leads to, you guessed, higher prices. ‘Pump’ explores this in a holistic, appreciative and thoughtful way.

‘Pump’ explores a range of alternative fuels including ethanol, methanol, natural gas among others, but never suggests humanity stop driving cars altogether. It would be a major technological step backward, damaging decades of effort. Instead, ‘Pump’ offers reasonable, grassroots-style progress that enables anyone to make a sustainable change.”

Cinemacy:
http://cinemacy.com/pump/

“One thing was made clear to me, we have a right to choose how we fuel our cars and that right is not being acknowledged by the government or big oil companies, which means the responsibility for change lays solely on us.

“The unpredictable cost of fuel, coupled with the damaging effects to our environment and our dependency to over-seas oil rigs is a scary future that we find ourselves looking at today. We are forced into limited choices at the pump, which only creates a stronger foreign dependency and a wealthier fuel monopoly. The message Pump presents, once you get past the numbers game, is simple: American made replacement fuels will equal more jobs, a healthier environment, and a stimulated, growing economy.”

Related posts:

Throwback Thursday: Henry Ford, alcohol-fuel visionary

We might think of oil and automobiles as inextricably linked. But the earliest mass-produced vehicles were designed to run on multiple fuels, not just gasoline.

Henry Ford brought us the original mass-market flex-fuel vehicle. That fact made him one of the biggest stars of the Fuel Freedom-produced documentary PUMP the Movie, which is available on Netflix and DVD.

Ford’s Model T, introduced in 1908, could run just as well on alcohol fuels as on traditional gasoline. The driver could easily switch from one fuel to the other simply by turning a brass knob to the right of the steering column. This turned a screw in the carburetor, allowing either more or less fuel to enter the engine and mix with air. Alcohol fuel doesn’t contain as much energy as gasoline, so more of it needs to be injected to run the engine as well.

As David Blume, another PUMP star, shows in this video, drivers needed to switch between fuels because they wouldn’t know which fuel source would be available when they were out on a drive.

Henry Ford22Ford grew up on a farm in Michigan and always held farms, and farmers, dear to his heart. As historian Bill Kovarik’s fascinating study of Ford’s alcohol-fuel dedication shows, he clearly wanted to help cash-strapped farmers get into new markets by promoting agricultural products as fuel sources — not only corn, but anything else that could be fermented.

In 1919, Ford told The Christian Science Monitor (according to this New York Times account): “The fuel of the future is going to come from fruit like that sumach [a flowering plant] out by the road, or from apples, weeds, sawdust — almost anything.”

The movement to run vehicles on ethyl alcohol, or ethanol, was dealt a severe blow by the passage of the 18th Amendment to the Constitution, known as Prohibition, which banned the “manufacture, sale or transportation of intoxicating liquors,” even alcohol (ethanol is also known as grain alcohol, or “moonshine”) used as a fuel. Prohibition was repealed in 1933, and by then the ethanol market was severely weakened in America. Read Bill Ganzel’s truth-stranger-than-fiction account of what happened next, when the U.S. became convinced that leaded gasoline was the best way to raise gasoline octane levels.

But ethanol has staged an epic comeback: More than 13 billion gallons was used in 2013, according to the Renewable Fuels Association. That figure could reach 36 billion gallons by 2022 if the federal government continues to mandate blending an increasing amount of ethanol into the nation’s gas supply, under the Renewable Fuel Standard guidelines.

Make your voice heard: Sign Fuel Freedom’s petition urging major independent fueling retailers like Costco and Walmart to offer ethanol as an option for their customers.

Because unlike back in the day, you don’t even need a knob to make the switch to ethanol.