Josh Tickell: Fuel Your Freedom From Oil

Josh Tickell: Fuel Your Freedom From Oil

Published in the Jan-Feb 2012 issue of MyLIFE magazine

Good things often come in threes. Chocolate, vanilla, strawberry. Protons, electrons, neutrons. “Fuel,” “The Big Fix,” “Freedom.” That last set of three is the list of titles of documentary films produced by director Josh Tickell.

Why are they good? These films educate people to know about—but to not feel so overwhelmed by—environmental ruin, and to show how individuals can take responsibility by using fuel conversion kits in their cars to prevent the damage caused by dependence on crude oil.

If you’ve been busy buying gasoline to get where you need to be, it’s possible that you’ve missed the chance to see his films. The first one, “Fuel,” was shown in theaters in 150 cities in the United States in 2009. Showings included Q-and-A sessions with audience members after the show. Having won the 2008 Audience Award at the Sundance Film Festival, the documentary attracted some attention from the general public.

But let’s face facts—it wasn’t enough. Most cars still run on gasoline.

Resistance to change is a fact of life. Tickell said, “Everything I do, I encounter resistance. Getting people to see how they can make change touches the emotions. But using environmentally friendly fuel is not an emotional issue. It is an issue of logic. And, it can be done today. Right now!”

What kind of change can happen right now? Car engines were originally designed to use vegetable oil for fuel. And there is a way today for people to reduce dependence on gasoline without having to give up the cars they already own. They can even keep going to their usual gas stations for fuel.

Please. Read that last paragraph one more time. There is a way to stop your individual dependence on fossil fuel. It is not difficult, but it does cost a bit of money up front. The good news is that one of the distributors of a product that will let you do your part admitted to keeping prices low because it’s aware of how the down economy puts so much stress on people and makes them afraid.

Flex Fuel manufactures conversion kits that are made here in the United States. The distributor, a company known by its website,, sells the kits and offers information and videos about converting your car’s engine to run on clean-burning ethanol. The kits (which at press time were selling at reduced prices online) retail for $250 to $500 and they’re easy to install in your car’s fuel injection system. In the course of a year, the kits save money on fuel and will pay for themselves through your savings on gas. A small drawback, according to Tickell, is that there may be a 10 percent drop in the car’s fuel efficiency, depending on the make and model of automobile. But, using a conversion kit keeps your air cleaner.


David Virtue of Littleton, Colo., is the owner of He picks up the phone when you click on the website to place a call. “We’re a small business,” he said, “compared to the big oil companies.” He said he has watched the example set by the country of Brazil, explaining that “the technology to use ethanol was invented by Brazilians about 25 years ago, and now all the vehicles there run on it. The big oil companies do not want ethanol to take hold in this country like it did in Brazil. Our politicians take money from big oil to run their elections. I watched this with Gov. Tim Pawlenty. He was very much behind the move to change to ethanol. In fact, he was behind the fact that Minnesota has the most—over 300—ethanol stations in the country. But as soon as he began a presidential campaign, he stopped being an ethanol proponent.”

Back to that part about resistance. There was even a propaganda campaign, backed by an entomologist and an attorney, which claimed that changing to ethanol would cause food shortages. Tickell said, “There are about 2,400 gas stations across the country that sell ethanol, and most are in the Midwestern states. Ethanol comes from corn. And no, using corn for fuel will not cause food shortages!”

Tickell, along with his wife, Rebecca Harrell Tickell, have invested a lot of their own energy into these documentaries as a way to get people to open up their minds to changing the way we think about how we live and what we consume. Earlier this year, they presented their second documentary, “The Big Fix,” at the Cannes Film Festival. The film is about the Deepwater Horizon oil spill off the coast of Louisiana in the spring of 2010 and how it was a wake-up call about the waste of precious, yet not-as-clean-burning-as-ethanol, fossil fuel.

To further educate people on changing they way they use fuel for transportation, Tickell produced the movie “Freedom,” which was rolled out to 50 theaters across the country between August and October (also offered on DVD). If you missed seeing “Fuel” at a theater, you can watch all 112 minutes of it on the Internet at

Tickell is passionate about getting consumers to realize that they have a choice right now to stop using oil-dependent gasoline. “It is depressing to see how little capacity Americans have to deal with real-world problems. We grew up with illusions by watching television. When people wake up and realize that they have the power to make real and wise changes, it’s like being thrown into a cold lake. They come up for air in different ways: some want to make changes immediately. Others take a little while longer to get their breath. But, it is possible right now for people to make individual changes to reduce our collective dependency on oil’s commercial byproduct: gasoline.”

The movie “Freedom” demonstrates how an ethanol-powered (retrofitted to motor-home status) school bus was driven across the country, using fuel provided by the leftover cooking oil that KFC and Long John Silver’s franchises let Tickell have.

Theoretically, we all should be on this bus, on the way to learning how it is possible to—as Tickell says—“take our country back, as individuals, because it can happen through the technology we already have. Why wait for an elected leader to solve the problem, to perform magic, when each person already has the power to use this ‘magic’ technology?”

Good question.

So what’s next for Tickell and his wife, now that this series of three fuel-awareness documentaries is complete? “We’re working on creating a city that is totally sustainable.” When he gets it done, you can be sure that all of the cars on the streets of this city will run on ethanol.


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