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USA 2014
Directed by
Josh Tickell / Rebecca Tickell
88 minutes
Rated G

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
3.5 stars


Josh and Rebecca Tickell’s film is less a documentary than a well-crafted campaign but it is nevertheless informative and stimulating and even though mainly directed to an American constituency deserves to find a wider audience

The first part of Pump is given over to charting the history of America's love of the automobile and the way that that infatuation has been shaped by powerful economic interests which have ensured the country’s dependence on oil.  It uses the familiar tactic of using scary numbers, simple graphics and hand-picked talking heads to amply demonstrate the environmental and human cost of this situation (notably in the form of massive military interventions to protect America’s access to oil) and its lack of long-term sustainability.

The second part of the film, which houses its main purpose, looks at alternatives to the conventional model – the electric car for one, and CNG (compressed natural gas) which is extracted by the environmentally dubious process of "fracking") but above all the “flex fuel “ car which can run on petrol, ethanol or methanol in any combination.  Ethanol and methanol are not only cheaper and environmentally cleaner than fossil fuels they can be produced  domestically, with methanol being able to made out of any plant-derived material.  What!  Yes, and not only that but most modern cars already have the potential to run on alternative fuels or can be cheaply modified to do so.  Indeed, Henry Ford’s early cars were designed to be fuel-flexible but oil baron John D. Rockefeller made sure that that didn’t happen by helping to push through Prohibition which outlawed not just booze but also alcohol-based fuels. And guess what? It's illegal in America to modify your car to run on alternative fuels (although why they were built with that capacity in the first place is not explained). The Tickells are unashamedly promoting direct action in this department.  

In its latter stages the film with its “where to buy ethanol” instructions becomes largely irrelevant to those living outside the US but its main message is certainly a valuable one.  

Available from: Accent Film




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