The world’s dependence on oil and alternatives to the fossil fuel was discussed last Wednesday in the Northridge Complex Center as part of the University Student Union’s “Speak Your Mind” series.
Environmental activist and expert on alternative fuels, Josh Tickell, urged students to take an active stance against the world’s dependence on oil during the third lecture of the series.
“Consider every solution for our generation to take this planet in a radical direction,” said Tickell. “Every source of technology is already there.”
Tickell is the author of “Biodiesel America,” a book that advocates for alternative sources of energy, sustainability and discusses the controversies of America’s dependence on foreign oil. He is also the filmmaker of the documentary, “Fields of Fuel,” an in-depth documentation of his journey in search of alternative energy sources that spanned for 10 years.
A short preview of his documentary, which was awarded at the 2008 Sundance Film Festival and will be in theaters in September, was shown. In 1997, Tickell took a two-year voyage around the country in his “veggie van,” which ran on biodiesel fuel. The “green grease machine,” as Tickell referred it, used extracted grease from fast-food joints and restaurants and converted it into a biodiesel fuel for his van.
The documentary also touched upon issues surrounding energy consumption, the United States’ reliance on foreign oil from the Middle East that spawned “The War on Terror” and Hurricane Katrina’s destruction of New Orleans, which left people wondering if global warming was to blame.
After the preview, Tickell asked the audience if anyone knew where oil comes from. The audience was surprised to discover that the oil that our cars run on comes from algae, a simple plant-like organism that dwells in the ocean.
“I can assure you with the current consumption trends, between 10 to 40 years oil will not run out, but it will be so prohibitively expensive you won’t be driving anymore,” Tickell said.
The U.S. is the largest oil consumer worldwide, said Tickell. With a national average of 26 miles per gallon, the necessary steps to decrease oil consumption in our country are unavoidable and long overdue. The island of Vanuatu, east of Australia, runs all of their vehicles on coconut oil that was created by mechanic Tony Dreamer, while Brazil is using ethanol for all of their vehicles. Europe is using hybrid diesel fuel which gets 200 miles per gallon; Sweden is committed to becoming oil free by 2020, and Germany is utilizing biodiesel fuels. Further, the largest investor in green technology of solar energy in the world is Saudi Arabia, said Tickell.
Algae production plants are the future of alternative energy and biodiesel fuels. Algae replicate every two hours and it’s all a matter of altering the molecules that make up algae to produce alternative energy, Tickell explained.
During the question and answer portion, CSUN student Alex Blum, a psychology major, asked Tickell if it cost more to produce biodiesel fuel than it does to produce ethanol and diesel fuel.
Tickell explained that overall the costs to cultivate corn and soy beans, the crops necessary to produce ethanol and diesel fuel, far surpasses the costs of biodiesel fuels due to the oil needed to maintain the agriculture. The use of tractors, the fertilizers, the pesticides and any motor vehicle that require oil consumption in the process ignores the point to decrease oil use.
“There are still people out there that don’t see global warming as a problem,” said Marco De Jeronimo, a civil engineering major. “The presentation helped me understand the issue at a deeper level, it showed me that there are more alternative answers available to us. It blew my mind.”
“The ‘Speak Your Mind’ series is a chance to bring timely conscious issues to the attention of our students,” said professor Peter Nwosu said chair of the Urban Studies Department.
Throughout his presentation, Tickell continually encouraged the students to take action to prevent the foreseeable future. Tickell presented the problems, the evidence and the solutions, and praised his utmost optimism and confidence in the students, that after his lecture, students would leave that day with the mission for a sustainable future.
“You guys are dreamers and visionaries,” said Tickell, “a challenge to take on today because you’re interested, see what’s possible, get informed, we are the agents of change. This is a spiritual question, what are you leaving behind? Life is a short trip, think about the legacy we leave for future generations.”