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Ontario Grain Farmer Magazine is the flagship publication of Grain Farmers of Ontario and a source of information for our province’s grain farmers. 

The Big Picture: FREEDOM from oil?


setting out on a journey across the American Midwest and Canada, filmmakers Josh Tickell and Rebecca Harrell Tickell try to take a look at the ethanol argument and America’s addiction to oil in order to answer some questions in their film FREEDOM. Does ethanol compromise world food supply? Does ethanol impact the environment negatively? Is ethanol really behind the rise of food prices?

Here are some of the facts revealed in the film:
Fact: ethanol fuel is a sustainable fuel. It comes from corn and can be grown locally.
Fact: Only 1 percent of all corn grown is eaten by humans The corn used for ethanol production is not food-grade corn. It is grown for the sole purposes of ethanol and animal fee and indigestible by humans.
Fact: The production of ethanol fuel is not the real reason for the rise of the food costs as media will have us believe. The cost of transportation and therefore oil can be blamed for that.
Fact: Ethanol fuel does not require drilling into the earth’s crust or the ocean floor. It’s also renewable. We can grow corn until well, the cows come home. Buying local isn’t just fruits and vegetables. Fuel can and should be produced and purchased locally too. That’s what Henry Ford had in mind when he started his little car company. You know the one…

“We’re tackling a pretty unpopular topic in biofuels and ethanol is kind of a dirty word and corn is definitely a dirty word for most people,” says Rebecca Tickell in the film.

The film itself, which has partnerships with Green Plains Energy of Omaha and Novozymes, is well done. It’s visually quite lovely and it’s engaging and thorough in its examination of the issue with enough background and history for context. It also has a clear way of explaining and simplifying an issue that is quite complex.

why you should watch it?
Ethanol is surrounded by controversy — not a news flash. Throw in the word corn and you’ve got yourself a good old fashioned rumble. Some environmentalists and politicians are on an anti-ethanol crusade with the Food versus Fuel debate as their rallying cry.  FREEDOM makes us think about our dependence on imported fuel and the impact this has had on our planet and our way of life. The film provides the message that by growing our own renewable fuel we will have a positive impact on our environment, improve our economy and create jobs. With such controversial conversations happening around this topic, it’s nice to see a positive side to the story. 

challenging public perception
The filmmakers had to challenge well established assumptions about ethanol and corn. The most powerful force of the modern world today is public perception and ethanol fuel suffers from some bad PR. Why? Because if you have enough money to throw at something, you can do with it what you want. According to the film, Big Oil wants to control what the public believes to be true and has the money to make it happen.

Fortunately, film is a pretty powerful tool for dispelling misconceptions and bringing awareness to issues and this documentary does a great job at discerning fact from fiction. Through a series of interviews with experts on both sides of the argument, graphics, charts and easy to understand explanations, the one thing that the film establishes very well is this: Every litre of ethanol is one litre of petroleum not needed.

After all, as the film successfully shows, corn ethanol and any alternative fuel (which can even be made from organic waste and garbage) can be a viable and sustainable solution from an environmental, economic and political security stand-point.

Some of the bleak imagery in the film forces us to face the fact that the advancements of technology and industry have guided our need for fossil fuels and now we need to solve our problem.

The filmmakers will admit that ethanol production has its challenges but the overall message is one of hope. As the film puts it, “Human beings are the only animal that has forgotten how to live sustainably on Mother Earth… Ethanol fuel is almost perfectly in synch with the environment.“

FREEDOM proves that a solution exists in the production of ethanol and biofuels.

And that’s just a breath of fresh air.

where you can get it
Check your local library and video rental stores for the film. Or, visit for more information on the film itself and where to find it. •

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