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'Pump' fuels debate over alternative energy

 'Pump' fuels debate over alternative energy
A scene from the documentary "Pump." (Submarine Deluxe)

Produced by a group calling itself the Fuel Freedom Foundation, the agenda of the advocacy documentary "Pump" is immediately apparent: The film asserts that alternative fuel sources are key in facilitating a free market that will end a big oil monopoly and our costly military presence in the Persian Gulf.

The film paints a portrait of how oil came to dominance: John D. Rockefeller's Standard Oil monopoly in the 1880s; his role in the 1920s' Prohibition after Henry Ford touted alcohol as the fuel of the future; Standard Oil, Mack Trucks, Firestone Tire, Phillips Petroleum and General Motors all contributing to dismantling of the nationwide streetcar system in the 1930s; and the 1950s construction of the interstate highway system.

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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, even if its final montage about consumer freedom feels like a quit-smoking aid commercial.

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"Pump."

MPAA rating: PG for mild thematic material.

Running time: 1 hour, 27 minutes.

Playing: At Laemmle Royal, West L.A.

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