October 8, 2011
Freedom Bus promotes biofuel as ticket to future
Cortland native on 50-city tour stops by CHS to extoll virtues of green energy
Bob Ellis/staff photographer
Boise Thomas, a 1988 Cortland High graduate, speaks with Cortland students in the Freedom Bus, where he discussed green energy.
Boise Thomas used to scoff at the idea that any biofuel could replace petroleum-based gasoline in his car.
Now the Cortland native and Los Angeles resident says he has totally converted to the idea that biofuels, such as gas with a percentage of ethanol made from corn, as the key to America’s economic and environmental future.
Thomas — an actor and television host whose name was Thomas Boise when he graduated from Cortland High School in 1988 — has been touring the nation to promote that very future, showing a film titled “Freedom” and showing off his Freedom Bus, which is powered by ethanol and loaded with computers powered by solar energy.
He parked the bus outside the high school Friday and gave tours, after showing the documentary in the school auditorium to about 80 students.
Thomas will show the film at 7:30 p.m. Monday at SUNY Cortland’s Corey Union Function Room. He will be joined by Cortland native Tom Pauldine, a vice president of Green Plains Renewable Energy, based in Omaha, Neb.
Thomas was glad to make Cortland one of the 50 cities on his tour.
“I’ve shown this film to 11,900 people but this is my first high school stop,” Thomas, 42, told the students, remembering his days in the Ronald Reagan era, hanging out with about 12 friends in a time before cell phones or Facebook — “when you wanted to hang out with friends, you had to hang out physically.”
One of those friends, classmate Bob Edwards — now a social studies teacher at the school — sponsored his visit to the building along with chemistry teacher Thomas Gaff and several others, some of whom recalled Thomas as a student.
They called him Tom. Thomas switched his name around when he entered the TV business.
“He was always like this, full of energy, very engaged,” Gaff said.
Thomas recently was a cast member on “Alter Eco,” a weekly TV show on the Planet Green Discovery Channel that promoted conservation practices.
“Freedom” is a documentary by Josh and Rebecca Tickell, makers of the film “Fuel” and the upcoming film “The Big Fix,” that portrays the oil companies’ efforts to stop Americans from having access to cleaner, less expensive oil alternatives.
Quoting farmers, politicians such as former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, and advocates such as former Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Wesley Clark, the film says ethanol made from corn was an early auto fuel blocked by oil baron John D. Rockefeller.
The film says that America began importing foreign oil in the 1970s when its own oil ran low, and has become so dependent on it that Middle Eastern nations now own much of the nation’s economy. The Tickells say oil companies spread false information that ethanol production would hurt the land, use too much energy in its production and damage agriculture, stopping Americans’ enthusiasm for alternative energy just as it was growing.
An auto mechanic is quoted as saying the engine of a 2000 Chevrolet Tahoe that ran on 85 percent ethanol fuel for 105,000 miles looked almost new, with no oil deposits. Motorists in South Dakota are shown buying gas that is 15 percent or 25 percent ethanol, at service stations.
Agricultural officials say only 1 percent of the corn grown in the U.S. is eaten by people. The rest is used for livestock feed or making plastic, or is sold to other nations, so using some to make fuel would help agriculture, not hurt it.
The film points out that NASCAR auto racing, which uses ethanol for race cars, grew out of stock car racing, which grew out of moonshiners in the South who made illegal whiskey and outraced police to distribute it. The Tickells call ethanol the new bootleg item.
The Tickells show how ethanol has grown as an auto fuel in Canada and Brazil, where it is made from sugar cane.
“I thought the film was interesting,” said senior Sarah Pristash. “Ethanol is just something I’ve heard about before but not recently.”
She said she liked having a Cortland High School graduate return to talk to current students, after putting together achievements outside the area.
Ninth-grader Blake Pace said he agreed that Americans should turn toward more energy-efficient products.
He had toured the bus but had not yet seen the film. He said he plans to see it Monday at SUNY Cortland.
Pace said he has heard his parents talking about high gasoline prices.
Asked by a student how cheap ethanol gas can be, Thomas said the cheapest he has found on his trip was $2.94 per gallon.
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