"Fuel" begins by showing us we only only began using oil 150 years ago. It points out that nearly everything we do requires oil. The problems with oil are introduced, and Bush is shown saying "America is addicted to oil".
Enter Josh Tickell. Environmental science student, activist, author, film buff, and more than anything, a man with a score to settle. We follow Josh through his formative years, his first science fair project, his education in Germany, and his personal discovery of biodiesel. Josh travels the country in his "Veggie Van", a diesel Winnebago he runs on bildiesel he makes on the road from used fryer oil. He encounters some minor publicity and recognition, and is seen more as an oddity than as a prophet.
We learn how Rudolph Diesel, Henry Ford, and John D Rockefeller worked against each other in the early days of the automotive industry to secure their places in the world.
We meet Josh's mother. She's sick, as are many others living in places like Louisiana, where oil is refined. Josh interviews a slew of experts, learns that reproductive problems, cancer, and a host of other ailments affect those living in oil producing areas.
Josh's travels around the world to talk to oil and foreign policy experts are cut short by news that his family in Louisiana have fallen prey to Hurricane Katrina. He learns that his anger at the oil companies is getting him nowhere, so he goes back on the road and tries to learn more and make new partners. He decides to move far beyond preaching the merits of biodiesel, and spends most of the rest of the film teaching about other alternatives to oil, as well as some old issues like public transportation.
Josh goes to New York and contemplates 9/11 and how the events of that day changed our perceptions of the world. He looks at the war, huge gas price swings, and our new state of fear and dependence. New York biodiesel workers show us how we can create green jobs that pay well, help America, and create a deep sense of pride.
We meet comissioner James Generro of New York, who is dedicated to weaning his constituents off of oil, and Jay Inslee, the congressman from the first congressional district in Seattle who challenges us to reach like we did during our quest for the moon. Many other celebrities speak from their hearts about the need to embrace change and move forward. None of them point fingers of blame.
The film ends by asking us to work toward energy independence, cleaner air, cleaner water, good jobs, responsible auto production AND purchasing, and to become politically active toward those ends. Josh speaks directly to us and reminds us that we have choices, voices, and real power.