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Former Student Directs Award-winning Documentary

Josh Tickell, a former resident of St. Tammany Parish who attended Mandeville High, has won numerous honors with his new documentary film “Fuel,” an overview of the petroleum industry and the future potential of biodiesel to ease the world’s energy problems. Last fall the widely-acclaimed film was seen in 150 cities.

Concerned over the effects of the petrochemical industry on Louisiana, Tickell searched for a cleaner alternative, and that led him to research biodiesel. Based on his research, the movie “Fuel” has earned international recognition for its in-depth look at how motor fuels could be made from a variety of agricultural sources, even algae. His film won the 2008 Sundance Film Festival Audience Award for Best Documentary and has earned dozens of other honors as well.

After attending Mandeville High for two years, Tickell graduated from Louisiana School for Math, Science, and the Arts in 1993. For two years he travelled the country in the “Veggie Van” promoting the use of vegetable oils as an alternative fuel source. As a result of that experience, he wrote two books around sustainable energy: “From the Fryer to the Fuel Tank - The Complete Guide to Using Vegetable Oil as an Alternative Fuel”, and “Biodiesel America.”

He earned an undergraduate degree in Sustainable Living from the New College of Florida and an MFA in Film from FSU’s School of Motion Picture Television and Recording Arts.

After Hurricane Katrina, his Biodiesel America Organization mounted a relief aid effort in Louisiana and Mississippi. Tickell’s biodiesel-fueled relief ships delivered 20,000 meals, clothing and medical supplies to the hardest-hit areas of the disaster zone.

His research into the history of motor vehicle engines turned up some interesting developments. While in Europe, he translated documents written by the inventor of the diesel engine, Rudolf Diesel, and found that the first diesel engine had been designed to run on vegetable oil, not petroleum. In the beginning of the American auto industry, Henry Ford had also manufactured a large number of vehicles to run on ethanol.

Tickell lives in California currently and travels as a speaker and enthusiast on the potential of biofuels to reduce American dependence on foreign oil.

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