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Old 07-13-2005, 10:33 PM
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unkl300d unkl300d is offline
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Join Date: Jul 1999
Location: San Francisco, Ca
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Merc diesels and wvo etc. in the press.

Mercedes Diesels and grease get press in San Francisco.
(hey, you don't have to be a hippy to use biodiesel or wvo)

On the Biodiesel Bandwagon
Can the Bay Area's 3 million gallons of used vegetable oil rid us of our petroleum problem?
James Nestor
Sunday, July 10, 2005

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Economists have predicted that 2005 is the year of the "global oil- production peak," when the world produces the most oil it will ever produce, after which yearly production will decline. Already the effects of this, coupled with the growing demand throughout Asia, have been immediate and dramatic: In 10 months, oil has risen to more than $50 a barrel -- $20 more than it was a year ago. Goldman Sachs has warned of a future "super spike" to $100 a barrel. Fuel at the pump has never been more expensive. And it won't be coming down: remember, this is a permanent crisis. Or so says the Department of Energy: "The world has never faced a problem like this. Without massive migration more than a decade before the fact, the problem will be pervasive and will not be temporary."
And so ends the era of cheap fossil fuels, taking with it everything we've associated with modern American living: cheap groceries, cheap electricity, cheap construction, cheap beer, cheap everything. Because without cheap fossil fuel, nothing is cheap; and without cheap stuff, our society will soon be a very, very different place.
A better place. At least for Ben Jordan. "The sooner we get rid of fossil fuels," explains Jordan, "the sooner we can have alternatives like biodiesel." He pushes his sandy, long hair from his overgrown beard, "And the sooner we will have cleaner air, cleaner streets, cleaner living."
Jordan describes our cleaner future from behind the wheel of his rather unclean vegetable-oil-powered 1982 Volkswagen Rabbit Diesel. He is on his weekly route through San Francisco collecting waste vegetable oil, which he uses to fuel his car. For him, the revolution begins in the dank, back alleys of greasy restaurants. "What we're doing right now isn't really, um, legal," Jordan says, dodging mealy clumps of rain-soaked trash in the walkway behind a Thai restaurant in the inner Sunset. He approaches a pile of 5-gallon waste jugs filled with coffee-colored sludge. "Ah," he exclaims. "The good stuff." The 20 gallons of used cooking oil Jordan hauls to his trunk will soon be fuel in his tank.
And he's not alone. There are hundreds -- perhaps thousands -- of "greasers" in Northern California. Nobody knows exactly how many; this is a group that keeps a low profile. After all, what they are doing is technically illegal. But for them, driving on waste oil is worth the risk: It's better for the environment, for the local economy it costs nothing.
Soon, you too will join them. You too will be pumping veggie oil into your tank, and you too will be shooting the tangy sent of burnt egg rolls from your exhaust pipe. Or at least that's what's being proposed tonight at this month's San Francisco Biofuels Cooperative meeting.
In a cluttered, florescent-lit office on Eighth Street beneath the 280 overpass, about 20 people debate Jordan's proposal for Health Fuels, a nonprofit start-up planning a 10,000-square-foot biodiesel production facility off Third Street.
Jordan lays out the numbers and the shaggy heads nod: San Francisco produces 500,000 gallons of waste oil a year; the Bay Area produces a staggering 3,000,000 gallons. This oil is picked up at a cost to the restaurant of $45 per 55-gallon jug and later processed into "yellow grease," a primary ingredient in dog food, animal feed and cosmetics. Jordan's proposal for Health Fuels is to gather this oil free of charge from the restaurants and recycle it into biodiesel. He predicts that with $250,000 in start-up money, Health Fuels could produce 20,000 gallons of locally made biodiesel per month. With more money and support, they could quadruple that.
"MUNI uses over 6,000,000 gallons of diesel fuel a year," explains Jordan. "If we could just provide some of that fuel, it would make a huge difference to the city, the bay, our community." With a recent $5,000 grant from Rainbow Grocery, San Francisco Biofuels soon agrees to support Jordan's efforts.
100 Years of Plant-Based Fuels
As eccentric as Health Fuel's proposal sounds, using vegetable oil as fuel isn't new; in fact, it's what the diesel engine was originally intended to run on. When Rudolf Diesel first showcased his engine at the 1900 World's Fair in Paris, he used peanut oil. Diesel engines -- operating solely on vegetable oils -- got an average of 30 percent more miles per gallon than traditional combustion engines, and soon became the standard for buses, trucks, freightliners and marine craft. In the 1920s, impressed by the efficiency of the engine and eager to control the diesel market, oil companies forced car manufacturers to modify diesel engines to run off their huge supplies of cheap, low-grade petroleum diesel. And the world's cities have been clogged with sooty, black, highly polluting diesel exhaust ever since.
"What we want to do is create biomass fuel that the diesel engine was first intended to be used for, and make it accessible to everyone who wants to use it," Jordan says. Health Fuels suggests that it can do this at a very competitive cost, because the actual refining process that makes waste oil into biodiesel is nontoxic and oddly simple, requiring a few chemicals found at a hardware store and a few vats where the oil can be "washed" of contaminants.
The biodiesel refining process also creates a fuel significantly less polluting than petrol diesel. A recent EPA study found that when compared to petrol diesel, biodiesel reduced emissions of carbon monoxide by 48 percent, carbon dioxide by 78 percent and particulate matter (soot) by 47 percent. Biodiesel does emit equal levels of nitrous oxide (laughing gas) as petrol diesel. However, current additives are in development to reduce this. Unlike the much-touted hydrogen fuel, which is still decades away and would cost billions to implement, biodiesel can run on any diesel engine and can be implemented immediately at little or no cost.
It's these environmental benefits of biodiesel that have attracted most of the people to the Alternative Fuels Summit at Mercy Hot Springs, a weedy campground a few miles west of the I-5 in Fresno County. At the entrance off a dirt parking lot strewn with tents, two hippies play homemade congas in front of a solar oven; a barefoot girl dances a bunny trot beneath an untrimmed tree. Behind them about 50 biodieselistas have gathered in a dilapidated barn to discuss the next move.
"This fuel is locally produced, better for the environment, better for engines -- this is what people in the city need to realize, this is what we need to educate the public about right now," says Devon O'Keene, a biodiesel producer from Chico County. But everyone here already knows this. What they are gathered for is to learn how to spread the word to the rest of the country -- and the world.
Among the group are a dozen or so clean-cut middle-aged men who could give a hoot about the environmental benefits of biodiesel -- for them, it's the economics of biodiesel that's important. These farmers, freight operators and businessmen realize that as petroleum fuel continues to rise in price, biodiesel becomes a more vital reality, because it allows them to them to make fuel from leftover crops, to support locally made fuel, to be more self- reliant. This is what inspired Willie Nelson to create BioWillie Diesel Fuel, his own line of biodiesel directed at truckers.
While biodiesel production is well suited to a local scale, it's the national scale production benefits that have sparked government interest. The most staggering fact is that every vehicle in the United States could be fueled by biodiesel -- 140.8 billion gallons of it -- grown in a 15,000- square-mile chunk of unused desert. (To put this in perspective, the Sonora Desert in Arizona alone is 120,000 square miles.) And at a cost of 46.2 billion a year, this mega-facility would save the United States more than $100 billion a year on purchasing crude oil from foreign countries, all that money instead remaining in the United States economy.
Celebrity biodiesel advocates such as Nelson, Daryl Hannah and others boast these benefits. Even petrol-oil-friendly President Bush recently called biodiesel "one of our nation's most promising alternative fuel sources."
However, one thing Nelson, Hannah and Bush haven't mentioned is just how hard biodiesel is on the pocketbook. In California, the fuel averages more than $3.50 a gallon -- that is, if you can find it. There are fewer than 25 stations throughout California, most closed to the general public, and those that are open can be flaky and operate at odd hours.
But this hasn't stopped the lines of people waiting to fill up at Biofuel Oasis in Berkeley every weekend. For them, paying a whopping $3.70 a gallon seems a small price to drive "guilt free."
"This whole biodiesel thing just gives hippies an excuse to drive yuppie cars," says Matthew Bear, a 35-year-old architect and designer sitting on the hood of his 1979 Mercedes Diesel. Waiting in line behind him is a row of idling Jetta TDIs, Mercedes and BMWs. "Actually, I think people like it because they feel they're not contributing to oil companies," he says. "I don't drive that much, so the cost doesn't really affect me -- it's just kind of neat to think that you are using organic trash to fuel your car."
1979 300D 199 K miles
1995 C280 95 K miles
1992 Cadillac Eldorado Touring Coupe 57K miles
1979 240D 140Kmiles (bought for parents) *SOLD.
1989 300SE 148 K miles *SOLD
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