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Old 07-13-2005, 10:34 PM
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unkl300d unkl300d is offline
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Location: San Francisco, Ca
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part 2

Bear is one of more than 100 customers who have helped quadruple business in the past year and a half at Biofuel Oasis, the Bay Area's only B100 (100 percent biodiesel) public pump. "It's not just a place where people fill up, but a place where people can come and talk about biodiesel, hang out," says Jennifer Radke, co-founder of the business. "We'd like to see this kind of community-based business duplicated throughout the Bay Area -- that's the goal for the future." As use of biodiesel increases, Radke insists that the price will come in line with that of petrol diesel. That's what has happened in Germany. As the leading producer of biodiesel in the world, Germany produces more than 750 million gallons a year and boasts more than 1,700 public pumps. Biodiesel there is cheaper than petrol diesel.
Waste Veggie Oil: An Alternative to the Alternative
But in the United States, where last year biodiesel production reached a measly 30 million gallons a year, prices at the pump are estimated to stay high for at least the immediate future. This fact has pushed many in the Bay Area to start using waste vegetable oil (WVO) -- a cheaper alternative to the alternative fuel.
"We just couldn't deal with paying $3.30 or whatever for a gallon of biodiesel," says Jeff Stump, a 35-year-old land conservationist. "We don't want to take away from the biodiesel movement in any way, but it's hard to deny WVO -- a fuel that has many of the same benefits but none of the costs!"
Stump speaks from beneath the hood of his 1984 Mercedes 300CD. He's one of four people converting Mercedes diesels to run on WVO along a residential sidewalk in San Francisco's outer Sunset. Like Jordan, they, too, will collect their fuel for free from the back of restaurants.
Though some WVOers have converted their cars ad hoc with pipe fittings and $20 water filters, this group prefers a less sketchy, standardized system available online from various distributors. At $700, they aren't cheap, but WVOers argue that they will save that cost in the first six months of driving.
The goal to using any waste or straight vegetable oil as fuel is to make it more viscous: Biodiesel does this through a chemical process; SVO (straight, non-waste vegetable oil) or WVO (waste vegetable oil) kits do this by heating up the oil with a series of fuel lines and filters added to the car's engine.
The Birth of the BioBenz
"These cars are legendary for the abuse that they put up with," says Jordan, who moonlights on weekends as a WVO converter when not working for Health Fuels. "They were top-of-line luxury cars and for the most part, people kept them in really good condition." The endurance records prove it: It's not uncommon for Mercedes diesel engines to last more than half a million miles. A mechanic in Oakland recently boasted selling his early '80s model to a friend who was driving to Mexico. The odometer had registered more than 600,000 miles.
"For me, I was really attracted to the classic styling of the older Mercedes -- but a bigger part of it was the environmental stuff," says Sarah Rich, a 25-year-old writer who recently purchased a 1983 Mercedes 300D Turbo and plans to convert to WVO in the coming months.
It has become a strange irony in the Bay Area last year that a luxury sedan once representing wealth and extravagance has become the de facto car of choice for the counterculture waste oil movement.
"When I drive, I now feel this really amazing feeling, like an incredible weight was lifted off my shoulders," Rich says. "To think that I could transport myself in an ecological way, in this cool car -- this was so huge for me."
It's this feeling of elation and absolution that has made both biodiesel and WVO users such ardent advocates for the cause. It's the same feeling I get every morning behind the wheel of my newly purchased, newly WVO-converted, 1978 BioBenz.
Yes, I, too, have been bowled over by the biodiesel bandwagon.
And though I may not be convinced my little action will make the United States self-reliant, improve the environment and help the local economy, I am at least comforted to know that all who now travel behind me can regale in the sweet, delicious scent of burnt French fries and Pad Thai that plumes, flowerlike, from my exhaust pipe.
James Nestor last wrote for the magazine on Dante Bini, an architect who specializes in designing housing that can be assembled in 30 minutes
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1979 300D 199 K miles
1995 C280 95 K miles
1992 Cadillac Eldorado Touring Coupe 57K miles
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1979 240D 140Kmiles (bought for parents) *SOLD.
SAN FRANCISCO/(*San Diego)
1989 300SE 148 K miles *SOLD
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