Fill'er Up With Vegetable Oil Please
June 23, 2005
People are starting to understand that we cannot continue to devour fossil fuels at the current rate. Some estimates predict that the fossil fuel supply will be depleted in less than 50 years if we keep consuming them the way we do today. Unfortunately, there is little sign of things slowing down any time soon.
The problem is that we are locked into the idea that fossil fuels are essential, that we cannot drive our cars, heat our homes or meet our other energy requirements without them. We are being narrow-minded.. There are alternatives to fossil fuels and we need to embrace them or suffer the debilitating effects our continued gluttony is having on our economy and our environment.
One such alternative is vegetable oil. We have the technology to convert diesel engines to run on recycled vegetable oil. Yes, the vegetable oil used every day around the world to cook everything from fries to tempura. This technology is well beyond the theoretical or experimental stage. In fact, it has been available for over a century: from the inception of his first prototype, Rudolph Diesel designed his engine to run on peanut oil.
Vegetable oil is a renewable resource. Unlike fossil fuels, which exist in a finite (and dwindling) amount, the only limit to producing vegetable oil is available farm land. In the United States, we see farmers receiving government subsidies to NOT GROW CROPS on their land in order to keep crop prices high. So, why not let our farmers grow plants that can be pressed into oil, such as rape seed, soybeans, corn or peanuts? A recent cosponsored report from the Department of Energy and the Department of Agriculture mentions that we can reduce our dependence on foreign oil by 30% if we aggressively pursue bio-fuels.
It can be done! Back in the 1970s, Brazil and the United States suffered through an oil embargo. While we toughed out the embargo and stayed committed to an oil-based economy, Brazil got creative. Today, Brazil is well on their way toward energy independence and employs nearly one million people in producing bio-fuel from sugar cane. A great example of what can be done by using renewable, home grown resources.
We can do it too. There are many small companies that specialize in the conversion of existing diesel engines to run on recycled vegetable oil. Not only are these engines using a renewable resource, but also a resource that has already done a job - frying your food! Vegetable oil is taken from restaurants, oil those restaurants were actually paying to have taken away by rendering companies, and used to run diesel engines. One such company is Veg Powered Systems, where we have converted over 200 vehicles to run on vegetable oil. We have successfully converted RVs, pickup trucks, and cars.
A century after Diesel's invention, as we drown in our dependence on petroleum, many people are still unwilling to believe that using vegetable oil can help rescue us! We are stuck in a fossil-fuel dependent mindset. But there are others willing to take a chance, those with the courage to follow the advice of Mahatma Ghandi and to live the change that they want to see in the world. These people collect vegetable oil that has been used in the fryers of local restaurants; they filter out the pieces of food, and pump it right into their vehicles. True, this is less convenient than going to the gas station and filling up, but it is an inconvenience they are happy to live with.
As gas prices continue to rise, consumers will become more aware about the state of our dwindling fossil fuel supply. We have ever-increasing demands on a finite resource. We have to find our energy supply somewhere else. Using vegetable oil in diesel engines is something that we can do today to minimize our dependence on fossil fuels and become a more energy independent nation. This is an idea whose time is here!
So, if this is so great, why are we waiting? Because we are afraid. We don't want to give up the convenience and comfort of a proven technology for an unknown. But the thing is, this isn't an unknown. And the sooner we make this leap to alternative fuels, the sooner we can stop at the corner filling station and say, "Fill it up with American-grown vegetable oil, please!"
Veg Powered Systems
Joel and Rebecca Woolf
Joe Hothouse from PA
6/24/2005 10:03:46 AM
I was wondering if the veg oil ran cleaner than diesel or the same? I love this Idea but the "powers to be" in government will not let that happen I think because it would probably destroy their petro based economy. And maybe their investments.
Jen Johnson from OH
6/30/2005 12:44:09 PM
Isn't there a soy product that can be burned in un-altered diesel engines? I would love to see that make the mainstream market. My husband would rather run a vegetable product in his big rig than diesel. Also, I thought that diesel was a by-product of gasoline refining. Why is it more expensive than gas?
Joel Woolf from CA
6/30/2005 3:11:56 PM
Vegetable oildoes run cleaner than Diesel Oil. RVO contains no sulfur, which is the major carcinogenic component in diesel fuel. There are also no aromatic compounds(such as benzene) in RVO. Particulates(black soot) are reduced by as much as 30%. Since vegetable oil comes from plants which use CO2 (one of the greenhouse gases) while they are growing, burning vegetable oil as fuel is not adding to the net increase of CO2 in the atmosphere.
Andrew Nowicki from MD
7/4/2005 5:42:29 PM
I'm not sure about veg-oil, but there are many other forms of bio-diesel that work a million times better than petroleum. For instance, in Brazil, I believe at least 40 percent of their cars are fuelled with sugar cane water. Also, Nascar race cars are fuelled by ethanol (alcohol), which is very clean and much better for an automobiles' engine.
There are so many clean running fuels out there and they have existed out there for decades! The only reason the majority of America's cars are still fuelled with foreign petroleum is through unpatriotic political policies.
Julia from CA
7/5/2005 11:26:55 AM
Although our oil imports have been rising, we are currently only importing 23% of our oil from the Persian Gulf. For more information, see: http://www.eia.doe.gov/emeu/international/petroleu.html#Trade
There is no doubt that fossil fuels are limited. However, the better question might be to ask: Who stands to gain by getting Americans to stop importing foreign oil (mostly from Venezuela, Canada and Mexico? Could it be the folks at Texaco, Exxon, UnoCal, etc.? Our current administrations BIG contributors and co-authors of our current "energy" policy?
Renewable sources of fuel are a must, but as long as this administrations buddies (and I don't mean OPEC) can make a buck off the unsuspecting consumer, they will continue to do so.
Tim Castleman from CA
7/5/2005 4:59:59 PM
Oil is Organic
Petroleum is organic. It is a naturally occurring substance found in concentrated deposits worldwide.
Technology has found ways to extract and refine this natural substance into a safe, versatile and low cost energy carrier that works fantastic. The problem is the gluttonous consumption. The entire political discussion is always about how to use more rather than less of anything. This is the exact wrong direction to setting policy in.
We do not need more solar energy, we have more than we can ever use already.
We do not need more wind energy; we don’t use a fraction of what is already there.
We do not need more of anything, what we need is to learn how to use less of everything, and the first step is to simply quit wasting it. The paradigm shift must punish those who ‘Waste to Impress’ and reward those who conserve resources.
To simply say some percentage of consumption needs to be this or that type of energy carrier while allowing consumption to grow is still just using more. Using more will not change the direction; only using less will have a real effect.
After years of study I have come to the conclusion that petroleum is not the problem, consumption is. In fact, fossil fuel is really solar energy in a very concentrated form, and technology allows us to do amazing things with this abundant, organic substance. I have come away disgusted at the corruption and selfishness that seems to be a requirement for success in the halls of legislation and meeting rooms of business people. Individuals are consistently offended by the prospect of personal responsibility and will eagerly band together to cast blame on some untouchable entity, thus seemingly absolving themselves.
We don’t need more, we need less.
CoyoteMan from NV
7/5/2005 5:24:55 PM
I saw the process by which used that's right USED vegetable oil is turned into a diesel fuel that was used in a Dodge Cummins diesel. The Dodge pick up was then tested on a drag strip etc. There was no difference in performance but there certainly wasn't any nasty black smoke and stink! (No more PM-2)
The process is long and a little conplicated. It uses used vegetable oil, lye and a couple of hours of work. BUT! BUT!, now listen up you people!!!
If you can make 70 or more gallons of diesel fuel for .70 cents a gallon, what is your problem?
Would you rather go out and pay $2.45 gal at the gas station up the street?!
You know 2 or 3 diesel owners can get together on a Saturday afternoon for a couple of hours and make enough of the veggie diesel oil to fuel all 3 trucks.
Oh yea, the more you make the cheaper it gets.
How about a cookout while making about say 100 gallons of veggie diesel? Fuel your diesel, fuel your tummy and off you go!
Oh yea sorry, you are too busy dragging your speed boat to the lake to use more fossil fuels running around the lake.
Todd O. from CA
7/6/2005 6:43:03 PM
Veggie oil is not going to save us from the need to learn to use a lot less fuel if we want to have any sort of energy or environmental security.
First of all, if we reused every drop of waste vegetable oil as diesel fuel, we would only displace about 4% of the diesel being burned in the U.S.
Growing enough oil crops to make up for the remaining 96% of the diesel we are using would not only take enormous amounts of land, it takes enormous amounts of water that is in increasingly short supply thanks to the drought effects of global warming where grain crops are grown in the U.S. and, oops!, it takes tremendous amounts of oil and natural gas to run the tractors, produce fertilizers and pesticides (which pollute air, land and water), produce the electricity for processing the grain, and move the grain and oil around the country--to say nothing of pumping irrigation water. That's why vegetable oil costs about $6 per gallon compared to about $2.50 a gallon for diesel: because it takes more petroleum, gas, and water to produce veggie oil than it does to produce conventional diesel directly from petroleum, even with the subsidies that large agri-business grain producers receive.
Globally, the ability to produce food is in decline, the ability to pump oil out of the ground will soon be in decline, we've lost three-quarters of our topsoil and are losing what remains at an accelerating rate, and scattered droughts and crop damage from increasingly violent storms are to be expected in the decades ahead. This is not the time to start converting massive amounts of agricultural production needed to feed a growing population into the production of fuel for people to keep driving inefficient vehicles a thousand or more miles per month per person. Regardless of what fuel we use, we need to focus first on using a lot less of it in the years ahead.
Biofuels are not the answer, although it makes sense to use whatever veggie oil is being poured into landfills as fuel for diesel engines, I suppose. But that represents such a drop in the bucket that it is hardly worth mentioning as a response to declining oil supplies and all that is as stake because of that.
Kumar Plocher from CA
7/6/2005 7:11:30 PM
This editorial is nice, but it does a real disservice by not mentioning biodiesel, or explaining the difference between it and running straight vegetable oil. An important fact: far more people are willing to use a new fuel when it doesn't require any modifications to their vehicle!
I own a biodiesel distribution company that's been around for nearly four years, and I would be happy to write a companion editorial about biodiesel, if someone can tell me the protocol for doing so. E-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Chris Wolfe from CA
7/7/2005 11:00:50 AM
I applaud the Woolf's for doing something versus waiting around for a miracle cure. I believe this article shows people that there are potential solutions and people willing to do something. Bio fuels will be explored in follow-on editorials and I request anyone with expertise or knowledge in this area to submit an editorial using the "submit editorial" navigation bar above.
Deirdre from NC
7/7/2005 12:41:03 PM
Don't be discouraged by the folks saying "Bio fuels aren't the perfect answer." - some of their numbers are whacky (i.e. “diesel at $2.50 a gallon”? Only when subsidized by the government! Or “vegetable oil costs about $6 per gallon”, when I can get biodiesel locally for $3.50 per gallon), AND they're missing the point in the first place. Yes, bio fuel alone won't solve the world’s energy, pollution and global warming problems. But, by using renewable and less polluting fuels and lubricants, more sustainable agricultural practices, more efficient engines and technology, and an improved personal ethic of conservation, many of our modern problems are surmountable. The trick is realizing there's no silver bullet.
Dave Kerns from CO
7/7/2005 1:42:46 PM
I would love to see a bio-diesel/electric hybrid.
Instead of waiting for someone to make it for me I am researching making one myself.
Thanks Joel and Rebecca for putting together the article.
Bartja Wachtel from WA
7/7/2005 2:13:53 PM
I'm curious about reading first hand any actual studies on alternative fuels and their impact on greenhouse effect. Are there any differneces in their ecological impact? What are the pros and cons?
I also agree with CyoteMan, that with the advent of renewable energy, can we be sure that it will actually be renewed? I am concerned that with any resource we continue to move in the direction of excessive use.
Ski Milburn from CO
7/8/2005 2:13:35 PM
I was recently a session Chairman of an alternative fuels conference in Berlin attended by planners from most of the world's major oil companies. The consensus of the meeting was that, assuming continued progress in deriving fuels from cellulose not just vegetable oils, that 40% of oil refinery inputs could be derived from renewable sources within 30 years. And, they would be less expensive than oil at $60 per barrel.
Gary Schuler from OH
7/8/2005 4:05:49 PM
Can this fuel be used to heat homes and other such types? And I've also seen at some pumps out of state the ethanol fuel combined partly with fossil fuel, shy not just switch now if the pump and car equipment can handle it?
livedeadcat from CA
Veggie oil can't save us. It is simply a matter of too little, too late: There is not THAT much waste oil, and the costs of producing veggie oil for fuel makes the idea a non-starter. The likelyhood of ANY technology being developed and implemented in time to save our skins (profligate lifestyle, whatever) within the window of opportunity demarcated by "cheap oil" is discouragingly low. Think Tragedy of The Commons writ large.
I don't think we're necessarity to blame for this sad circumstance; by the time we noticed we had a problem, it was probably already too late.
I'll see you in the war zone.
dave baird from MN
7/10/2005 1:18:02 PM
i think eather the vegitable or the hydrogen based car should become main stream alternitives to the standard fosal fuel cars that we have now.
Todd O. from CA
7/11/2005 3:06:24 AM
I'd like to follow up on a few comments in this discussion.
Regarding the difference between biodiesel and waste (or straight) vegetable oil: the important difference in terms of evaluating either as a substitute for petrol-diesel is the net energy balance. Biodiesel requires additional energy (and labor) inputs, so evaluations of veggie oil as fuel can be thought of as a best case scenario. If that oil is converted to biodiesel, the net effect is that less net energy is available to replace petrol diesel. Therefore, if we can displace 4% of the petrol-diesel used in the U.S. with the waste veggie oil America generates, we can displace less than 4% if that same oil is converted to biodiesel. Either way, it would take massive scaling up of oil crop production to actually reduce demand for petrol-diesel, to say nothing of gasoline.
Regarding wacky numbers like $2.50 a gallon for diesel and $6 a gallon for vegetable oil: the average price of diesel in California, where I am writing, is $2.55 a gallon according to the U.S. EIA (see http://tonto.eia.doe.gov/oog/info/gdu/gasdiesel.asp). The price of a quart of vegetable oil at Grocery Outlet--the cheapest source I have found--is never less than $1.50 per quart, which works out to $6 per gallon. At the Safeway, half a gallon of canola oil will set you back $5.29, which works out to $10.58 per gallon. That should tell you something about what it costs to produce vegetable oil, which, unlike diesel fuel does not include a tax burden in excess of 20%.
The point is, it takes a lot of valuable oil, natural gas, water, land and labor to produce and distribute vegetable oil. If we ramp up vegetable oil production enough to matter, it will put incredible demand on those resources that are already in short supply for the production of food to feed a growing population even as land is becoming less fertile and clean water is more difficult (and energy intensive) to come by.
It would be great to wave a magic wand and easily handle these real world constraints with "more sustainable agricultural practices," but the truth is we would not only need to go through an intensive education process not unlike what Cuba was forced to do after the fall of the Soviet Union, but it would take tremendous amounts of ongoing, very intensive labor to put that in practice on a scale grand enough to make a difference. First, of course, we would need to get control of the vast amounts of productive land held by farming mega-corporations that have not shown any interest in authentic biointensive growing. Somehow, the people who are interested in keeping their tanks full of feel-good fuel don't seem very motivated to get out of their cars and stage a land reform revolution, so it doesn't appear that the farming situation will be reaping the benefits of dedicated and educated green growers soon. Richard Heinberg has some sobering things to say about why that's necessary and what it would take, though:
It is true that biodiesel is often available for between $3 and $4 per gallon, but that's only because the producers of biodiesel tend to get most of their oil for free from those who have already used it once for cooking and would otherwise pay to dispose of it. The $3 to $4 is little more than what it costs to collect the oil, add the energy and chemical inputs needed to make biodiesel, dispose of the waste products (which include waste energy), and pay a little something for all the labor involved. Clearly, if they had to pay the cost of new veggie oil, which they would if they wanted to expand output beyond the level of waste oil being generated, the cost of biodiesel would render the typical work-day commute unaffordable for many of the people who are looking at biofuels as a hedge against rising oil prices.
I think Bartja Wachtel's point about the development of alternative energy and conservation technology merely feeding increased consumption until we hit the limit of production, again, is valid and insightful. I'll go a step further: along with that increased and more efficient consumption of energy comes an increase in population. In fact, in the very good presentation on climate change that Al Gore has put together, he shows a very high correlation between energy production, green gas build up, global temperature change, and human population growth. As we've gotten better at prodsuing and using energy, we've consistently grown our population--to the point that we are now overburdening entire eco-systems that we once regarded as inexhaustible, without which, we simply can't keep as many people alive as are living today.
Several people have made the point that we should really focus on doing less with our remaining sources of energy before we do ourselves in, one way or another. I agree. It's nice to think that we can simply switch to biofuels and everything will be fine, but many of the problems we are facing (water, hunger, tremendous wealth inequities, crippling debt, etc.) can be traced back to the consequences of relying on ever greater consumption of energy in any form rather than solved by it. We are not merely dependent on fossil fuel, we are dependent on all forms of energy and on an ever expanding economy despite a finite level of resources, save for human creativity, which, while very valuable, has never managed to displace the need for more "stuff" to keep the economy expanding. Biofuels, far from being a solution, are just the latest piece of that problem.
Go, lemmings, go!
Ted langs from
7/11/2005 11:02:55 AM
It would seem to me, that having a car a few years ago that got excellent mpg of gas. Were those companies force to change? Now another way to help our independance is use gases from garbage called menthene. It burns just like natural gas. The biggest problem is our Politicial leaders. We must get rid of both exsisting major parties and outlaw lobbying in Washington.
Johannes Wheeldon from CA
7/11/2005 4:08:20 PM
While converting diesels to run on veg oil is one possibility, a more realistic and achievable aim is related to the production and use of biodiesel. Biodiesel is modified vegetable/animal oil which can run in any diesel engine on the road today, without any engine modifications. It is becoming more available (For exanmple: Google Biowille)
Bill Guilfoil from IL
7/11/2005 6:21:03 PM
After reading the article and the comments that followed, here seems to be two different responses. One is that it's good that someone is doing something. The other that what they are doing is wrong or not enough to matter.
The simple fact is that there is no one great feelgood solution. Rather it's far more likely to take the form many small to very large changes to effect real improvement.
Some simple but basic concepts will have to be used.
1. Consumption has to be cut. Cars and homes have to be made more efficent and it's going to take government stepping in to truely effect change in this area. Real incentives need to be given by the US to get people to "green' up their houses and the automakers feet need to be held to the fire to increase fuel economy.
2. Mass transit will have to be expanded, improved and excepted. It's likely going to be paid for the same way as most of the countries, a steep gasoline tax, that will not only pay for mass transit but encourage Americans to use it.
3.All renewable energy sources should be encouraged.
Sorry Mr Castleman but there is a lot more solar energy that can be used. A lot more of wind power also can be added, we lag far behind many other countries in this regard. The other energy source that's never mentioned in this type of forum is nuclear. I can't beleive that if the greatest minds in the world got together they couldn't come up with a solution for what to do with the waste. There are several plants in my area sitting dormant doing nothing when they could be a effective part of the energy chain.
Mike T. from RI
7/11/2005 8:59:59 PM
I hate to say it but after reading these comments reality just set in, and the uncertainty of what the future holds is scary. I truly hope that the human species is intelligent enough to get out of the mess it has put itself (not to mention the rest of the life on this planet) in. Obviously I do not know what the answer is, and I know that sacrifice will exceedingly out way the rapid (20 yr.) benefits that this miracle oil as well as any other alternate energy source plans to bring. The only positive way I personally think we can go from here is to increase worldly knowledge (dramatically increase American knowledge who live in excess in all forms of the word) to reduce/limit this inevitable problem so that maybe we will have enough time to only hope that we can look to technology to solve our problems before it destroys us from existence. I have more or less, compared to the average American human being, come to depend on fossil fuels to survive and now I will learn to deal with the problem and give strong attempts to conserve this dwindling resource.
Also, not an expert in the field of Physics, but I have heard something about connecting the physical properties of matter (i.e. mass, weight, density) to that of electricity and/or light. Which if this is possible then the mass of objects could be decreased, and much less energy in the form of any fuel could be used to move it/them, which would drastically reduce our dependance on fuel. I think that this is where Einstein left off. Some one who knows more about this subject please inform me, and let me know if I am relaying this properly. If not, please correct me. Thanks.
william from NY
7/12/2005 5:28:54 AM
Your article makes a statement that Brazil is energy independent. Interesting the Cia world factbook at www.cia.gov States that Brazil imports Oil and Natural Gas. Why state mistruths.
It can be done! Back in the 1970s, Brazil and the United States suffered through an oil embargo. While we toughed out the embargo and stayed committed to an oil-based economy, Brazil got creative. Today, Brazil is energy independent and employs nearly one million people in producing bio-fuel from sugar cane. A great example of what can be done by using renewable, home grown resources.
Chris Wolfe from CA
7/12/2005 7:05:24 PM
Two sources indicated that Brazil was energy independent. However, after further research, it is true that they still import petroleum. We will adjust the editorial to reflect Brazil's progress towards energy independence.
Joe from NY
7/14/2005 10:31:29 AM
A recent book summarizes many of these topics: "The Long Emergency" by James Howard Kunstler. Unfortunately, his theory is that many alternative fuel platforms are based on fossil fuels, so as the latter are used up all the alternatives will become less available also.
Steve from NC
7/14/2005 11:11:33 PM
This sounds all well and good and is a good source of propaganda that plays well in the masses... the masses that run the tarnation out of their cars and depend on widely distributed and avaliable fuels to get them from one place to the other, but don't have the ability to think past the first sentence.
The fact is that average Joe just isn't interested in going down to his local Hardees and spending a half a day filtering fry oil, only to learn that someone has also dumped some animal grease or other dissolve substance in there that will ruin his car. Like it or not, people prefer convenience and you just aren't going to get them to go this route.
Second, one restaurant can only produce about as much strained oil as it takes to service one family vehicle. That leaves you with quite a shortfall... and people running around to pick up used oil before someone else gets there. It won't take many before folks realize the goofy nature of beating the other guy to the grease and draining a half gallon from each of 40 restaurants to realize this isn't a good idea.
As for the "we have all the solar we can use" guy. Your nuts! I live in a city where there are 220 days per year of sun and I don't recall the last solar panel that I saw.
There is room for alternative fuels, but not room for one that makes greedy little munchkin hoards of rogue gypsy oil strainers out of people.
Fuel cell technology is out there. If we took half the money we poured into supporting countries that are not friendly to us and put it to subsidizing that industry till it got off the ground, we'd be have more energy than we know what to do with. If we weren't so screwy about releasing hydrogen cars, we'd see Chevy Suburbans drop in resale value down to $1 and change for scrap metal and we'd actually be exporting US oil. Wouldn't that be a trip?!?!?
Harvey Flrfnik from IA
7/15/2005 12:12:52 AM
Biofuels are great, but we can't make enough to continue the automobile culture we have now. In order to substitute all of the gasoline we use each year with ethanol, we would need to grow six times as much corn as we do now(an area about the size of Alaska) But, in the absence of synthetic fertilizers, which come from natural gas, corn yields are cut in half, so we would actually need nearly a third of the United States growing corn, and all of it getting corn belt yields. We'll probably have to switch to bio fuels this century, but we will have to cut our driving drastically. There will be some huge lifestyle things, but if (big if) the changes are started now, it might not be intolerable.
Harvey Flrfnik from IA
7/15/2005 12:14:46 AM
Oops, that should read: "huge lifestyle changes", not "things"
Timothy B from MA
7/15/2005 11:31:56 AM
For those whom say biodiesel is a value losing proposition, I say: Do your homework people!
We would need a growing area of roughly the size of the state of Utah to provide exactly as much oil as we consume today. This is usually thought of as insane, too much. Lets refine it a bit though.. that number is assuming we are using mixed cropping, etc. Refine that assumption and things get better very quickly.
Rapeseed produces 1000 kg/acre, corn 145kg.acre, soybeans 345/acre. Oil Palm produces 5000kgs/acre and is why we have a tariff on palm oil (because its so bloody cheap).
SO lets assume we are talking mixed cropping, combining rapeseed, soy and palm oil.. we can reduce the size of that plot to something like 1/2 the size.
Considering that we currently have about 40million acres under 'protection ' (i.e. we are paying people not to grow there) and we have loads of land not developed, or not used because they aren't good for 'cash cropping', we can come up with that much land in a heartbeat and not affect food supply AT ALL.
Read up please! Look at all teh factors, and do the math. The answer IS out there. Biodiesel is THE answer for every issue we have with energy. If we combine it with energy usage reduction, and appropriate technology we could easily handle this problem.
The bariers are strictkly social and political. The reason people starve in teh world is not because they can't get food it's because they can't BUY food. Self sufficient peoples are not starving, and yet they are as poor, if not more so, than many marginal communities in other areas of the world.
Think! Act! Do!
UB Gretsky from MA
7/15/2005 11:42:28 AM
Upon reading this article and browsing at the responses, I am dumbfounded at what I have learned.
We have the technology to make incredible changes right now. But we choose to point fingers and make excuses and live hypocrytical lives. Lets GO People, we can do do it!!!
Vincent M. from NY
7/16/2005 4:31:36 PM
Biodiesel is still the same old technology of burning hydrocarbons. What we need is new battery technology and renewable energy such as wind, solar, geothermal, wave power & harnessing lightning (which you can delay in a large coil). This way, the only hydrocarbons you will burn in on your BBQ.
Bill Hahn from CA
7/18/2005 6:19:57 PM
This will not fly (until the last drop of oil is gone) because big money will chase every last drop of oil and suck it out of the ground, sell it, and make sure all energy prices are kept sky high. Big money (oil corps included) elects politicians who will resist biodiesel to keep the money flowing into their reelection funds. Big money doesn't care about running out of oil--no matter how expensive it becomes, they will be able to buy it. And no matter how many of our soldiers die to ensure we get every drop of foreign oil to the exclusion of all other peoples and countries, their kids won't be the soldiers who die. This is not only an environmental and political issue, it is a social and human rights issue. But those with wealth, privilege and power will make sure the status quo goes on and on. Energy wasting is not the only problem the rich must keep unsolved in order to have the best that life can offer them, exclusively!
Teresa M. Sheppard from CA
7/19/2005 2:48:39 AM
YA LETS DO IT
William Ricky from MO
7/19/2005 1:30:04 PM
One thing that would reduce consumption immediately would be to encourage all companies to let more people telecommute, instead of driving to an office everyday. You would not only save oil the cars are burning, but there would require fewer roads and road repairs which also saves oil. None of the bio type fuels are economically efficient in that they all cost more to produce than the oil products that we all use now and still require oil to produce them. How do you think that ethanol gets created, by burning oil, more oil than it is replacing. I don't think the oil is going to run out any time soon as they keep finding new ways to extract it out of previous oil fields. There is also much more oil that is known about that is not being retrieved because of the environmentalists. Speaking of environmentalists, how come they all use oil products and say how horrible it is especially when there is a tanker oil spill, but won't let us drill on our own lands or setup any wind turbines or nuclear reactors be built either, at least not in their back yards.
John Chase from FL
7/19/2005 5:42:09 PM
Finally, the Chinese and Indians are doing what we would not do for ourselves: raise the price of oil. So now the free market will find alternative sources of fuel for our transportation system. I predict fuel cells fed by hydrogen in hybrid power trains. Big question is how to get the hydrogen. Today's technology limits that to electricity, and it takes more electicity to make it that it would produce. Biomass for fuel cells is the darling of many of us. But it too, consumes more net energy, long run, than it produces. Our best hope is to find ways to handle hydrogen safely to run solar cells in hybrid power train vehicles. The best way, long run, to make the hydrogen is wind and solar cells. Meanwhile I see no alternative to nuclear as the 'bridge fuel'. No, I don't like it either, but its only alternative is a collapsed economy.
Shane from WY
7/20/2005 12:55:07 PM
BioDiesel is great for recycling food wastes but as an ag crop it uses more energy than it produces. Why? Fertilizer is a product requireing lots of petroleum as are herbicides and pesticides. Tractors and transport also skew the balance. In the end it takes more energy to produce- unless you subsidize agriculture heavily. While waste materials are still worth the effort. It would barely make a dent in our total energy picture.
Dave from CO
7/21/2005 1:55:00 PM
Running BioDiesel DOES NOT require any conversion to the engine. I've been running both BioDiesel exclusively and stinky regular diesel and there isn't any worry there.
Fred and Dorothy Lyon from
7/21/2005 2:29:00 PM
Why are they waiting if it can be done DO IT!!!!!!!!!
Dan T from MI
7/21/2005 2:42:50 PM
Fertilizer is produced from petroleum/natural gas products. One thing you are missing, manure. The byproducts of oil production from soy, canola, sunflower in the form of meal can be fed to livestock. you collect that manure and spread it on your canola fields and POOF you have significantly reduced your
chemical fertilizer needs.
Byproducts of certain techniques of biodiesel production can actually become a source of potassium, another useful fertilizer. Glycerin, another byproduct of biodiesel production, can be purified and fed to livestock as a natural food sweetener.
Most farm tractors can run on biodiesel.
Nutrient fixing crops such as alfalfa can be rotated with oil crops to maintain soil integrity. Alfalfa is also a good source of animal feed.
Good old fashioned farm co-ops growing oil crops, oil presses, small biodiesel plants and cattle/pig/chicken farms are where we need to start.
Bumpersticker cliche "THINK GLOBALLY, ACT LOCALLY" really does apply when seeking energy alternatives.
It is the duty of every patriot to help free the world from modern oppression - foreign sources of energy.
J. W. Hoechst from FL
7/25/2005 1:32:19 PM
“Americans for Energy Independence” has a lovely ring to it but seems to deliver more verbiage than active results. Having just read your editorial on energy entitled “Fill ‘err Up With Vegetable Oil Please”, I will with your tolerance, attempt to dissuade you that ethanol (derived from vegetable matter) can have any serious impact on our energy problem. In that regard I would like to introduce a concept, called thermal conversion process (TCP) currently producing oil from anything containing carbon, which of course, is anything which has ever lived or is currently living. “The process is designed to handle almost any waste product imaginable, including turkey offal, tires, plastic bottles, harbor-dredged muck, old computers, municipal garbage, cornstalks, paper-pulp effluent, infectious medical waste, oil refinery residues, even biological weapons such as anthrax spores.” It performs this feat in approximately two hours with an efficiency rating of 85%.
In January, 2005, Fortune Magazine published an article entitled “A Turkey in Your Tank” describing this new process and the oil it produces, which can, without further processing, be used directly as diesel fuel. Accepting the writer’s accuracy she writes, “In October, (2004) Congress passed a bill that gave biodiesel, which is derived from biological material, such as soybean oil and animal fat, but has a different chemical composition, a tax incentive that translates into a $1 – a- gallon break on production costs.” That $1 per gallon works out to $42 per barrel! Soybean oil futures are selling at an average of approximately $26.50 per barrel with the $42 per barrel subsidy. Remove that subsidy and that oil would be selling at approximately $66.50 per barrel. Add to that the fact that the farmers also receive support for raising soybeans as a crop and the cost of soybean based diesel fuel becomes prohibitive on the competitive market. It cannot sustain itself without that subsidy.
One aspect of examining the ethanol statistics which should be looked at closely is the consistent use by the Energy Department of ethanol production in billions of gallons as compared to barrels. The use of the term “billions” tends to obfuscate the true dimension of production. According to a University of California – Berkeley study, the United States produced 3.57 billion gallons of ethanol on 2004. That 3.57 billion gallons translates to 87 million barrels of ethanol, while the United States imported approximately 4.5 billion barrels of oil in 2004. Ethanol was approximately 2/10 of 1% of that total. No matter how far you look into the future, ethanol is not the answer.
Meanwhile, the only system ever devised by man which can create oil form anything containing carbon, dies on the vine for lack of support. Serious estimates have concluded that on a national scale the TCP process is capable of producing approximately 4 billion barrels of oil per year using agricultural wastes only. Given the same degree of support currently extended to ethanol and the various other energy concepts, this system can deliver the U. S. from imported oil in ten years or less, since all the necessary hardware and machinery are currently employed in the oil industry. What is necessary is a groundswell of angry citizens notifying Congress to get off their duffs and get some support for this system. Otherwise it will go overseas to countries which have already shown greater interest than the United States.
In keeping with your word limit rule, I shall not expand on the above unless your interest is piqued sufficiently to desire more information. There is much more to be said in favor of this concept, and in the final analysis, it could become a win-win situation for the country and its citizens.
I trust I will hear from you.
J. W. (Jake) Hoechst
chad zawitz from IL
7/27/2005 9:52:37 AM
While the concept of vegetable based fuels is enticing on some levels, NONE of the proposed 'solutions' for energy independence are without MAJOR problems. If we dedicate vast regions of arable land to agri-fuel production (to fuel this nations' huge demand this will be a significant amount of land)we will also put a strain on a more important resource: clean water. To produce a reliable supply of agri-fuel this will require massive irrigation drawing still more water from our already strained resources. I agree with energy independence, but this will require new technologies and combined efforts among ALL renewable energy sources including solar, wind, hydro, and agri-fuels. Also, burning any carbohydrate (including agri-fuel) produces lots of greenhouse gases further contributing to global warming.
Ron Bengtson from ID
7/27/2005 1:14:46 PM
I have read some great comments here, but also some negative remarks. Yes, it is true that biofuels made from corn and soybeans, etc. would demand a lot of land and fresh water and fertilizer... but... If we are willing to "think outside the box" there are alternatives that can work today: That is, biodiesel made from micro algae. See: www.AmericanEnergyIndependence.com/biodiesel.html
Please take a few minutes and read the entire web page, and work the arithmetic examples. You will see that biodiesel made from micro algae can produce 100% of USA transportation fuel without taking farmland, or fresh water. Also, fertilizer for biofuels production can be made from renewable sources. See:
American Energy Independence is within our reach -- our political leaders are out of touch!
See also: www.AmericanEnergyIndependence.com/peroxide.html -- transportation fuel from renewable Hydrogen Peroxide and Sugar
Timothy Blenkinsop from NY
7/27/2005 4:23:20 PM
Its time to stop igoring and start solving our serious problems.
Rob Samarati from NJ
7/27/2005 10:43:32 PM
The interests of multinational corporations comes first in this current administration. Nothing will be done until every last oil lobbyist stops lining political pockets.
Lowtech from NY
7/28/2005 12:53:26 PM
Biointesive yields 10x commerical with less h2o needed and NO pesticides. Crops not for consumption can be fertilized with sewage and food waste(I wonder if there's enough available anywhere?)
There is enough land along roadsides that are mowed and maintained that can be use to grow.(How many million miles of roadway are there?)
It all seems doable. Anybody want to invest/partner in a business that beats the competition because it saves expenses by using WVO and has a off-site 6 acre farm/retreat to produce svo and biodiesel?
This is the way we should all start. We need more practical talk about things we can do now to intergrate these new "low" technologies that have always existed.
Frank D'Urso from MA
7/28/2005 11:51:45 PM
I experimented with this TODAY, and you know what? Vegetable Oil burns pretty cleanly.
I had some Corn Oil we had used to cook with, and I saved it to experiment with.
I have seen cars operate on Recycled corn oil, and frankly they smell like french fries. I was wondering how volatile Corn oil was.
I placed some in an empty cardboard Carton and placed the carton into our outdoor fireplace.....the fire burned clean and brightly.
Jimmy Carter was an advocate of Bio-Fuels.
Robert from CA
7/29/2005 3:04:23 PM
Wow, there are a lot of good comments to this editorial. In fact, all my thoughts have been covered quite well already -- mostly that consumption and growth are more of a problem than choice of fuel. Becoming twice as efficient to allow the economy and population to double in size is a huge wasted effort.
And "the only limit to producing vegetable oil is available farmland"? Sheesh, that's just ridiculous. There are plenty of other inputs. For example, the nitrogen that runs off into the Mississippi and into the Gulf of Mexico, creating a huge algae bloom and dead zone.
Technology is not going to solve our problems. Technology can only allow us to avoid our problems for a little longer, and make them that much worse.
Glen from CO
7/30/2005 4:17:40 AM
Why make fuel the slow painful way?
Go nuclear. It doesn't produce all that harmful CO2.
You could use electricity from nuclear power plants to break water into hydrogen and oxygen, then use one or both to fuel cars. End result of combustion... water.
I know, I know... can't use nuclear because it could have a devastating effect in the wake of an accident or improper storage. Truth is coal plants are already polluting with an excess of CO2, as are most of the automobiles in the world. Global warming marches on. It's so bad already that the latest issue of Scientific American and Discover magazine talk about plans to bury CO2 underground (also with signficant risks to life should a significant quantity leak out at once)
If you don't like nuclear, then use wind. Seems to me Wyoming is consistently windy enough to make plenty of electricity. Give the state something to do beside coal mining... make em one giant wind farm.
Of course the first best thing to do is get rid of all those obscenely and unnecessarily large SUVs. Good luck with that though because people are more concerned with "blinging it up" with status symbols than with altruistic habits of conservation. People are stupid that way... and they elect our leaders.
Jack Bayless from TX
8/15/2005 10:13:31 AM
We will have to use all the sources ot energy to offset much of the oil we import.
So get with do-it-yourself-solar, convert present gasoline engines to diesel, use a plant from India to grow oil source in the deserts, Brazil burns their sugarcane waste in power plants, so lets do the same. Each city could grind up their wastes and burn in a city power plant in the central district. Modern systems can do this without pollution. Separating the metals and glass may pay for trash collection costs. Go to www.willyoujoinus.com for other comments
Cheryl Grossman from OH
8/15/2005 3:29:44 PM
Please keep in mind that the reason that the government pays farmers to not plant is to preserve the soil. You see, there was a little thing called the 'Dust Bowl' that taught us that you can't just take, take, take from the earth all the time without giving it a little rest, especially in sensitive areas. Otherwise you just have to keep pumping in the fertilizer (the equivalent of steroids) and that brings its own problems.
Nico from CA
10/6/2005 4:46:33 PM
I've read about this in either a TIME mag or a Newsweek mag. Really great stuff! I also read an article about Willie Nelson and his support for Biodiesel- soy based fuel. Though, scientists are finding ways to make this fuel a lot more reliable; It states that in cold weather, this fuel tends to freeze up (it needs to stay at a certain temperature to be able to put to use) and there are disadvantages of this fuel going bad- do these occur in vegetable oil??
Jacob Rupe from CA
12/19/2005 9:23:09 PM
Why is it that not one single comment has mentioned the best possible renewable resource which would solve most of these problems: Industrial Hemp! It was outlawed by the Marijuana Tax Act of 1937 before which it was used for numerous products, fuels, and as a source of energy.
Industrial hemp is not Marijuana. It shares the same genus and species of marijuana, but it is a different strain with such low levels of THC that you would have to smoke 2-3 hundred pounds just to attempt to get high. Even so, the high level of CBDs reverse the psychoactive effect of smoking THC. It keeps you from getting high!
Industrial hemp can be used to make paper (four times the amount than from trees!), salt-water resistant rope (which is what the Navy has always used for all of their cordage needs), plastic, rubber, clothing, high quality fine linens and fabrics, food, medicine, paint, oils for cooking and lubrication, and also the topic of this discussion: fuel.
The fuel from hemp is superior to petroleum, as was known by Rudolph Diesel who assumed his engine would be powered by vegetable and seed oils. Engineers around the same time in the 1930s extracted methanol, charcoal fuel, tar, pitch, ethyl-acetate, and creosote from this amazing plant. 1000 gallons of methanol per year can be produced from one acre of hemp.
These fuels, and all hemp products, are cleaner-burning, organic, and biodegradable. We could reverse the greenhouse effect because we would stop cutting down trees for paper and unnecessarily burning fossil fuels for energy, which spew millions of tons of CO2 into the atmosphere which is the cause of global warming.
Hemp can grow in almost any climate, it used to be a major farming staple in the U.S., and it doesn't deplete the soil very quickly, so you can grow it in the same soil for years without fertilizing. You can also make livestock feed, and food and medicine for humans. Hemp seed is a complete protein rich in omega-3s and omega-6s. Canada doubled their sales of hemp food from 2003 to 2004 because people are searching for healthy alternatives. Unfortunately, because the U.S. is the only industrialized nation in the world that has made growing hemp illegal, we have to import it from Canada and Europe.
But there is hope. Very soon, Congress is going to look at a bill called "The Industrial Hemp Farming Act of 2005". If it passes it will redefine industrial hemp to be separate from "marijuna" so the DEA will stop cutting it down and throwing it away or burning it senselessly.
Go to www.votehemp.com for more information. A little bit of research on this subject should convince you of the amazing potential industrial hemp has, and the enormous implacations for our economy, environment, and health. We need to get this bill passed. It's a matter of life and death!
Phil from CO
1/15/2006 7:20:15 PM
Where does one get an engine or a car that runs on vegtable oil or bio-diesel? Where do you then fill up the tank?