>I remember when I first started hearing about biodiesel. It was about two years ago. I was ready to buck the system, trade-in all our vehicles for diesel versions and build a digester to make our own fuel. Our house runs on heating oil too. And the tractors. I dreamed we’d be able to stop by McDonalds and Taco Time on the way home from delivering produce and never have to buy fuel again. I thought the whole idea was to build fuels by recycling something that wasn’t being used. How great was that! I got all excited about having a solar house, a windmill to power the heat lamps in the pig barn. Maybe we wouldn’t generate enough power to run the walk-in cooler, but hey, we’d be really close to being self-sufficient.
At that time, a few of the other vendors at the farmers markets were using biodiesel in their trucks. The exhaust wasn’t black and stinky—it smelled like french fries. It took me a few days to figure it out, after all there is a Jack In The Box across the street from the market, and a number of litttle restaurants. But, wow! It was just the biodiesel. I was sold. Unfortunately, the digesting machine was several thousand dollars, and we were having a hard time making ends meet with babysitters and employees. So it moved to the back burner.
Now I hear that with all the government initiatives (thank you Ms. Gregoire) that Washington is going to be growing a LOT of canola for oil, to process into biodiesel. Other states will be growing more soy, also for oil to convert into biodiesel. I would imagine that the big biotech agriculture companies are behind it as well—another use for genetically modified varieties, AND they could sell more herbicides and other chemicals because the crops aren’t going to be eaten! It’s a win-win deal for everyone, isn’t it?
But, whoa. What happened to all the recycling of oil? There’s a new show on the Sundance Channel, actually a series of shows called “The Green”. I subscribed to the Showtime package just to get this show, although you can see a lot of the top spots online at http://www.sundance.com/thegreen. What I saw the first episode I caught was a race-car driver who pulled up to the track with a deep fryer and a chicken. He attracted a lot of attention as he dropped the chicken in and it started cooking. Mmmm, everyone wanted a piece. Then, when he was done, he poured the used grease into his gas tank. He took off and drove really fast. (I don’t know how fast, you’d have to ask Mike. I was just fascinated with the idea of pouring the oil in the car.)
Seattle Biodiesel explains on their website that they are working to help Washington farmers by contracting to grow the finest quality feedstock oils for refinement—they call it “bioneering”. “Seattle Biodiesel works directly with regional farmers to develop the finest feedstock oils for use in our processors. We do not use waste vegetable oil (wvo) at this time.” According to the Biodiesel Board, part of the Department of Energy (http://www.eere.energy.gov/afdc/altfuel/biodiesel.html), biodiesel “can be manufactured from vegetable oils, animal fats, or recycled restaurant greases.” So why aren’t we hearing more about recycling the used fats? In the meantime, more cropland will be pushed to its limit growing these oil crops with tons of chemicals. It’s fairly obvious whose profits drive this industry, isn’t it?