Archive for the biodiesel Category

Fossil Fuel Free Concert Series: Ben Harper and Jack Johnson Shows in Santa Barbara

Posted in biodiesel, clean energy, conservation, ethical consumerism, global warming, green energy, sustainability, transportation on September 15, 2008 by theseep

Last month Laura and I were fortunate enough to make it to see two of our favorite artists, Ben Harper at the Santa Barbara Bowl on August 22nd, and Jack Johnson at UC Santa Barbara on August 27th. Each of these trips are about a 220 mile round trip and to save money and relieve our eco-guilt, we of course drove our biodiesel vehicles in another installment of Fossil Fuel Free roadtrips. For the Ben Harper show it was just me and Laura, so we took the 2003 Jetta TDI wagon which gets 37+ miles/gallon on our homemade biodiesel. The show was fantastic, Santa Barbara Bowl is a fantastic venue, and watching Harper rock out on his slide guitar will drop your jaw in amazement as he melts your face off with his ridiculous musical talent.

For the Jack Johnson show, we carpooled with some friends and took the Vegfalia for some straight used vegetable oil transport. The Jack show was fantastic as always and as a bonus, he has the “All At Once” initiative in full swing. His mellow musical stylings always get the crowd swaying and bouncing to the beat, listening to his honest and heartfelt lyrics.  The show was a bit festival-like, with the All-At-Once tent and a circle of tents housing various environmental groups as well. Impressively, the entire concert tour is striving to be carbon neutral, through biodiesel-powered tourbuses and generators and CO2 offsets. Also, there were water stations to refill your reusable bottles, discouraging bottled water, there were recycling bins next to every trash can, the concert T-shirts were organic cotton, and if you collected enough stamps from refilling your bottle, carpooling, and visiting the environmental non-profits there, you were entered to win a JJ skateboard or to get up on stage with Jack. Also, any donations to the non-profits were matched by the Johnson Ohana Charitable Foundation. Basically Jack Johnson is demonstrating by example that large events and tours can have minimal environmental impact and he it seems that he is successfully converting fans to be more mindful of their consumption.
Go Jack!

Biofuels Comparison Study – Conclusion: Properly Planned Biofuel Is A Great Transition Fuel, Poorly Designed Is Superbad.

Posted in biodiesel, clean energy, conservation, ethical consumerism, global warming, green energy, politics, sustainability, transportation on May 11, 2008 by theseep

The results of a study by University of Washington and The Nature Conservancy are shown in the chart below, detailing the efficiency and impact of various biofuel production strategies.
Basically it shows what we already know about corn ethanol and soy biodiesel, and other “food-for-fuel” crops – they are extraordinarily inefficient, using large amounts of fossil fuels, water, pesticides, and fertilizer to produce, and directly detracting from food sources. Because of the recent food shortages, these biofuels are getting another look as a potential part of the problem. Unfortunately all biofuels are being vilified by this media hype, and even efficient processes like sugar cane and cellulosic ethanol or waste oil and algae-based biodiesel are getting a bad name as well.

One of our biggest problems is the lack of foresight – the U.S. government has been supporting corn ethanol extensively due to lobbying and special interests even though it is though it actually uses more resources than it produces. If we can put our resources toward developing technologies like cellulosic ethanol and algae biodiesel, we will have bridging biofuels that will allow us to continue to use existing combustion technology as we reach peak oil. This will be a critical phase for further development of the next generation of renewable energy production and infrastructure.

In 20 years, after peak oil has been reached and fossil fuel prices are ridiculously high, our combustion technology will be mostly obsolete and electric cars powered by next-gen battery technology. Once again, for this to happen smoothly, we need strong and wise leadership that will resist corporate and lobbyist influence and be able to encourage the most efficient and promising technologies.

via treehugger and Seattle Post-Intelligencer

Shell Oil CEO Informs Employees That Peak Oil is an Estimated 7 Years Out!

Posted in alternative fuel, biodiesel, clean energy, conservation, ethical consumerism, global warming, green energy, sustainability, transportation on January 28, 2008 by theseep

In a move that defies the stance of other petrochemical giants, the Shell CEO, Jeroen van der Veer, sent a letter to employees stating in no uncertain terms that peak oil is about 7 years out. (bold type for emphasis by treehugger)”Regardless of which route we choose, the world’s current predicament limits our maneuvering room. We are experiencing a step-change in the growth rate of energy demand due to population growth and economic development, and Shell estimates that after 2015 supplies of easy-to-access oil and gas will no longer keep up with demand.”

Van der Veer goes on to briefly and reasonably discuss the shortfalls of current public energy policy and renewables. Do you think they meant for this to become general knowledge? It’s time to ramp up our battery/hydrogen/cellulosic ethanol/wind/solar research, according to Shell, we’ll see a sharp increase in oil prices ($500/barrel?) by 2015!

via treehugger


Chevy’s Greenwashed “Gas Friendly to Gas Free” Marketing Campaign

Posted in alternative fuel, biodiesel, clean energy, conservation, ethical consumerism, global warming, green energy, politics, sustainability, transportation on December 9, 2007 by theseep

OK, we all know that all of the U.S. car manufacturers have made decision after decision that is leading to their own demise. First, the engineered obselescence of the 80’s and 90’s – you need to keep buying new cars if the one you bought was designed to fail, right?  Brilliant strategy.  Once they knocked that off and lost the faith of the U.S. consumer, they launched ad campaigns convincing a frightening number of us that big, powerful cars are what you need to be a rugged, manly American.  They even managed to get ridiculously unnecessary tax incentives passed for ginormous SUVs to sucker in more people.  Unfortunately for the American worker, they have continued to lag behind the rest of the world’s auto manufacturers and have yet to give us a reasonably sized hybrid or alternative fuel car with the exception of the Chrysler Sebring and Malibu (I don’t consider the Impala “reasonably sized”) 

Now Chevy has answered all of our environmental prayers by launching their new “Gas Friendly to Gas Free” marketing campaign.  This ridiculous attempt at greenwashing lists the following subjects:  Fuel Efficiency, E85 Ethanol, Hybrid, Electric, and Fuel Cell.  Let’s go through the list:   

#1:  Fuel Efficiency – although some chevy cars get decent gas mileage, they still don’t match up to most foreign offerings, with Toyota, Honda, Nissan, Minis, and VWs taking all of the top MPG spots.  Some improved technology has come out, limiting the use of cylinders when not needed, but this is mostly in huge vehicles.  Thanks for polishing our brass – love, the Titanic’s crew. 

#2:  E85 Ethanol – Once again, almost all of these Flex-fuel vehicles are massive SUVs.  Also, when was the last time you saw E85 at the pump in most of America?  This in addition to the fact that corn ethanol is THE WORST BIOFUEL available!  For every 1 gallon of fuel you put into the process you only get about 1.3 gallons of fuel out.  Corn requires large volumes of irrigation, fertilizer, and pesticides.  And don’t forget that you’re taking a needed food source to pour into your SUV – it just doesn’t make any sense at all.  Please feel guilty and picture a starving child while you pour what should be their corn into your fuel tank.    

#3:  Hybrid – What is their first hybrid?  A freakin’ Chevy Tahoe.  You have got to be kidding me.  This wasteful monstrosity gets a whopping 20-22 mpg, and although that’s good for an SUV, it’s downright horrendous for your most eco-friendly offering to date. Why not take your Aveo or Cobalt, which get 24/34 and 24/33 (city/hwy mpg) respectively, and make one of those into a hybrid to compete with the Prius or Civic hybrids? 

#4: Electric – Ahh. . . The much discussed Chevy Volt.  For one thing, didn’t you already make one of these that worked marvelously?  Oh right, the EV1.  They were repossessed and shredded (not even recycled or disassembled!).  Whoops!  The Volt is still vaporware to date (but to be fair, so is the much anticipated Tesla Roadster).  If/when it actually does come out, it might be a pretty sweet ride.    

#5:  Fuel Cell – Yet another concept that will probably never reach any one of us.  Can we please get some people with money and brains (Sir Branson, would you consider this as the next X-prize?) together to design a functional, reliable, long-lasting, non-toxic super battery/fuel cell/whatever?  All we need is a power source people – that’s all the hydrogen and fuel cell concepts are – glorified batteries.  I think that ultracapacitors might do it (still vaporware as well, though) – imagine driving your electric car for 250 miles or more and when you run low, plug in to a power station, swipe your card, and charge up in minutes!  Maybe if the oil companies would release some of those battery patents they’ve gobbled up, there would be one worth developing.   

Basically, I’m asking that nobody fall for this greenwashing campaign of Chevy’s.  Don’t buy an SUV just because it’s a hybrid or it’s Flex-fuel – don’t buy one, period!  If they really cared, they’d stop making Hummers, Tahoes, Escalades, and all of the other gas-guzzling compensation tools and make super-efficient, hybrid, alternative fuel (the forthcoming algae biodiesel or cellulosic ethanol), or electric work vehicles, people-movers, and small personal transportation vehicles.  Admittedly it would take a lot of chutspa for a major auto manufacturer to trim the fat and only concentrate on these types of vehicles.  Toyota is coming close with it’s goal to go all-hybrid, but that’s not enough.  If one of the American companies would step forward to this goal, it could be done, and it could be accomplished with American ingenuity and style and we could lead the world once again in transportation innovation.

Any takers?   


VolksVegan – Another Vegetable Oil Powered Westy!

Posted in alternative fuel, biodiesel, clean energy, ethical consumerism, green energy, sustainability, transportation on November 30, 2007 by theseep

Sweet Camping Spot

Originally uploaded by meganpru
In planning our upcoming fossil-fuel-free roadtrip to Ft. Collins, CO and Salt Lake City, I’ve been scouring the web for help with finding vegetable oil while on the road and have come across not only another “Vegfalia” blog at, but their site pointed me to, a growing database of VO coops, restaurants with WVO available, people and businesses with filtered WVO available, and others just using VO in their vehicles. It’s a fantastic resources for people trying to travel on vegetable oil.
Megan and Seneca, the VolksVegan folks have some incredible photos and some fantastic posts about their travels on vegetable oil. It’s great to see others dedicating themselves towards sustainability.
Nice work guys!


Vegfalia Hits 300,000 Miles, Last 4,000 Without Petrol

Posted in alternative fuel, biodiesel, clean energy, conservation, ethical consumerism, green energy, recycling, sustainability, transportation on November 12, 2007 by theseep

We’ve just passed a fantastic milestone in any vehicle – the 300,000 mile mark.  Although the Vegfalia has only run 1% of these miles on biodiesel and veggie oil thus far, we’re hoping for many more miles out of her. In today’s disposable society, conservation is still the easiest and best way to protect our resources, and taking care of and preserving an older vehicle can still be more eco-friendly than getting a new one when you factor in the energy and materials required to build it. Granted, driving around a poorly-tuned 1975 smoke belcher isn’t what we’re talking about and at that point you could probably upgrade to something more efficient. Don’t forget, if you have a favorite vintage frame that you’re still in love with keeping alive, you can always consider converting it to electric.


Fossil Fuel Free Roadtrip #’s 2 and 3

Posted in alternative fuel, biodiesel, conservation, ethical consumerism, global warming, green energy, sustainability, transportation on September 28, 2007 by theseep

Originally uploaded by neuphoto57

Over 8 days we managed to take 2 separate veggie oil trips to the southern part of Big Sur, California. Since we live in San Luis Obispo, we can make it to Kirk Creek, Limekiln, and Julia Pfeiffer Burns campgrounds within 2 hours straight up the incredibly scenic and legendary Route 1. It’s approximately a 190 mile round trip, and as we drive through Cayucos where we got married, the minimally existent Harmony, quaint Cambria, and up along the cliffs and hills overlooking the edge of the Pacific. The first overnighter was just Laura and myself, reminiscing on the early days of our relationship. We watched the sunset, played guitar, and talked until we drifted off to sleep on the relatively comfortable upper bunk. The next day we hiked a bit and headed home.
This past weekend, we headed back up Rt 1 with our cousins Cindy and Thomas. We decided to go “Westy only” for camping, with Laura and I in the top bunk and Cindy and Thomas in the lower. We brought sandwiches from Gus’s and shared a local bottle of wine to a nearly full moon and topiaries. The front seats held the laptop for an evening showing of Tenacious D and The Pick of Destiny to top it off (luckily the viewing angle was decent from both bunks). In the morning, we hiked part of the trail to Vincente flats across from our campground, used the shower I installed in the back of the Vegfalia to wash the poison oak and dirt off from the knees down, made a quick stop for a few photos of Elephant seals and made it to a few wineries in Paso Robles before heading home. This may sound a little strange, but it was fantastic to spend good time with family and not feel guilty about using fossil fuels – Thomas even refilled the same water bottle the entire trip! We’re still working out the bugs in the Vegfalia. I had to take out the heat exchanger water heater because the coolant hose blew again that is teed off to the Greasecar kit. Hopefully that issue is settle for now. This week I’m trying to tackle fixing some of the electrical issues with the power locks and repair the broken heater flap cables under the dash.