During Gas Shortage, Some Discover Biodiesel

John Davis

A gas crisis is striking the area of Georgia around Atlanta. With the recent spate of hurricanes and storms knocking out the Gulf Coast’s and Southeast U.S.’s refining of non-renewable petroleum, drivers are finding a shortage of fuel in the region.

But this story in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution says some enterprising Atlantans and other people from across the country are discovering the beauty of alternatives, in particular, biodiesel:

Driven to help the environment, or their own pocketbooks, many Atlantans are seeking alternatives to the gasoline habit. The most adventurous, like [East Cobb resident John] Knop, retrofit their diesel engines to run on waste oil from restaurants, picking up free fuel while their friends wait hours in line and pay through the nose…

Most manufacturers will void a vehicle’s warranty if the owner uses vegetable oil as a fuel, despite the fact that in 1893 Rudolf Diesel ran his newly invented engine on peanut oil.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency also frowns on grease-cars. Though the exhaust has a sweet, french-fry smell, it can contain toxic fumes. Waste oil is considered an unregistered fuel, subject to fines, which Calif. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger discovered when he turned his Hummer into a canola cruiser.

These and other concerns prompted former veggie-oil driver Rob Del Bueno to begin brewing his own biodiesel, a product created by using methanol to chemically alter vegetable oil. Del Bueno soon learned that home-brewing fuel also was illegal, for a variety of reasons, and he went through the complex, and expensive, process of going legit.

The article goes on to say that Del Bueno joined the National Biodiesel Board and the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy and had his fuel certified. Now, he sells a quarter million gallons of biodiesel a year with plans to expand into Tennessee and Illinois.