Tale of ’93 Bronco Shows How to Go Biodiesel

John Davis

ezradyer1Most of the time, we talk about the big stories of biodiesel: government policies toward the green fuel, infrastructure improvements, a plant opening. But this piece from Car and Driver points out how important some of the little stories of biodiesel also are. Ezra Dyer recalls his quest to convert his 1993 Ford Bronco to run on biodiesel.

Perhaps sustainability and emissions weren’t my priorities at the outset, but running a 7.3 in an open-top vehicle makes you intimately familiar with that engine’s major shortcoming: It’s a foul thing, a 444-cubic-inch industrial zone. One day, sitting at red light in a Mazda, my three-year-old in the back seat declares, “I smell a Bronco!” Sure enough, there’s a ’90s Power Stroke pickup on the opposite side of the intersection. Time to find some carbon-cutting, sweet-smelling biodiesel.

I go to the Department of ­Energy’s alternative-fuel website and discover an outfit called Piedmont Biofuels, a North Carolina biodiesel co-op with seven pumps around the Raleigh area. I send an email to Piedmont’s president, Lyle Estill, and a few days later I’m on the scene, Eddie Bauer ready for biopower.

The co-op’s members are a motley crowd, politically heterogeneous. As Estill writes in his book Backyard Biodiesel, “Some of Piedmont’s members are far-right-winged survivalist nuts who want to pay for their fuel in constitution silver,” while others are “hippie chicks who want to trade fuel for massages.” That’s such a weirdly specific example that I wonder if someone named Moonshadow actually rolled up to a pump and asked to get the rate in gallons per shiatsu.

I guess I’m somewhere in the middle, just a guy with a Bronco trying to save the world. Trouble is, there aren’t enough fryolators on earth to satisfy our collective demand for transportation fuel. That’s okay. Even so, once I’m fueled up on biodiesel, I plan to get real judgy. Oh, you’re going to the gas station? Why not just strangle a pelican with one hand and an Angolan peasant with the other, you monster?

Dyer goes on to tell how, with the first tank of biodiesel, his Bronco went from smelling like an industrial zone to more like a “grease fire at Arby’s,” a big improvement in his eyes. He also believes the Bronco runs quieter and makes more power running on the green fuel. A small story, perhaps, but its big success is being repeated around the country.