This video is a great story of personal ingenuity to help Katrina victims and create a showcase for building a sustainable community.
Is there an alternative to petroleum? Here's one possibility: Bio-diesel. The raw material - used cooking grease - is currently being wasted.
BioLiberty.Net, a group of Gulf War veterans, is developing a production system that converts grease to a fuel.
One of the uses of the fuel is to help clear the lots of poor, elderly
and handicapped land owners in New Orleans who are unable to clear them
themselves and are having their land seized by the city under the new
"Good Neighbor" Law
Hope you enjoy the inspiration,
JoyAnna, thanks for sharing this! I find I'm often inspired by things that groups of veterans do together. As one of the groups most egregiously betrayed by the government they've served, vets sometimes together to help each other and society in interesting ways.
I've been looking at biodiesel for the last couple years, ever since a buddy of mine up in San Bernardino County converted an old Ford ambulance for about $700. I don't think it is the salvation of the internal-combustion engine, but it could certainly ease the pain of the transition away from it.
Interestingly, Rudolf Diesel originally designed his engine to run on peanut oil. Therefore, no real modification to the engine is necessary to burn vegetable oil. The biggest problem is that most vegetable oils are too viscous to travel efficiently through the fuel lines and the injectors, and so must be thinned. This is done very simply, by warming it.
The simplest way to convert a diesel vehicle is by installing an auxiliary gas tank, with a toggle in the cab that allows either tank to feed the engine. The second tank is small, and contains diesel fuel. The original tank is used for vegetable oil. The car is started on diesel and allowed to warm up. In cool climates, special heaters are supplied for the fuel lines, to warm the fuel. These can be electric, or an extension of the radiator water. Once the vehicle is warmed up, the engine is switched over to vegetable oil, and away you go.
My friend generally can get barrels of used vegetable oil for free. He uses an electric pump to transfer the oil to his own barrels. Then, at home, he uses a hand-cranked pump to transfer the oil once more to clean barrels - this time running it through a 5μ filter. From there, it goes straight into his tank. The ambulance gets slightly better mileage on veggie than on diesel, and better acceleration on hills.
The danger of biodiesel is that it's a new bandwagon for industry. Millions of acres have already been dedicated to crops for biodiesel research. These are mostly GM crops, and this land is no longer being used for food production. As a fuel for the future, biodiesel's usefulness is pretty limited.
What these vets are doing down in Louisiana is a perfect application of this technology. Those people desperately need home-grown solutions, as the government has continually failed them. Every time something low-tech and useful is adopted, there's a small human victory over darkness.