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"...a clean-burning alternative fuel that Willie Nelson is helping to market through a new company called Willie Nelson Biodiesel. What is it? It's essentially vegetable oil, mainly soybean oil, though the used frying oil from Dunkin Donuts or Sid's Greasy Spoon also works...

"...if you take veggie oil and process it slightly to remove the glycerin... you have a ready-to-go fuel for diesel engines. Whether you have a diesel pickup truck or a Mercedes, it'll run on this stripped down veggie oil without requiring any modification to the engine. Just tank up and go!

"Willie has been tanking up his tour buses with it for some time...

"The fule's average price is $1.79 a gallon, and while the major concentration of biodiesel pumps is in the Midwest, Nelson hopes to spread it from sea to shining sea...

"... biodiesel also is much better for the environment, it can be an economic boon for America's family farmers, and your exhaust fumes can smell like donuts!...

"Rep. Dennis Kucinich is preparing legislation to help develop this new biodiesel industry for America" (Jim Hightower. "BioWillie." Progressive Populist, March 15, 2005: 3).


"Imagine a dairy farm of the future that operates on cow poop, saves $6,000 in monthly energy costs and fuels the family car. This is not a science fiction plot, but a reality show for Straus Family Creamery when it created electricity from its new methan digester for the first time last fall...

"The $280,000 digester, nestled in a lagoon, captures naturally occurring gas from manure and converts it into electricity. The process will also get rid of methane and greenhouse gas from the atmosphere and eliminate almost all organic pollutants from the wastewater generated from the family dairy farm. Heat from the generator warms thousands of gallons of water that may be used to clean farm facilities and to heat the manure lagoon. The wastewater left over after the methane is extracted is deodorized and used for fertilizing the fields...

"While Straus is a pioneer in this and other agricultural areas, methan digesters are not a pioneering technology. There are many hundreds in Europe, especially Germany, Denmark and Sweden. There are at least 50 operating in the US, though only a handful in California. A dozen more are underway in the state, thanks to the SB5X program and to the net metering legislation...

"For more information about the technology visit www.valleyairsolutions.com or call 877-430-7600" (Julia Hollister. "Dairy Runs on Cow Poop." Progressive Populist, March 15, 2005: 3).


"Brazil imports 3% of its energy needs. The United States imports more than 40%. About 40% of Brazil's energy is supplied by ethanol. About 3% of the US energy needs are filled by ethanol. It's an interesting juxtaposition. Another interesting fact: No Brazilian soldier has died in Kuwait or Iraq or any other conflict-plagued oil state. Brazil does not suck up to Saudi Arabian royal despots...

"During the oil crisis of the 1970s (which never really ended, obviously) Brazil decided it would not be held hostage to Middle Eastern terrorists and oil cartels. So it decided to wean itself, and has succeeded.

"The Los Angeles Times published a tremendous story on the topic June 15. Almost all the cars in Brazil are flex-fuel; that is, they all can run on 85% ethanol. The result: E85 is sold everywhere. It is sold for about half the price of regular unleaded gasoline.

"Why not the US?...

"Of course, increased ethanol production would be a short-term boon to Iowa, the national leader in ethanol. But corn isn't the only stuff from which ethanol can be made. Brazil uses sugar cane. Technology is emerging in producing energy from cellulose such as corn stover or switchgrass. Ethanol can be made anywhere in the US.

"The critics say that ethanol receives inordinate government subsidy. Harkin points out that the true cost of gasoline, including direct subsidies and the cost of defending the Persian Gulf, is about $7 per gallon...

"Eventually the private sector will embrace renewable fuels if government primes the pump. The LA Times reports about Brazil: "Private investors are channeling billions of dollars into sugar and ethanol production, creating much-needed jobs in the countryside. Environmentalists support the expansion of this clean, renewable fuel that has helped improve air quality in Brazil's cities. Consumers are tickled to have a choice at the filling station."...

"Ethanol is not about helping corn growers or saving the environment. Ethanol is about getting off the oil jones and getting our foreign policy free of Middle East entanglements. So long as we depend on sheiks for the fuel that drives the United States, we will watch soldiers die for the politics of Big Oil" (Art Cullen. "Brazil has it figured out." Progressive Populist, July 15, 2005: 17).


"In 2003 the biologist Jeffrey Dukes calculated that the fossil fuels we burn in one year were... more than 400 times the net primary productivity of the planet's current biota. In plain English, this means that every year we use four centuries' worth of plants and animals.

"The idea that we can simply replace this fossil legacy--and the extraordinary power densities it gives us--with ambient energy is the stuff of science fiction. There is simply no substitute for cutting back. But substitutes are being sought everywhere... and at least one substitute is worse than the fossil-fuel burning it replaces...

"When I wrote about it last year, I thought that the biggest problem caused by biodiesel was that it set up a competition for land use. Arable land that would otherwise have been used to grow food would instead be used to grow fuel. But now I find that something even worse is happening. The biodiesel industry has accidentally invented the world's most carbon-intensive fuel...

"... ninth... new refineries are being built in Peniinsular Malaysia...

"All of them will be making biodiesel from the same source: oil from palm trees...

"Why? Because it is cheaper than biodiesel made from any other crop.

"In September Friends of the Earth published a report about the impact of palm oil production. "Between 1985 and 2000", it found, "the development of oil-palm plantations was responsible for an estimated 87% of deforestation in Malaysia". In Sumatra and Borneo some 4m hectares of forest have been converted to palm farms. Now a further 6m hectares are scheduled for clearance in Malaysia, and 16.5m in Indonesia.

"Almost all of the remaining forest is at risk. Even the famous Tanjung Puting national park in Kalimantan is being ripped apart by oil planters. The orang-utan is likely to become extinct in the wild. Sumatran rhinos, tigers, gibbons, tapirs, proboscis monkeys and thousands of other species could go the same way. Thousands of indigenous people have been evicted from their lands, and some 500 Indonesians have been tortured when they tried to resist. The forest fires, which every so often smother the region in smog, are mostly started by the palm growers. The entire region is being turned into a gigantic vegetable oil field.

"Before oil palms, which are small and scrubby, are planted, vast forest trees, containing a much greater store of carbon, must be felled and burned. Having used up the drier lands, the plantations are moving into the swamp forests, which grow on peat. When they've cut the trees, the planters drain the ground. As the peat dries it oxidises, releasing even more carbon dioxide than the trees. In terms of its impact on both the local and global environments, palm biodiesel is more destructive than crude oil from Nigeria" (George Monbiot. "Bitter harvest of oil palms." Guardian Weekly, Dec. 16, 2005: 6).


Bush's budget cuts have brought much of the nation's renewable energy research to a halt.

"What do you expect from the guy who let oil industry lobbyists write the nation's energy policy in the first place?...

"...Apollo Alliance, a coalition of labor, environmental, business, and community organizations dedicated to energy independence within the next ten years...

"California, for example, passed a law mandating that 20 percent of its electricity must come from renewable sources like wind and solar power by 2017. Other states, from New York to Kansas to North Dakota, are using tax credits to encourage hybrid cars and help farms run on wind and even manure power.

"In a TomPaine.com piece he wrote right before Bush's State of the Union address, Ringo conceded that a "patchwork of state initiatives isn't enough to move our nation to energy independence"...

"As the President continues his ridiculous act, promoting conservation programs even as he cuts their funding, and decrying our addiction to oil while continuing to coddle the oil industry, Apollo's message is more compelling than ever. Citizens can get involved by contacting their local chapters" (Ruth Conniff. "Shooting for the Sun." The Progressive, April 2006: 16-17).


Colby Glass, MLIS