THE ARIZONA REPUBLIC
Michael Flynn and his pals at Common Vision, a California non-profit, don't want to ever visit another gas pump. They collect used vegetable oil from restaurants, mix it with chemicals, pour it into their 1961 Crown school bus, and, presto -- it works. For five months, they've driven around the West Coast in the bus, fueled by biodiesel.
The group will hold a workshop Tuesday in Tempe on how to make biodiesel, a non-toxic, biodegradable fuel that produces less carbon monoxide and particulate matter than petroleum diesel, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. Biodiesel doesn't release sulfur oxides or sulfates, major components of acid rain. And the exhaust smells like french fries.
The downside is that biodiesel-fueled engines have trouble starting in nearly freezing temperatures.
Biodiesel works in any diesel engine, without modification, and can be mixed with petroleum diesel.
To make biodiesel, glycerin must be removed from the oil because it can harm engines.
The National Biodiesel Board, an industry group based in Missouri, doesn't want people to make their own biodiesel because it doesn't meet standards, particularly the no-glycerin standard, said its spokeswoman, Jenna Higgins. Instead, people should go to commercial stations, such as Supreme Oil in Phoenix.
Flynn rejects that option. It's possible to make no-glycerin, or at least very low-glycerin biodiesel, he said. The commercial fuel, at about $2 per gallon, is too expensive and it lessens drivers' self-reliance. "It's important for people to be able to take control of their lives and products," Flynn said.