I’m a Biodiesel newbie, and I have to say that so far my favorite thing is the smell. I love being stopped at a light at having the scent of french fries waft through the air. Maybe it’s cause I don’t eat at fast-food restaurants anymore that the smell is so appealing–or maybe it just reminds me of the happy days of my youth when I could put away a Super Size fries in no time.
You’d probably guess that saving the environment and reducing greenhouse gases is also high on my list of newfound satisfactions, but honestly that stuff is further down the list. What appeals to me more, actually, is being able to fill up my car and not give any money to the big corporate petroleum giants. When I pull into Biofuels Oasis in Berkeley, I come face to face with the people whom I’m supporting–a group on down-home women who cooperatively own the place. And the money doesn’t stop there; it goes down to southern CA to the place where the fuel is made. And I suppose a bit of it goes to the potato chip factory where the oil comes from. As far as sustainability, buying local is one of the biggest things we can to to empower ourselves and our path toward economic independence. I’m happy to pay more to support my community and keep money out of the hands of some Chevron executive.
Speaking of community, one of the other benefits of going Bio is the amazing community that I immediately became a part of. It’s like I’m instantly a part of the cool guy club, and whenever I see another biodiesel driving around we can exchange that knowing look. Also, driving around an old Mercedes gets me status points all over the place. My ride is already pimp! The ladies are all over me!
OK, OK, the environment: Yes, my car is carbon neutral*. Yes, my car spits out less pollution than most. Yes, I’m doing my part to help the environment. But honestly, I’m not sure that Biodiesel is the earth-savior that we want it to be. If we keep it local and use only recycled veggie oil, than I’m a wholehearted supporter. But, as with most things in this world, when there’s money to be made, bigger business creeps in. I’m afraid of the day when the Shell station starts selling Bio. It may be a step in the right direction, but I don’t trust the big corporations to honestly put the helping the environment on their list of company objectives. It’s kind of like going to Safeway and seeing their “O-Organics” line of products–something just doesn’t quite feel right about it.
Furthermore, there’s a kind of laziness or self-satisfaction that can come with running biodiesel (or a hybrid). I think we need to be careful of the “Well, I’m doing MY part” attitude. I would imagine that the environmental benefits of biofuels or hybrids are minute compared to what could happen if we all took a look at our lives as a whole–our homes, water consumption, waste, plastic bottles, etc. I mean, what about all those rich-folks in the hills pulling their hybrids out of the garage of their 4,000 square foot house?
My point is this: I’m not gonna stop the push for environmental justice and clean energy just because I drive a biodiesel. Yes, it helps, but it’s not the solution.
Until then, I’m happy driving a french-fry perfumerie!
*–actually, biodiesel isn’t carbon neutral when all of the processing and delivery is taken into account.