Saturday, March 07, 2009

Reading List: "Greasy Rider: Two dudes, one fry-oil-powered car, and a cross country search for a greener future." (Greg Melville, 2008)

When Greg Melville needed a new car, he and his wife decided to try a greener route: why not buy an old diesel powered automobile and convert it to use 100% vegetable oil as fuel. Once they secured a 1985 Mercedes wagon and retrofitted it with a Grease Car system, Greg grabbed a friend (Iggy) and set out on a cross country road trip (Vermont to California with a few detours) to be (what he thinks) the first person ever to cross the nation in a vehicle solely powered by used vegetable oil. (Seems weird that it’s taken someone this long to come up with this challenge, and even the author prefaces every mention of it with “we think”). Converted Grease Cars are an intriguing idea, as they do keep (usually) older vehicles out of the waste stream and prevent a least one new car from being purchased. But more important is to realize is that they use 100% used cooking oil, (a waste product that most fast food restaurants actually pay to have taken away) to power a car and that is pretty darn cool.
The whole book feels a little thin—it feels that he had to fill it up with a lot of side trips that had nothing to do with the challenge (who cares if a college friend they visit turns out to be gay?) The “errands” that Iggy challenges Greg with are interesting enough (a trip to Google headquarters would make any eco-nerd salivate) but we’re still left wondering what happened to the bio-wagon after the cross country trip. It’s a nice story that does prove it can be done, you just have to WANT to do it; to quote Iggy “…if two goobers like us can actually get in a car and drive across the country without fossil fuels or putting a lot of carbon into the air, the answers for sustainability are easier than people think.”

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