Run your car on coffee

Coffee beans have a high (11-20%) oil content, which can be extracted from the coffee grounds to create biodiesel. Global java production is nowhere near high enough to power everyone, but it could create up to 340 million gallons a year, according to a study- from stuff that has previously been considered waste or compost. People are going to carry on finding clever ways to use stuff rather than sending it to the dump, and that can only be a good thing.

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Another step toward algae diesel

An American company called Solazyme has announced that its algae derived biodiesel has passed US standards testing and is compatible with unmodified diesel engines. The process can use waste materials and has a big advantage over farmed biodiesel in that it doesn’t take capacity away from food production.

via Jalopnik

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Algae powered adventures in Chicago

In a piece of brilliant education a Chicago science teacher ran a project with his students to see if they could create enough biodiesel from algae to run a VW camper on a 20 mile round trip from their school to the Sears tower and back again. The algae “farm” was set up in a corner of the classroom, using fluorescent lamps to double for sunlight, and the resulting liquid separated in a centrifuge at a proper lab. A writer for Jalopnik was along for the ride as the battered old vehicle puttered its way through the windy city’s heavy Friday traffic.

Obviously the small scale set up the students used was probably carbon negative overal, with its reliance on pumps and artificial light, but large scale algae farms could benefit from natural light and wind or solar PV to power any motors.

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Branson's biofuelled jumbo

A Virgin 747 has flown from Heathrow to Schiphol with one of its fuel tanks filled with 20% biofuel. Richard Branson says that commercial flights will be powered by algal biofuel and is investing in alternative fuel development. However, there are questions about the effectiveness of teh systems Virgin will be using, the biggest of which is why aren’t they working to cut flights?

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Branson’s biofuelled jumbo

A Virgin 747 has flown from Heathrow to Schiphol with one of its fuel tanks filled with 20% biofuel. Richard Branson says that commercial flights will be powered by algal biofuel and is investing in alternative fuel development. However, there are questions about the effectiveness of teh systems Virgin will be using, the biggest of which is why aren’t they working to cut flights?

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A plug in biodiesel system

Or, as the people at Toolmonger call it “Biodiesel for dummies”. The BioPro 190 from AGR Energy can produce 50 gallons of biodiesel every two days, runs off a domestic power supply and has a small footprint so it could sit unobtrusively in the corner of a garage. You still need to handle chemicals- methanol, lye and sulphuric acid- but they have tried to cut this to a minimum, claiming that one batch requires just half an hour of priming.

You could build your own biodiesel reactor for less, but I imagine a creative fast food outlet that incorporated one of these to fuel its fleet would have less trouble with health and safety than if they set up a bodge with oil drums in the back yard.

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BioDepot – franchising biodiesel

I doubt it’s the first eco franchise to come along, but it’s the first I’ve seen. For a minimum investment of £35,000 franchisees can start producing fuel compliant with EN 14214 and ASTM standards (more on biodiesel standards).

Included in the franchise package are:

* A complete production plant (Bio Micro Brewery)
* Collection facilities for base material (UVO & Crush)
* End user sales systems (Public & Commercial)
* A production by-product disposal system
* Quality fresh vegetable oil delivery
* Full Training: (operational Bio Diesel production, technical, business/finance, sales & marketing.)
* Full launch programme
* Ongoing mentoring and quality assurance support
* National branded identity
* Significant personal income potential (In excess of £100,000)

I’d like to see biodiesel pumps springing up everywhere, so long as the primary source of raw material is locally sourced waste cooking oil. More power to them.

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Hot Rodding for the Environment

If you must use a car, then you should at least try to use it as efficiently as possible. Jalopnik has some simple suggestions for improving mileage. Obviously, I would have put “Don’t use your car when you don’t have to” at the top of the list, but I don’t have a car, so it’s my only option.

Should I ever need to get a car I’ll be looking for something I can run on biodiesel, or possibly a biodiesel/ petroleum diesel mix because you can’t always get to a green fuel pump. I hanker for a Volvo estate or small van to cart my bikes around in. Efficiency isn’t such a concern with a closed circuit fuel supply like biodiesel, but, allows you to search for your next ride by this and other criteria. If I could forgo the space considerations then the Citroen C1 would be worth considering, the most efficient of the cars currently listed on there.

Of course, another option is to do something as inventive as this Russian driver, who replaced his Opel’s engine with a 50kw motor and filled all the spare space with batteries.

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MPs' green press releases

Government could drive biodiesel off the road – Williams

Welsh Liberal Democrat spokesperson for Food and Rural Affairs, Roger Williams, Welsh Liberal Democrat MP for Brecon and Radnorshire today criticized Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs for their review on biodiesel – due to end tomorrow.

A point in the terms of reference of the Review implies that the Government is planning to increase the duty on vegetable oils and biodiesels as fuels. This could see the duty on these fuels more than double from 21.1pence/litre to a whopping 47.1pence/litre.

Commenting on this news, Roger Williams said: “With this government making such a big song and dance about green energy, it is shocking that they are considering lumbering those who want to make a difference to their ecological footprint with such a hefty price rise.

“The biodiesel and vegetable oil industries are young, so such a huge hike in the levels of duty runs the risk of stopping these industries in their tracks.

“Such actions undermine investor confidence in the industry and in consumers who may choose not to convert their vehicles to use the more environmentally sound varieties.

“It’s ludicrous that while we pay just 9p/litre of duty on most normal fuels, environmentally friendly biodiesel and vegetable oil fuels carry twice as much tax.

“Many farmers in Wales have been encouraged to diversify their activities and invest in biodiesels and vegetable oils. An increase on the duty paid on their products is a betrayal to them and to everyone who is deeply concerned about the threat of climate change.

“I have written to the HMRC to express my concern and ask them for their reasoning behind such proposals.”


With attention focused on airplanes and transport infrastructure as the main means of launching a terrorist attack on the UK, a threat to Britain’s food supply has been relatively overlooked. Agroterrorism could impact the UK’s economy, as well as food supply.

Speaking on the possibility of an agroterrorist attack on the UK, Roger Williams MP, Liberal Democrat Spokesperson for Food and Rural Affairs said:

“Contamination of a nation’s food supply could be a very easy task for terrorists to achieve, with chemical agents easy to conceal and distribute. Agro-terrorism is furthermore a very cost-effective form of causing major disruption, with a small amount of a high risk chemical potentially producing an epidemic of nationwide proportions.”

“There is also the risk of an agroterrorist attack elsewhere in the world which could lead to a halt in imports and increased British agricultural self-sufficiency. DEFRA has quoted that we have between 15 and 25 days’ supply of wheat for milling, but I will be writing to Ben Bradshaw to find out how many days’ supply we have of other important foodstuffs.”

“This is not an issue for public panic, but one that DEFRA and the farming community should be looking into, formulating precautionary actions to be taken in the event of such an attack. We must also look again at what agriculture can do to reduce the better known threat of terrorist bombs containing fertilisers. I believe we need to review the security of fertiliser stores as up to 66% of farmers do not consider it at all.”

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Biodiesel from Algae

Biodiesel and ethanol could be vital parts of the switch from oil dependency, but some of the current means of producing them are too energy intensive and damaging in their own right. PetroSun Drilling Inc. has created a subsidiary- Algae BioFuels Inc.- to research and develop algae cultivation as an energy source in the production of biodiesel. Studies have demonstrated that algae is capable of producing 30 times more oil per acre than the crops currently grown for biofuel production and the resulting fuel is low sulphur, non-toxic and biodegradable.

If they can find a way to break down waste products to provide nutrients, that would be even better.

via Treehugger

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Big bucks for high mileage

After paying out $10million for the first non-government space flight, the X Prize Foundation is coming back down to Earth. It has announced a prize of $25million for the company that produces the first commercially succesful car with a fuel consumption over 250 miles per gallon. The money goes to the first company to sell 10,000 of such a super efficient vehicle, though the exact rules and requirements are still being worked on.

via Jalopnik, where they have the following take on the McDonalds franchisee who runs his car on the waste oil from his burger bars

Man, here’s a dichotomy. A Mississippi man who owns four McDonald’s franchises has converted his Ford pickup and his VW Beetle to run on excess grease from his stores; the four locations dispose of 10,000 gallons a year, giving him basically unlimited supply of food. According to him, it’s about environmental sustainability and independence from foreign oil, yet ironically, dude owns four McDonald’s franchises; rainforests are being clearcut for land to raise cattle to satiate the world’s appetite for meat, and all those cows release volatile organic compounds out their bums, which leads to air-quality problems like we see in the Southern San Joaquin Valley. That said, we’re a vegetarian and our car has a V-8. We’ll shut up now., for all your fast food fuel supplies.

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On your (biodiesel) bike

Jalopnik points to an auction on EBay of a biodiesel powered motorbike. The Royal Enfield 350cc diesel motorcycle was imported to the US from India and then converted to run on biodiesel before seeing duty as a demo bike for the concept. It gets around 200 miles to the gallon, though it’s more of an around town potterer than a grand touring or racing bike.

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Police Horse Power

Manchester’s Police horses are to contribute to cutting the costs of their upkeep. Dung from the equine coppers is to be compressed into bricks that can then be burnt to provide heating and hot water for the stables, helping reduce its £1.5m annual energy bill.

Shauna Carberry said: “This idea really stood out and as soon as we can find the money we are definitely going to put it into practice. The horse manure will provide heating and hot water for the stable block and it is likely to provide more energy on top of that.

“We’re not sure yet exactly how much money will be saved, but it’s likely to be a lot once the furnace costs are out of the way.”

There are other initiatives as well- all the force’s 1,275 diesel vehicles were converted to using biodiesel this week.

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