Biodiesel BINGO: Destination Maine

On an early November morning, a dense fog covers the scenic drive over the Berkshires, crossing from New York State to Massachusetts. The brae bio-bus dutifully pulls the Subaru on its car transport up steep hills and around hair-pin turns. I am no singer but belt out show tunes that chronicle each sight and sound, each gurgle from the engine, an effort to assure the cocker spaniel all is well – but mostly to quell my jitters and ease the grip on the big bus wheel. Soon the land and I calm down. Familiar road signs lead me through old stomping grounds and on to Maine where I will be managing a home performance project created by the Maine Office of Energy Independence and Security.

Before the trek, a call to the Ithaca biodiesel folks confirms that there is no biodiesel for the biobus’s drive to Maine. She’s running on petrol. The friendly gas station attendant at Huhtala Oil Company in Templeton, Massachusetts tells me, ‘you won’t find clean fuel in New England. Diesel will be cheapah in Maine, because your near a pawt. We have our own trucking fleet and get diesel off the rack. We price based on the competition.” (02 diesel: $2.579) I fill up and forgo adding the 5 gallons of on-board waste veggie-oil-based biodiesel that came from Denver, unwilling to part with the last of my stash.

This is a mistake. In Maine for less than a week, the stash is gelling in the cold. Fred Horch of F.W. Horch Sustainable Goods & Supplies on Maine Street in downtown Brunswick, Maine tells me there is biodiesel to be had in Maine. I look forward to exploring the biodiesel world in New England and learning how to overcome winter coagulation.

Other goings on this week:

“Mr. Enormous SUV Guy” My taste in beer veers toward Belgium lambics, but when it comes to advertising beer, Anheuser-Busch brews a stellar product. Keep an ear out for “Mr. Enormous SUV Guy.” It’s a hoot and a half.

The November 2006 Harper’s story, “Barack Obama, Inc.” has something to say about ethanol. “Although the senator did not elaborate, E85 is so called because it is 85 percent ethanol, a product whose profits accrue to a small group of corporate corn growers led by Illinois-headquartered Archer Daniels Midland. Not surprisingly, agribusiness is a primary advocate of E85, as are such automobile manufacturers as Ford…The automakers love E85 because it allows them to look environmentally correct (“Live Green, Go Yellow,” goes GM’s advertising pitch for the fuel) while producing vehicles, mostly highly profitable and fuel-guzzling SUV and pickup models, that can run on regular gasoline as well as on E85.(1) Obama had essentially marshaled his twenty minutes of undeniably moving oratory to plump for the classic pork-barrel cause of every Midwestern politicians.
(1) Since producing most domestic ethanol requires large amounts of fossil fuel, and regular gasoline provides about 30 percent more mileage per gallon than E85, it’s arguably preferable from a conservation standpoint to drive a standard gasoline car rather than a flex-fuel vehicle.

Sunday papers (The New York Times in its travel section on skiing and the Maine Sunday Telegram) ran stories about wind power purchases by ski companies. I was interviewed by the Colorado Springs Gazette about screenings of An Inconvenient Truth by Interfaith Power & Light, and was asked if climate change were only a concern to the poor in low-lying coastal areas. I blurted, “no, it will also concern people who like to ski.” Articles like these in the Sunday papers will help to raise awareness that climate change is not about “them” but about us, too, what we love and what we value.

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