The sleeper renewable may turn out to bebiodiesel.
The amount of biodiesel used by diesel trucks and cars in the United States has grown 60-fold in the past five years, to 30 million gallons last year, said Amber Pearson, a spokeswoman for the National Biodiesel Board, which is run by soy farmers.
It's not just tree-huggers trying it. The U.S. Navy, Park Service, Department of Agriculture, Postal Service and the Chesapeake Bay Foundation are among 500 agencies, organizations and companies using varying amounts of the fuel, including 100 schools and 30 colleges.
The Navy buys biodiesel to run its trucks, cars and ground equipment at bases in the Northwest, said Lt. Tommy Crosby, Navy public affairs officer: "We are becoming more environmentally friendly and less dependent on oil, using what mother nature gave us."
The number of people switching to biodiesel nationally could rise even higher starting this month because its price is expected to fall. A recently approved federal tax credit for distributors should reduce the cost of the fuel to close to that of regular diesel fuel. ...
Swapping tips in Internet chat rooms and during informal garage teach-ins, the biodiesel underground has learned what not many average drivers know: vegetable oil (even recycled restaurant grease) mixed with alcohol and lye can run any vehicle with a conventional diesel engine. Most diesel engines can also run on straight vegetable oil, but this gunks up the works in cool weather.
In some ways, biodiesel is like many other alternative fuels that have been tried across the country - hydrogen cells or electric batteries to power cars; corn cob combustion or solar panels to heat homes; windmills to generate electricity; and ethanol distilled from corn or sugar cane to extend gasoline.
But Walter J. Weber, a professor of chemical and environmental engineering at the University of Michigan, said biodiesel has advantages over other alternatives because it's easy to produce. It employs commonly used farm products and runs engines available on the market today without any modifications.
"It would be feasible to operate all of the diesel engines in the U.S. today on at least partial biodiesel," said Weber. "This would bring reduced air pollution. And the beauty of biodiesel is that it's a renewable resource, unlike fossil fuels."
This sort of grass roots revolution is about our only hope as Congress (with few exceptions) has its head buried in the sand (or other, more colorful, places.)