Julia Stephenson: The Green Goddess
I'm just a fuel for love
Monday 06 March 2006
My single girlfriends ask: where are all the decent men? I've found out - they're in Wales, at the Centre for Alternative Technology, learning to make biodiesel. Ladies, abandon London and head west; real men are not extinct, judging by those seduced from their sheds by the thought of making their own fuel from cooking fat.
The centre, an eco-haven in stunning scenery, is entirely powered by wind and sun. It runs fascinating residential courses every weekend. My course was run by two of the UK's experts in biodiesel, John Hallé and Dan Carter, who run a plant in Oxford and deliver their biodiesel locally.
We focused on making it from used cooking oil that can be bought cheaply from restaurants. It is illegal to throw waste cooking oil down the drains, so restaurants usually pay to have it taken away. What could be more convenient than biodiesel companies taking it off their hands for free?
However, making it yourself is not as easy as it sounds. Oil is reacted with alcohol so it is the same consistency as diesel, a procedure that involves a basic level of chemistry and some dangerous chemicals - you have to know what you're doing. But after an afternoon in the workshop, we were undaunted. "If you can plumb in a sink you can easily do this," said one. I'm as likely to figure out how to plumb in a sink as I am fly to the moon, but for Shed Man the process would be fairly straightforward.
A simpler option is to convert your diesel engine to run on pure cooking oil. Conversion kits are made by a German company called Elsbett, and cost about £1,200.
The biodiesel movement took off during the fuel crisis of 2000, when campaigners furtively bought up huge stocks of vegetable oil from Asda in Swansea, at first raising no suspicions. But this entrepreneurial spirit was nipped in the bud when transport officials caught on and dished out heavy fines.
Although biodiesel is taxed less than regular diesel, the Government still needs to offer more incentives. Ultimately, it is best to avoid the need for any fuel by living close to work and shopping locally. Even if you need to drive, buying locally produced biodiesel will cut carbon emissions, slow global warming and reduce reliance on petrochemical resources.
Sadly, the biodiesel at petrol pumps in the future is likely to have been produced in countries such as Brazil by clearing swathes of rain forest to grow oil palm. Fortunately there are a growing number of small British companies, such as Goldenfuels, which make their own biodiesel from waste cooking oil, and which will deliver it to your door. At the same price as regular diesel, what's not to like?
The next biodiesel course is on 9-11 June in Buckinghamshire ( www.lowimpact.org); Centre for Alternative Technology (01654 705 950; www.cat.org.uk); www.vegoilmotoring.com installs Elsbett conversion kits; see also www.goldenfuels.com
Dolphins ‘deliberately get high’ on puffer fish nerve toxins by carefully chewing and passing them around
Feed ducks frozen peas instead of stale bread, charity asks
Gulf Stream is slowing down faster than ever, scientists say
Malawi to burn its £5m ivory stockpile this week - and demonstrate its commitment to wildlife conservation
Snowfalls are now just a thing of the past
- 1 Katie Hopkins attacked me on Twitter — so I reported her to the police for inciting racial hatred
- 2 I might be an MP, but that doesn't stop me fighting sexism with my breasts
- 3 Google April Fools': company unveils backwards search engine and huggable digital assistant
- 4 April Fools' Day 2015: The best hoax news stories from around the internet
- 5 Gamers confess the worst things they've done in The Sims
Ukip supporters are 55 or older, white and socially conservative, finds British Social Attitudes Report
Street preacher quoting from the Bible fined for calling homosexuality an 'abomination'
Katie Hopkins attacked me on Twitter — so I reported her to the police for inciting racial hatred
Woman filmed launching racist tirade against men on the Tube for speaking in 'own lingo'
The West has it totally wrong on Lee Kuan Yew
David Cameron calls Labour 'hopeless, sneering socialists' while announcing 7-day NHS plans
£18000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...
£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Working closely with the market...
£20000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A reputable company, famed for ...
Negotiable: Ashdown Group: The Ashdown Group has been engaged by a highly resp...