Julia Stephenson: The Green Goddess

I'm just a fuel for love

A A A

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

j.stephenson@independent.co.uk

Voices
The Sumatran tiger, endemic to the Indonesian island of Sumatra, is an endangered species
voicesJonathon Porritt: The wild tiger population is thought to have dropped by 97 per cent since 1900
News
These photographs released by the University of Maryland Medical Center show images of full face transplant recipient 37-year-old Richard Lee Norris of Hillsville, Virginia
mediaGQ front page features man who underwent full face transplant
Sport
Lionel Messi looks on at the end of the final
football
News
i100
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
tv
News
Prince Harry is clearing enjoying the Commonwealth Games judging by this photo
people(a real one this time)
News
Gardai wait for the naked man, who had gone for a skinny dip in Belfast Lough
newsTwo skinny dippers threatened with inclusion on sex offenders’ register as naturists criminalised
News
Your picture is everything in the shallow world of online dating
i100
Life and Style
Attractive women on the Internet: not a myth
techOkCupid boasts about Facebook-style experiments on users
Sport
Van Gaal said that his challenge in taking over Bobby Robson's Barcelona team in 1993 has been easier than the task of resurrecting the current United side
football
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Java Developer

£45000 - £60000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: JAVA DEVELO...

HR Business Partner (Maternity Cover 12 Months)

£30000 - £34000 Per Annum 25 days holiday, Private healthcare: Clearwater Peop...

Microsoft Dynamics AX Developer

£475 - £550 per day: Progressive Recruitment: MDAX / Dynamics AX / Microsoft D...

.Net/ C# Developer/ Analyst Programmer - Eciting new Role

£45000 - £50000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: .NET/ C# .Pr...

Day In a Page

The children were playing in the street with toy guns. The air strikes were tragically real

The air strikes were tragically real

The children were playing in the street with toy guns
Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – The British, as others see us

Britain as others see us

Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite
Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them altogether

Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them

Jonathon Porritt sounds the alarm
How did our legends really begin?

How did our legends really begin?

Applying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
Watch out: Lambrusco is back on the menu

Lambrusco is back on the menu

Naff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz
A new Russian revolution: Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc

A new Russian revolution

Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
Eugene de Kock: Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

The debate rages in South Africa over whether Eugene de Kock should ever be released from jail
Standing my ground: If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?

Standing my ground

If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
Commonwealth Games 2014: Dai Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Welsh hurdler was World, European and Commonwealth champion, but then the injuries crept in
Israel-Gaza conflict: Secret report helps Israelis to hide facts

Patrick Cockburn: Secret report helps Israel to hide facts

The slickness of Israel's spokesmen is rooted in directions set down by pollster Frank Luntz
The man who dared to go on holiday

The man who dared to go on holiday

New York's mayor has taken a vacation - in a nation that has still to enforce paid leave, it caused quite a stir, reports Rupert Cornwell
Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
The Guest List 2014: Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks

The Guest List 2014

Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

Jokes on Hollywood

With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on