Vegetable Oil Diesel, Wood-Fired Water Heater, and Other Energy News

Buffalo gourd seeds as a source of vegetable oil diesel fuel and a wood-fired water heater from Mexico were among the energy news items covered in this regular feature.
By the MOTHER EARTH NEWS editors
May/June 1981
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Researchers explored the possibility of making vegetable oil diesel from the seeds of buffalo gourds.

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OIL FROM THE SEEDS OF THE BUFFALO GOURD, a high-desert plant that's related to cucumbers and squash, makes a very decent vegetable oil diesel fuel. The vegetable is now being selectively bred to increase its oil content. Usually found in dry, poor soil, the vine will grow as much as a foot a day when watered.

A MEXICAN-MADE, WOOD-FIRED WATER HEATER provides Steve Bell of Anson, Maine (and his family of five) with their monthly hot water by burning waste wood from a local dowel factory. Information on the appliances can be obtained by writing to Aqua Heater.

A MATTER OF TIME: "The home building industry is in the same situation that the American automobile industry was in a couple of years ago: making energy hogs and unable to sell them," says James Barron, program manager of New York's Energy Research and Development Authority. "Home builders are just lucky that Japan doesn't export houses yet." Well, that "luck" may be about to run out. Read on!

FOR THE PRICE OF AN AVERAGE CAR, a Japanese "total solar energy package" will soon be marketed in the U.S. It consists of a Rankine-cycle turbine—powered by a solar collector—that will produce electricity and provide heating and cooling. The basic homeowner's model is expected to sell for about $2,500, plus another $3,000 to $5,000 for solar energy storage capability to provide power on sunless days.

A SHADY OPERATION: Because of the area's intense heat, many people in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia drive when having to cover distances as short as 100 yards. In order to encourage walking, and to achieve the international standard of 12 square yards of greenery (and shade) per individual citizen, the city has built a $4.2 million nursery. It should be capable of producing the two million trees Jeddah plans to plant annually.

NEED A SPEAKER ON SOLAR ENERGY? The Solar Energy Research Institute (SERI) has compiled a roster of 270 lecturers, with expertise in solar and other renewable energy topics, who have volunteered to address organizations. To request profiles of speakers in your area, call the Institute.

"ELEPHANE" OR, MAYBE, "MELEPHANT"? The 600 cubic feet of elephant manure produced each day at the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus is now processed through an anaerobic digester to produce methane gas, which is then used to power generators.

WE PREFER COMPOST: Kerr-McGee Nuclear Corporation is treating 7.2 million gallons of radioactive raffinate—generated annually at its Oklahoma Sequoyah plant—with barium chloride. They're using the treated waste, which has a high nitrogen content, as hay fertilizer. Slaughtered cattle raised on the fodder were recently given "a clean bill of health," and the company eventually wants to sell the product commercially.

ALCOHOL BROWNIES! A group of Montana farm wives have been serving cookies, brownies, spice cakes, and buns at county fairs made from leftover, protein-rich alcohol-fuel mash. "We like to point out," they say, "that gasohol doesn't take food away from the hungry world. 'Alcohol flour,' which has three times the protein of the original grain, can be exported at one-third the cost."

SOLAR SOLDIERS: The largest solar military family housing project (it consists of 132 five-room apartments) has been completed at Fort Stewart, Georgia at a total cost of $36,000 per unit, including site preparation. Another 200 apartments equipped with solar water heaters will be built this year, and sun-heated water is already used at the base's dining facility.

A SOLAR OUTHOUSE that distills waste and doesn't have to be cleaned out has been invented by microbiologist William M. Tipton. Such outhouses will be used in the Rocky Mountain National Park's high country, where human waste was formerly removed (expensively) by helicopter.

WHAT TIMING! We previously told you about a Chicago Amoco outlet with solar-powered pumps. What we didn't know was that on the service station's dedication day, a violent storm swept through town and knocked out conventional power systems, leaving the solar gas station as the only operating business in the vicinity!

A GOLDEN THREAD: 2,500 YEARS OF SOLAR ARCHITECTURE AND TECHNOLOGY by Ken Butti and John Perlin(Cheshire Book/ Van Nostrand Reinhold Co., $.15.95) points out that Socrates, Tiberius, Leonardo da Vinci, and Napoleon III-among others-were solar advocates .... From 1972 to 1977, the number of woodburning stoves in the U.S. increased from 150,000 to 2,000,000, and the renewable fuel now provides Americans with HALF AS MUCH ENERGY AS DOES NUCLEAR POWER .... A new study by two Cornell University scientists concludes that by the mid-1980's, if the petroleum industry continues to increase its search for new oil at the pace it has in recent years, DRILLING WILL CONSUME MORE ENERGY THAN IT UNEARTHS .... Some 20,000 Paris apartments are being HEATED BY GEOTHERMAL HOT WATER, and the number is expected to reach 800,000 by the end of the next decade .... A Department of Energy study reveals that the young solar industry-WITH EXPORTS TOTALING $22.7 MILLION IN 1979-is more active in exporting than is the average U.S. manufacturer.

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