Making Alcohol Fuel With a Solar Still

Following the lead of a Minnesota farmer, MOTHER EARTH NEWS' researchers built a solar still to try making alcohol fuel of their own.

| March/April 1979

As you know, MOTHER EARTH NEWS promised in Lance Crombie: Spokesperson for the Alcohol-fuel Movement that we would try to get a Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms permit to conduct research with and if possible improve upon the solar still designed by Mr. Crombie.  

Well, the permit came through, just days before our deadline for putting out the issue you're reading now! However, MOTHER EARTH NEWS' researchers were all set, "primed and ready" to run a few trial batches of mash through our own solar still. And as we'd expected, the easy-to-make, inexpensive device does work. The plans that follow will enable other folks to take the first steps toward making alcohol fuel with their own low-cost backyard device. 

In addition to building the solar distillery, we've run a few experiments to determine whether "alky" can, indeed, be substituted for fuel oil in a heating system. The results of our tests—including all the "modifications" necessary to convert an oil heater to alcohol—are presented in the following pages.  

However, although we do want other people to join us in researching the potentials of this renewable energy source, and although we do want folks with a little land to be able to grow fermentable crops and use them to power tractors, heat homes, and so forth, we would also like to ask everyone who has a hankerin' to get into this exciting research to cooperate with us on one IMPORTANT POINT: It seems that—in at least one instance—an experimental distilled spirits plant has been used to produce (and sell!) drinking liquor. The people at ATF (who now seem to be trying to cooperate with alcohol fuel researchers) were upset by this illegal activity. And, as you can imagine, it wouldn't take many instances of "bootlegging" to cause the regulations to get stiffer, perhaps to the point where nobody could legally explore the possibilities offered by ethanol fuel!  

So, if you plan to follow in Mr. Crombie's (and our) footsteps, please, PLEASE, limit your experiments to "legitimate" energy applications. Don't attempt to drink (or sell) the alcohol (which is likely unsafe for consumption anyway), and don't take risks by producing ethanol without a permit.  

If we all go this far in sticking to "the letter of the law," there is every chance that the present government regulations will become less restrictive, and that homemade alcohol will soon become a practical, in-use, fuel resource. 

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