MAX Update No. 8: Fuels Rush In

Reader Contribution by Staff
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We’re almost back where we started. This is the last shot of MAX 2.0 before it goes on the road. This Wednesday, we’re scheduled for show-and-tell at the Department of Motor Vehicles. Then on Friday, of all things, MAX is going to be in an art show (that’s why it looks extra clean right now). We still have to hook up lights and put glass in the windshield frame … and maybe a couple more wheels, but by golly, we’re going to make it.

Once MAX is on the road again (hey Willie, I have an idea for a song for you) we’ll run a tank of diesel through its system (as mentioned in Update No. 7, we have already introduced one variable — we changed the overall gear ratio — and we don’t want to introduce a second one yet) for baseline data. But after that, I’m going to fill ‘er up with biodiesel.

As discussed back in Update No. 2, biofuels aren’t going to make the energy crisis go away. There are technical and social hurdles to overcome before biofuels qualify as an unqualified success, and even if/when the day comes that biofuels come from 100 percent inedible feedstock grown on 100 percent non-arable land, an ethanol guzzler will still be a fuel guzzler, and an efficient biofuels car will do less harm to the world than an inefficient biofuels car. Energy doesn’t come for free.

Anyway, I fell off the biofuels bandwagon because I got sick of TV ads saying you can feel all green and fuzzy by buying twice as big a car as you need, and getting half the mileage that it should, as long as it has “E85” in big letters on the gas cap. I’m also annoyed by the corporate spokesfolks who say biofuels have no influence whatsoever on the price of food. I’ll accept that it’s only a small part of the food equation, but I won’t accept that it’s no part at all, and if biofuels are so great, why don’t their growers run their tractors on it? Lately there’s been a totally over-the-top backlash against biofuels in general, and biodiesel in particular, so I’m going to start frontlashing a bit, in hopes of encouraging development of sustainable, renewable, biofuels.

Here in the Pacific Northwest, the backlash is taking the form of protests, picketing and good old fashioned one-on-one customer harassment, in an effort to close down biodiesel stations. Seriously, there are people treating biodiesel outlets like they’re meth labs, photographing people who buy biodiesel and getting their license numbers. (For more about the situation, see this article from Seattle Weekly.) There’s already the problem that biodiesel is more expensive than petrodiesel, the biodiesel retailers and researchers are having a plenty tough enough time staying in business without big-name greenies trying to scuttle them. The only alternative to biofuels today is petroleum fuel, and hearing these “save the planet” guys with their “just say no to biodiesel” platform is like hearing a Greenpeace member demanding we run our cars on whale oil.

So first chance I get, I’m going to vote with my wallet and buy some biodiesel. Lucky for me that MAX gets great mileage, so I won’t have to vote very often.

Photo by Jack McCornack
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