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An interview with Seattle biodiesel distributor Dan Freeman

Dan Freeman. As a kid, Dan Freeman experimented with using alcohol to run lawnmowers and minibikes. (Oh, to have been a fly on the wall for that parent-son conversation.) These days, he runs Dr. Dan’s Alternative Fuel Werks, a Seattle-based biodiesel retail and distribution company with customers ranging from school districts to organic farmers to concerned individuals who want to drive greener. Grist recently spoke to the good doctor — who got his nickname years ago from his father, an underemployed Ph.D. at the time — about waste reduction, the power of local energy sources, and why biofuels are like …

Using grease and other goodies, small biodiesel producers are making a big difference

If you live in a city of any size, you’ve likely seen them out there: boxy little ’80s-era foreign cars, bumpers adorned with pro-ecology and anti-war slogans, and references to “grease.” Even the fumes they emit may smell different: literally like French fries, in some cases; like generic used vegetable oil in others. Foh sizzle my fuel-izzle. Photo: iStockphoto Welcome to the small-scale biodiesel movement, a grassroots challenge to Big Oil and Big Ag. While corporate giants create fuel by refining crude oil and fermenting corn, these more modest initiatives focus on a feedstock no one else wants: waste cooking …

Umbra on the promise of ethanol

Dear Umbra, Lately I’ve been struggling with the idea of ethanol as a green fuel. It seems to be getting a lot of attention in the government and media, and it is being touted as the answer to this country’s petroleum woes (see GM’s “Live Green, Go Yellow” campaign). But from what I’ve read, ethanol production has and will likely continue to have a negative energy balance and its carbon dioxide emissions are comparable to gasoline’s. Can ethanol really be the answer to our problems? Ben Van Lear Merritt Island, Fla. Dearest Ben, Probably not. It’s unlikely that an automotive …

Folks, We’re Encountering Some Turbulence

E.U. and U.S. at odds over emissions cap for intercontinental flights In two weeks, E.U. environment commissioner Stavros Dimas will unveil draft rules for capping airline emissions, and we’ll give you one guess who’s blocking the runway. At issue is whether to regulate intercontinental flights that use European airports for takeoff or landing, or to just regulate domestic flights; E.U. states want the broader cap, but the U.S. — fearing increased fares and any chance to look good globally — says non. “We think this will violate trade rules,” said James Connaughton, chair of the White House Council on Environmental …

Kick It into Underdrive

Americans driving less, SUV fervor cooling Who woulda thunk it: For the first time in 25 years, Americans are driving less. A study by Cambridge Energy Research Associates finds that the average American drove 13,657 miles in 2005, down from 13,711 in 2004. So that’s, let’s see … um, carry the one … a whopping 54 miles. We’ll take it! Last year also saw SUVs comprise a smaller chunk of new-vehicle sales; even though gas-guzzlers still account for more than half of such sales, “the passion has cooled,” says the report. Data on the actual gas being guzzled was good …

A Grist special series on biofuels

What is ethanol, and how's it different from biodiesel, and where does fry grease come in? Are there cars that can run on biofuels, and who's making them, and where can they fuel up? Who sells it, who makes money off it, and why's it such a political darl

Top Goes the Diesel

L.A. auto show sees Germans, GM committing to clean-tech cars This week’s Los Angeles Auto Show has set the car world abuzz. General Motors, plagued by its gas-guzzling reputation and notorious electric-car bungle, announced its commitment to creating a rechargeable plug-in hybrid, becoming the first automaker to do so. “The technological hurdles are real, but we believe they are also surmountable,” said CEO Rick Wagoner, bursting with can-do spirit. And German manufacturers Volkswagen and DaimlerChrysler are promoting Bluetec, clean diesel technology that meets even California’s tough air-quality standards. Diesels are 30 percent more fuel-efficient than gasoline engines, and Bluetec addresses …

Activist Sam Pratt, featured in a PBS documentary, answers Grist’s questions

Sam Pratt. What work do you do? I advise citizens’ groups and campaigns on how to win against the odds, and I’m working on a manual of strategy and tactics for underdogs. When neighbors work closely together in a smart and structured way, there is no such thing as a “done deal” — no matter what any politician or developer tells you. From 1999 to 2005, pretty much every waking moment of my life was spent challenging a subsidiary of the largest cement company in the world. St. Lawrence Cement spent $58 million in Hudson, N.Y. — a town of …

A dispatch from an eco-showroom evening full of luxurious goods

Emily Gertz is an environmental journalist based in Brooklyn, N.Y., who has contributed to Grist, Plenty, WorldChanging, and other independent publications, and blogs at OneAtlantic.net. Emily Gertz. Thursday, 16 Nov 2006 New York, N.Y. I want to believe. I want to believe that we can create an ecologically sustainable and socio-economically just future for the billions of biologically distinct individuals who comprise humanity — and other-living-thingity — by going to sleep at night swaddled in soft organic-cotton sheets, waking up in the morning to garb ourselves in chic eco-fashions, and living out our days surrounded by beautiful, nontoxic furniture in …

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