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PLANES, TRAINS & AUTOMOBILES

My biodiesel Bug

Some bumps in the road to saving the planet.

August 15, 2008|Judith Lewis | Judith Lewis is a freelance writer specializing in energy and the environment.

There was a time when algae proponents like Edwards were considered a little crazy. Even though "algae needs no fresh water, doesn't displace any cropland and eats nitrogen and carbon dioxide," Edwards told me, industry gave it no respect as a fuel source. Now that we're hurtling toward a food-and-fuel catastrophe, however, pond scum is looking pretty good. Chevron has teamed up with a San Francisco-based company, Solazyme, to research algae-based biodiesel; Royal Dutch Shell is hard at work on an algae test facility in Hawaii.

And I helped get us here. As a conscientious car owner in search of better fuel, I helped "people understand the value proposition for renewable transportation fuel," Edwards said. "You're educating a whole wave of consumers. Once algae becomes available, they'll be eager to use it, because they'll understand that it's possible to fuel their cars with something other than petroleum."

I'll look forward to the day when Moller can sell me fuel from green slime grown in his backyard brine pond. In the meantime, I'll drive my soy-powered Bug a little less smugly, knowing that another cure for our ills is simply to spend less time behind the wheel. No fuel in the world can break the monotonous isolation of the sedan-encased commuter. As the collective owners of the BioFuel Oasis in Berkeley like to say: "Driving still sucks."

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