Biofuels
Produced by Pat McConahay

 

Steve Bash of Fair Oaks hasn't been to a gas station since 1999 and that's because he had what he described as an "epiphany" at the pump.

What Bash did was radical. He stopped using gasoline altogether. He feeds his automobiles with something called biodiesel. It's a clean-burning, renewable fuel produced from any vegetable oil crop like sunflowers or canola.

Bash learned how to make biodiesel fuel from reading the book, From the Fryer to the Fuel Tank. And now he concocts his own brew in his garage. He collects discarded vegetable oil from fast-food restaurants and thins it with alcohol to power his diesel engine -- and it only works in diesel-powered vehicles. Bash says it costs just 52 cents a gallon, plus some labor.

Biodiesel isn't something just anyone can or should create at home. But the switch from fossil fuels, like gasoline, to a variety of cleaner, renewable energy sources, is gaining momentum in California, thanks in part to the phase out of the toxic MTBE gasoline additive and tighter clean air standards.

Neil Koehler is director of the California Renewable Fuels Partnership, a unique coalition of government, agriculture and environmentalists. Koehler says renewable fuels are key to the health of the growing Central Valley. He points out that we have an economic development problem in the Central Valley of California where farmers are desparate for new economic opportunities. Renewable fuels could be a shot in the arm to the Valley's agricultural industry.

And former Secretary of State Bill Jones, a second-generation Fresno rancher, has risen to the challenge. He bought a bankrupt grain storage facility in Madera and plans to turn it into California's first large-scale ethanol production facility. When it's up and running, the facility will produce a fuel that's 30 cents cheaper per gallon than gasoline and it helps clear the air.

According to one study an ethanol plant will boost the Valley's sagging economy in a number of ways, including:

1. providing jobs

2. increasing corn prices

3. producing a high value feed for the dairy industry.

Ethonal production is one concept where farmers and some environmental groups, like the Planning and Conservation League, actually see eye to eye -- provided several things occur, such as seeing the creation of domestic supply here in California, and knowing that the products used to covert into ethanol are in fact enviromentally sound.

Turning corn into ethanol is one way the agriculture industry is solving environmental problems. Grower John Diener is doing it another way. Like Steve Bash, he's on the biodiesel bandwagon. Diener, makes his own fuel right on his San Joaquin Valley farm. He's producing it from crops he grows, such as sunflowers and canola. It's part of a larger project to improve the environment. Diener came up with a system that manages irrigation water on salt-sensitive, high value crops. He reuses drainage water to irrigate salt-tolerant crops like canola. Diener says innovation on the farm is a must.

And like rancher, Bill Jones, Diener wants to be part of the solution, rather than the problem. As does Steve Bash, the self-described sustainable energy enthusiast. All three are getting the word out that solutions to the Valley's most serious problems are cropping up in unique ways.

INTERVIEWS:

Steve Bash
Biodiesel Enthusiest

Bill Jones
Rancher, Former CA Secretary of State

John Deiner
Farmer

Neil Koehler
Director of CA Renewable Fuel Partnership


TRANSCRIPT:

The complete text of New Valley Episode 203 - The Green Machine...

 

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