Mercedes Station Wagon

Not quite the same car, but you get the idea

The first car I ever drove was a 1982 Mercedes station wagon.  It was a beast: big as a boat and  rumbly with diesel power.  But it was expensive to maintain, and my mom eventually sold it to my godfather, Bill, when I was still pretty young.  And I was amazed to learn that he ran it off leftover restaurant grease.  That’s not diesel…right?

Enter the new world of diesel: biodiesel.  Made out of soybean oil, canola oil, or just leftover cooking grease, biodiesel is a renewable energy source that, like ethanol, can be blended with regular diesel or used on its own.

But biodiesel has some unique properties that are very encouraging for those looking to reduce oil dependence and greenhouse gases (and that’s all of us, right?).

  • Biodiesel can be used in normal diesel engines with little or no modifications to the car itself
  • Biodiesel reduces CO2 emissions by almost 80% from regular diesel emissions
  • Biodiesel can be made at home without lots of fancy equipment or extensive chem knowledge.  Take a hint from godfather Bill!
  • Emissions of just about everything (particulate matter, carbon monoxide, you name it) are reduced when using biodiesel.

So what are the downsides?  First off, diesel has a pretty bad rap (think choking black fumes spewing from an 18-wheeler).  Some people are just scared off by the word diesel, so convincing the public that biodiesel isn’t so bad might be hard.  And while biodiesel is getting cheaper (and has been deemed the most cost-effective diesel alternative), it may still be a little pricier than diesel.  Also, biodiesel can be tricky to find, although it is becoming more widely available.

McDonald's

Finally, something from McD's that is good for you!

Of course, you could always just go to your nearest McDonald’s and bring home some leftover Big Mac grease.

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