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Biodiesel at Dancing Rabbit

Since transportation uses a large portion of the energy in the US it is high on the list of things we want to address at DR in our attempts to become sustainable. Primarily we hope to minimize our need for motorized transport by creating an integrated settlement where people can meet their economic and social needs without having to drive around all the time. For short trips, human and animal powered transport can meet most of our needs, but for longer trips or when carrying large loads motorized transport will still be needed.

Thus alternative fuels are essential in DR's quest to end our use of petroleum. We have agreed that no vehicles at DR can use petroleum based fuels or use electricity that isn't produced sustainably. So while we might have a few small solar electric cars, biofuels will be the key to DR's automotive infrastructure.

Currently our vehicle co-op has chosen to focus on biodiesel and vegetable oil and thus owns only diesel vehicles. We hope to eventually look into methanol, ethanol, and biogas soon. With help from the Veggie Van on their cross country tour in 1997, we learned to make our own biodiesel from waste oil from fast food restaurants and we are building our own little biodiesel factory. Currently we purchase most of our biodiesel from various distributers as we have yet to make enough fuel. In the future we hope to set up a local production system using waste oil or possibly locally grown feedstocks (ie soybeans).

So while biodiesel costs more than petroleum fuel in either time or money we at DR are committed to putting our money (and our time) where our mouths are and taking the plunge for sustainability. Through biodiesel we can start realizing some of the true costs of automotive use and can create a culture where there are economic and social disincentives to driving and an alternative infrastructure set up so people can live and be happy without having to drive.

In the energy section of our site is more info on biodiesel as well as the details of our vehicle conversion for using biodiesel in the winter and straight vegetable oil in the summer.

Here's some great photos from our biodiesel making adventure with the Veggie Van folks years ago. (Click on the thumbnail for the full size image).

The waste vegetable oil sludge, heated and mixing with a portable motor
Fearless Josh and Kaia measuring out the correct amount of methanol, in proper protective gear
The finished biodiesel (!) looking very clear and clean
Check out the difference between the original waste oil and biodiesel
Filling our first container of DR biodiesel (otherwise known as methyl esters)
Aaron and Halle giving the infamous DR van its first taste of biodiesel, its new diet!
The tired crew in front of the inspirational Veggie Van