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October 2002

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Food for the Road

Fill ’er up with rotten vegetables: A prototype for a Swiss sports car called the Rinspeed R One gets its power from a biogas made of methane fermented from kitchen and garden waste. It can run for about 60 miles (100 kilometers) on 220 pounds (100 kilograms) of waste while producing less carbon dioxide than gasoline.

These biogas cars aren’t on the road yet, but thousands of other food-recycling vehicles are. In the U.S. more than 200 fleets of vehicles are running on biodiesel made from vegetable oil. Any diesel engine can burn it with less soot than regular diesel. Twenty million gallons (76 million liters) of biodiesel fuel are sold annually in the U.S. Nearly 10 percent is made from recycled restaurant grease. “The number of restaurants has grown so much,” says K. Shaine Tyson of the National Renewable Energy Lab, “there’s excess cooking oil available to make more than 400 million gallons (two billion liters) of biodiesel.” An added attraction (or not): Biodiesel-burning cars can smell a bit like french fries.

— John L. Eliot

Web Links

The National Biodiesel Board
Read more about this alternative fuel and its uses from an organization that collects statistics from government agencies and private companies.

The Alternative Fuels Data Center: Biodiesel
Learn all you need to know about biodiesel and get online periodicals free of charge at on this comprehensive site from the Department of Energy.

Rinspeed Concept Cars
Get more details on Rinspeed’s Advantige R One, “the first sports car in the world that runs on biofuel made from kitchen and garden waste.”

Free World Map

Baard, Erik. “Biodiesel: A Fuel That Starts Low on the Food Chain,” New York Times, May 12, 2002.

Chawkins, Steve. “Officials Pumped Up Over Sweet-Smelling Boat Fuel,” Los Angeles Times, May 3, 2002.

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