I almost wanted to join the co-op purely for solidarity — on the breezy cold January day it opened, I managed to get the number of a veggie-oil-friendly mechanic; met the proprietor of a new biodiesel car rental service, BioBeetle.com; and picked up a few free stickers to show the world my Bug doesn’t eat fossil fuels. Lucky for me, though, my homeowners’ insurance company considers a 55-gallon drum equivalent to two gas guzzlers in the garage, and cheerfully signed off on my home-fueling station. I now order my fuel through Joe Gershen, who runs a biodiesel distributor called L.A. Biofuels as well as the nonprofit outreach organization Green Depot. (Gershen is negotiating with the city of Santa Monica to establish a nonprofit “sustainable energy center” with B100, pure veggie fuel, at the pump. “We could have it going by spring,” he says.) Gershen and his friendly sales associate, Spike Lewis, set me up with a 55-gallon barrel, which, on Gershen’s advice, I store in a shed to reduce the wild temperature swings that cause condensation to build up in the barrel. The first day I filled up in the back yard, the man I live with came out to document the rich, viscous amber fluid as it flowed through a clear tube into my tank. “It’s beautiful,” he marveled. “It looks like liquid gold.”
And it smells fabulous. “Wanna smell my exhaust?” I say to friends when I’m showing off my car. You can take that any way you want.
One final disclaimer: Despite the dream I had the other night, in which I uncharacteristically dressed up in fishnets and a black dress to convince some city officials to mandate biodiesel for all trucks at the ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles (“The particulate matter in biodiesel is nontoxic!” I chirped), neither I nor any of the people mentioned in this article believe that biodiesel is pollution free, that snarled traffic should be tolerated or that rainforests in the Amazon should be razed to fuel our cars (we prefer recycled waste oil, or, failing that, canola crops in the Western U.S.), so you can put that anti-biodiesel brochure from Chevron right back in the drawer where you found it, thank you. In fact, says Wildwind, “the motto of the Berkeley Biodiesel Collective is ‘Driving Still Sucks.’?” If biodiesel is sexy, biking is sexier. It’s just that once in a while, you want to wear high heels.