Substitutes for motor oil?

I am about to turn 15 and am going to get my permit soon. I am excited to drive and get my first car, but want to minimize my impact on the environment. I was wondering if there are any substitutes for motor oil that are not petroleum based. I am looking for an oil from a sustainable resource that is relatively cheap.

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lemonie5 years ago
You'll consume far more petroleum-based fuel; you should fix that problem before thinking about lube-oil.

General Eggs (author)  lemonie5 years ago
I HAVE an idea for that, but I still need some form of lubrication and about $6,000
in research money to develop my idea...
What's the fuel idea, and what costs $6000?

General Eggs (author)  lemonie5 years ago
It's not fuel, it involves an air compressor, 2 scuba tanks and a modified piston engine. It costs so much because good 4500 psi air compressors aren't exactly cheap
Compressed air is a poor propellant. Petroleum has much more energy-density at less cost. People use petroleum because there's nothing much better* right now.


*i.e. cheaper.

True, but that's because the filthy-rich corporate oil-drilling companies of the world have haltered massive amounts of research into better, more sustainable, renewable energy sources. For example, regular gasoline can be vaporized and the car could run off the the vapor in order to be between 3 and 8 times more efficient... Of course that hasn't happened yet though... That would mean 3 to 8 times less profit for the gasoline companies.

E_RIC5 years ago
According to my oil vendor, Mobil 1 is made mostly from a renewable resource, animal fats.
lemonie E_RIC5 years ago
bwrussell5 years ago
Valvoline has recently started selling 50% recycled motor oil. This or full synth is probably your best bet. Called NextGen, the recycled oil is cheaper than full synth but more than conventional.

Something else you can do is go longer between oil changes. Most modern cars don't need their oil changed every 3000 miles. Personally I go 5000 on my conventional, '99 honda, and 7500 on my full synth '06 mini. The oil would probably last longer than this but the problem becomes the filter.

@lemonie is right though, a much bigger problem is the use of fuel. Reduce your impact by driving less, carpooling more, driving less aggressively, and don't buy a Prius because the NiMH batteries in those are terrible for the environment.
Motor oil breaks down naturally in the environment remarkably quickly anyway.

DO NOT put any oil in an engine that isn't specifically sold for lubrication - Castrol R is not a multigrade, and it will degrade significantly faster than a modern fully formulated synthetic.

True but it answers his question. I like the smell as well.
It is hard to live a life completely free from sin.   Even when walking, or riding a bicycle to your destination, there is the danger that you might squish some ants along the way.

I think if there is such a thing as a "necessary evil", then motor oil must be certainly be one of these. 

But you have to wonder, "What would life in a world without abundant petroleum be like?"  Would it even be possible to make things like fuel, lubricants, and plastics?

And the answer is "yes".  That world with its "carbohydrate econonomy" (as opposed to our "hydrocarbon economy") gets all its chemical feedstocks  from biomass, and then chemically modifies these feedstocks to sort of twist and tweak those molecules into something  resembling those molecules found in the hydrocarbon economy.

The processes involved are  complicated, described  by jargon like "transesterification", "thermal depolymerization", "Fischer–Tropsch", but inevitably the end product of this arcane chemical engineering, whatever it might be, gets the prefix "bio-" attached to it; e.g biofuels, biopolymers... 

I think the thing you want would be called a "biolubricant"

I'm not even sure where that topic leads.  It's probably not cheap though.

I mean even people that run their diesel cars on straight vegetable oil (SVO) still put motor oil in the crankcase, and replace it every N-thousand miles when it gets dirty. 

Also worth noting is that motor oil does not get consumed at near the same rate as the actual fuel does.  The motor oil can and does get recycled, for the most part.  What I'm saying is that you would have more of an impact (or less of one I guess) if you focused getting the fuel from a renewable source,  rather than the lubricant.

Or there might be some other way to assuage your feelings of Green Guilt, like, I dunno, carpooling maybe?

(Ride with Hitler image taken from the Wikipedia article on "Petroleum")

Final note: To everyone who keeps chiming in to say, "Well there's synthetic motor oil." From what do you think synthetic motor oil is synthesized?  Is it made from pixie dust?  From sunshine?  Or could it be that the feed stocks for synthetic motor oils are also petroleum-based?  Wait... no.  If it were made from petroleum then it would be motor oil, wouldn't it?  Is there a difference between synthesis and refining?  What fraction of the mass of a kilo of synthetic motor oil is obtained from something that was not previously petroleum?
rickharris5 years ago
Castrol R is a natural product made from Castor oil.

Many Synthetic oils are polymers so they are essentially made from oil as a base material. It's just that they have better operating parameters.
canucksgirl5 years ago
Although I applaud your desire to minimize your environmental impact, you must consider the fact that motor oil is designed for a specific purpose. As such, it lubricates mechanical parts and can withstand extreme high and low temperatures. I would NOT advise using anything other than what is recommended for the vehicle you'll be driving to avoid costly repairs. If there was a "sustainable source that was relatively cheap", and better to use than current motor oils, we'd more than likely be using it already. You're only OTHER option is to use a "synthetic" motor oil, but keep in mind, you WILL pay more for it.
Burf5 years ago
I've been using synthetic motor oil in my vehicles for about 10 years now. Its available at almost any place that sells regular motor oil. Its sustainable, but it ain't cheap and that's a fact!