Make Your Own Fuel from Wine
If you don't like the vehicle or the fuel it drinks, make some of your own
It's on every billboard, bumpersticker and street placard: Let's Green This City! Urban Streets Greening Project! Each election ushers in new green initiatives, task forces, and elementary school awareness fairs. Another press conference, another earthy guy in an organic-cotton denim shirt and red Crocs stands in front of City Hall pointing an accusatory finger at the uninspired plebes who won't join us, who won't dare follow San Francisco on the righteous path toward a greener tomorrow.
Meanwhile, eco-conscious drivers can't get a drop of biodiesel in city limits, while Berkeley, Santa Cruz, Santa Rosa and other surrounding cities offer it at public pumps. (In June 2007, city authorities closed the San Francisco Biodiesel Co-op, for - get this - having too many members.) Not one public pump in San Francisco sells ethanol. The few electric car-charging stations that remain are defunct, rundown or hidden in corners of musty garages, forgotten relics of a well-intentioned but poorly executed past. Our performance so far in fostering alternative fuels - the keystone of the green movement - is not just ironic; it's shameful.
"You know the easiest job in the world is to be a cynic," says Mark Armstrong, lifting his head from the hood of an electric-powered 1980 Plymouth Horizon. "In order to be successful you have to do absolutely nothing." Armstrong brushes his oily hands against his oily jeans and walks to the back of a cavernous concrete-floored warehouse, through a maze of Frankensteinian inventions: an electrolyzer that splits hydrogen and oxygen fuel, junky gas cars that run on golf-cart batteries, gutted petrol engines that gulp alcohol and a Mercedes motor that bakes bread and spits out edible olive oil.
"What I'm trying to do here is teach people to quit complaining about what they can't get," he adds, pushing his 6-foot-2-inch frame beneath a gutted 1976 Porsche 914 that he and his students are converting to a hydrolic hybrid. "I say if we really want alternative fuel vehicles, let's get off the couch and start making them."
Step 1: Build a Car