October 25, 2005 | General


BioCycle October 2005, Vol. 46, No. 10, p. 58
As an example of sustainable technologies needed to shift solutions in a green direction, Veggie Van brings biodiesel to Gulf Coast.

AN ORGANIZATION called Veggie Van is partnering with West Central, an Iowa based biodiesel company, to transport 13,000 gallons of renewable fuel to help victims of Hurricane Katrina along the Gulf Coast. The donated biodiesel – made from nontoxic, biodegradable sources like soybean oil and used restaurant grease – works in any diesel engine and is also powering a former military ship hired to transport food, water and relief supplies.
Founded in 1997 primarily as an educational group by Josh Tickell, who grew up in the New Orleans area, Veggie Van is a nonprofit advocacy organization based in Venice, California. The relief effort – also involving the Naples, Florida City Council – is focusing on smaller coastal towns south of New Orleans that were among the most severely affected by Hurricane Katrina.
Tickell sees this partnership as an example of how more sustainable solutions can be developed for the Gulf Coast region. Other steps include using debris from devastated houses as building materials for new construction, tackling critical issues like eroded wetlands by using recycled organics. “We need to emphasize green technologies and biobased solutions,” stresses Tickell. “Our main challenge is to do this work well and show what a difference can be made by ending ‘unsustainable lifestyle approaches.’ We must not fail to think about our ecology in this huge ecodisaster.”
Dr. Bailus Walker, a vice president of the American Public Health Association, has noted that biodiesel significantly reduces emissions compared to regular diesel, including those that pose a threat to human health: “The health benefits of biodiesel extend beyond keeping hospitals and emergency vehicles running at this critical time.”
“Because biodiesel reduces air toxics, particulate matter, carbon monoxide and other harmful emissions, it can be particularly helpful to people who have pulmonary and cardiovascular diseases as well as contribute to overall better air quality for everyone,” Walker declares.
Former President Bill Clinton has publicly endorsed use of biodiesel in the Hurricane Katrina relief effort as well as in other applications. Speaking at the Clinton Global Initiative, a global conference to develop innovative policies and implement solutions, Clinton thanked Biodiesel America, a nonprofit leading the effort to get biodiesel donations into hurricane stricken areas. He honored one of that group’s leaders, Richard Blackledge, for his work in educating the public about the fuel and for the emergency fuel shipments he has been coordinating with Tickell of Veggie Van.
Announced Clinton: “Biodiesel America is committed to mitigating climate change and increasing America’s energy independence through public school education and restoration of the coastal areas of Louisiana. Your initial investment of $50,000 will lead up to a million dollars in services to assist the immediate recovery of southern Louisiana oil-producing and fishing towns.”
Biodiesel can be made from any fat or vegetable oil. It works in any diesel engine and can be used in its pure form, or blended with diesel at any level. Nationwide, more than 500 major fleets now use biodiesel commercially, and more than 500 retail filling stations also make it available.
“I remember 20 years ago reading scientists’ predictions that global warming would lead to many catastrophes, one of which would be increasingly severe hurricanes,” said actor Woody Harrelson. “I have a lot of admiration for Josh Tickell for doing this.” Tickell has been promoting biodiesel since 1997, when he toured the United States in his biodiesel powered “Veggie Van,” making fuel along the way from the used cooking oil at fast food restaurants.
For continuing information on the relief effort and biodiesel use, visit:

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