Careers and Ed: Bio the people, fuel the people - Page 3

Tank yourself: Local biodiesel advocates guide newbies through the brewing process

Registration and information for any of these classes can be found on the following Web sites:,, and (for classes connected with the Solar Living Institute)


Of course, even the acknowledged masters of their craft were once beginners too. For Jennifer Radtke and dozens of other home brew aficionados in the Bay Area and around the country, the force behind their fascination is one Maria "girl Mark" Alovert. With a background in grassroots activism, girl Mark is one of the nation's most vocal proponents of home-brewed biofuels and the inventor of the ubiquitous appleseed processor, which can be made cheaply from an old hot-water heater and a handful of hardware store components. Her self-published Biodiesel Homebrew Guide is considered the definitive guide to home brewing, and her two- to four-day seminars for beginners and advanced students alike fill up months in advance. In addition to teaching and touring, girl Mark is a member and sometime moderator of several biodiesel forums and the instigator of a peer-reviewed home-brewing and equipment-building Web site known as the Collaborative Biodiesel Tutorial ( A schedule of her classes and tour dates can be found online at and

For San Franciscans who'd like their introduction to biofuel to be a little closer to home, the San Francisco Biofuels Cooperative ( offers once-a-month orientation meetings where interested parties can get practical advice on everything from where to buy a diesel car to how to advance the biofuel community's agenda. More than 200 members strong, the co-op's pumping station shares a location with Incredible Adventures (, a local adventure tour company that runs its biofueled fleet all the way to Baja. Co-op members can pay the premium price for biodiesel at the pump (currently $3.65 per gallon) or volunteer a couple hours per month to purchase their biofuel for less. Hailing from the old People's Food System, former Rainbow Grocery cofounder and SF Biofuels Cooperative Board of Directors member Bill Crolius is also a driving force (with Ben Jordan and Trevitt Schultz) behind the People's Fuel Cooperative (, a biodiesel delivery operation. Taking the long view on energy sustainability, Crolius envisions a future in which even biodiesel will be obsolete, but for the interim, he and his co-op compatriots believe it serves an essential role in weaning people off fossil fuels.

David Dias, advanced transportation and technology project coordinator at City College, organizes workshops on a variety of alternative fueling technologies, including biodiesel, natural gas, and SVO. He also heads the Biodiesel Conversion Club, an extracurricular group dedicated to converting muscle cars such as El Caminos into biodiesel road warriors. Most of the workshops cost money but are open to the general public. Contact Dias for details at (415) 550-4455 or

For nondrivers this is something of a nonissue, but for people who aren't quite ready to give up the family car or rely on their vehicle the way contractors do, the siren song of home brewing is a seductive one. It doesn't take much space either: a corner of your garage or the back of a toolshed will do. In light of our national crude addiction and the wars being waged on its behalf, biodiesel is a compelling product; and while there is a San Francisco–based large-scale biodiesel production company in the works (, the reality is that low-cost biodiesel on demand is still a few years away — a reality that makes home brewing an attractive solution and, in time, perhaps even the ultimate answer. *

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