Friday, January 11, 2008

So much for the homebrew

A month ago I was in the market for a quality used automobile, and for a brief time my wife became increasingly sure I was about to go insane.

I began my search online, and before long I was sizing up fuel economy and experiencing the usual hubbub surrounding a vehicle purchase.

For a brief time, I was sure I wanted to buy a vehicle that runs on diesel fuel, but this is where I was forced to go on the defensive. Toward the end of 2007, the national average diesel price was about $3.40 per gallon in our part of the Midwest. Gasoline prices were at $2.90 at that time.

My wife asked a relevant and sane question, “Why would you buy a diesel car when diesel is 50 cents more than gas?”

I considered a careful response and chose to answer with one word, “biodiesel.”


With an excited look on my face, and with a slight scowl on hers, I climbed onto a soapbox and launched into a sales pitch on renewable fuel made from plant oils, animal fats and restaurant waste.

I raved that we could grow our own feedstock in the family garden and that I could build a lab to produce biodiesel in the garage. The plan, I said, would be as simple as moving our second car outside the garage and replacing it with lab equipment.

Any of you who have ever suggested something to your spouse along the lines of “let’s park the car outside and make our own biodiesel in the garage” could probably relate to my wife’s reaction: “No.”

I am quite happy with the performance of the gasoline-powered automobile I bought to end the discussion. Although it gets 30 miles per gallon on the highway, I am convinced I could have saved money in the long term, gotten better fuel mileage with a diesel engine, and reduced our wear and tear on the environment.

Maybe next time around I will be able to make a better case, but for now, the garage remains a pretty good place to park a car ... and store my soapbox.