10/24/2010 Ecologist touts alcohol as cars? future fuel

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University guest lecturer’s book and company offer local farmers ways to make alternative fuel

By Sarah Walters | News reporter

"Alcohol can be a gas."

These five words are the title of Californian ecologist and entrepreneur David Blume's book and life's mission.

Blume travels around the country informing citizens of the downside of "Big Oil" and the potential for bringing back the original car fuel, alcohol.

Blume visited the University campus Friday to share his knowledge with Eugene community members, environmentalists and small business owners from local places such as SeQuential Biofuels.

"His whole idea is the decentralization of power and doing it in a way where all the waste ... is used back in the system," said Mel Bankoff, sustainability coordinator for Partners for Sustainable Schools of the Institute for Sustainability Education and Ecology.

Blume said he seeks to empower local communities and return control to farmers.

Blume Distillation is currently looking for investors in order to sell their stills that turn plants into alcohol fuel. By providing farmers and small business owners with these stills, Tom Harvey, Blume's vice president of marketing, said they could create jobs, and they do not give favoritism to people in power.

"I'm counting on individuals and small companies going out there and starting to make their own fuel," Blume said.

Blume said there are multiple benefits to switching to alcohol fuel – political, economical and social.

Alcohol was actually the first fuel used in cars, dating back to Henry Ford's era. When oil companies began taking over, leaders in the field started lobbying for prohibition and gradually pushed alcohol out of the market.

 "We have an incredible concentration of power at the corporate level," Blume said.

He said he wants to return money and power to farmers and citizens by selling them alcohol stills, vehicle conversion kits, and his 2007 book, "Alcohol Can Be a Gas!" with instructions on turning plants and farm waste into car fuel.

"We need the money back in our communities. We need to keep our farmers employed. We have to stop pouring money into these oil companies," Blume said during the lecture.

Blume contended that the reason more people are not using alternative energy is due to misinformation presented by the media and oil companies.

"The barriers are political, not technical," Blume said.

Blume argues that there have been many scientific advances that would enable a cleaner fuel model.

Newer cars with newer computers can handle 50 percent gasoline and 50 or more percent alcohol fuel.

Waste products, sewage and various types of plants like cat tails, beets, kudzu, kelp and mesquite can be turned into alcohol. Alcohol is simply water, carbon dioxide and sugar, Blume said.

Ethanol, the most common alcohol fuel, is a cleaner-burning fuel compared to gasoline and emits less carbon monoxide. Cities and states that switch to ethanol-blended fuel have better air quality compared to other cities and states, according to the International Institute for Ecological Agriculture website.

swalters@dailyemerald.com

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