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Here’s an idea: with high fuel prices, why not make your own fuel for your vehicle? Actually, it’s being done by more people than most of us realize. I recently talked to Dayton Keyes of Maroa. A couple of years ago, he heard about a group of Purdue University students traveling across America in a vehicle using a strictly renewable fuel. He was intrigued by the students’ ingenuity and asked himself how he could make his own fuel.

Dayton did his research and realized most of the information about building a miniature biodiesel kit simply came off the Internet.He constructed a biodiesel kit, which cost approximately $1,000. With the help of some plumbing parts, a water heater, and a few other ingredients, you can begin making the fuel for as little as $300. In fact, you can go much cheaper than that if you want to make a liter at a time. Using some simple safety precautions, Dayton said making biodiesel was as easy as making a cake mix. With his $1,000 biodiesel kit, Dayton makes 30 gallons in a batch. He said it takes an average of two and a half to four hours of work to make a batch over a three- to five-day period.

He estimates his cost per gallon of biodiesel to be 70 cents. Keep in mind his primary ingredient is vegetable oil, and he’s getting it free. In fact, it’s used vegetable oil restaurants want to dispose of anyway.

Dayton recently purchased a 2006 Jeep Liberty that’s powered with a four-cylinder Mercedes Benz motor. He’s still breaking the engine in and is getting approximately 21 mpg in the city and 25 mpg on the highway. His old Volkswagen Golf will maximize used cooking oil from restaurants and travel an average of 38 mpg. Dayton’s quick to point out that biodiesel adds lubricity to an engine’s components, resulting in smoother operation. There’s also 80 percent fewer emissions with the renewable fuel.

Dayton welcomes everyone interested in learning about making their own biodiesel; he’s shown his operating biodiesel manufacturing unit to more than 100 people in the last six weeks. You can e-mail him at [email protected]. He recommends the web site http://www.localb100.com to consumers who want to learn more about making homegrown biodiesel and expects to have his own web site up and running by July 4. Do a Google search…“Dayton Keyes, biodiesel.” Dayton has been invited by Mayor Richard Daley to speak at a Consumer and Alternative Fuel Expo Conference in Chicago this October.

Dayton made one more point in our conversation. The internal combustion engine originally was designed to operate on renewable fuels. Rudolph Diesel was especially interested in using vegetable oil as the fuel for the engine he designed in the late 19th century, and Henry Ford was quoted as saying, “The fuel of the future is going to come from fruit like that of sumach out by the road, or from apples, weeds, sawdust…almost anything. There is fuel in every bit of vegetable matter that can be fermented. There’s enough alcohol in one year’s yield of potatoes to drive the machinery necessary to cultivate the fields for 100 years.” IBI

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