Book Review: Biodiesel America

March 19, 2008

Biodiesel America BookI must be honest that I have mixed feelings about the author of Biodiesel America, Josh Tickell. He has made himself and and his Veggie Van into the grassroots face of big business biodiesel. His now-famous book From the Fryer to the Fuel Tank was how we all first learned to make biodiesel, but it’s terribly outdated, and even the 3rd edition has unsafe techniques. Furthermore, Josh has renounced straight vegetable oil, and although he has videos on how to make biodiesel, he is more well know for his work with the big producer lobbying group the National Biodiesel Board.

But, much of that is behind us now. The NBB is embracing sustainable biodiesel and offers a half-price membership for small producers. Josh’s new film Fields of Fuel has received rave reviews, and even Kumar at Yokayo has come around and embraced Josh’s efforts. Personally, I’m hoping Josh and Fields of Fuel will come up to Anchorage to help promote the expansion of biodiesel in Alaska (more on this later).

As for the book, Biodiesel America: it’s a great read for the end user – the individual or the fleet manager thinking about running biodiesel. It’s not a how-to book, but more of a rosy “biodiesel will save the world” kind of book. The entire first half is setting the stage: the history of petroleum, peak oil, Dr. Diesel, and alternative energy. Not enough for one book? Tickell then turns to the benefits for American farmers, and the benefits of burning biodiesel. He gets a little bogged down in describing American politics, the farm bill, and the committees and politicians that are involved in biodiesel regulations and incentives. But, he comes back with a nice section on biodiesel plants, their growth and economics.

It’s a fine book to loan to your friends who are interested in running biodiesel, or for the business owner that is considering it for their fleet.

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