The women of biodiesel

These biofuel babes are not your mother's hippies

Andrew Leonard
November 21, 2006 9:22PM (UTC)

If you've been wondering what to get that renewable energy fan in your life for his or her birthday (or Christmas, but it's still before Thanksiving so we'll just whisper that suggestion), look no further. "The Women of Biodiesel" -- an illustrated calendar featuring idiosyncratic photographs of 12 women involved in sustainable biofuel production -- is a hoot. Not only will it bring a smile to your face, but it serves as a sweet introduction to a particular scene -- a community where people convert waste vegetable oil into fuel for their diesel Volkswagens, acting locally while thinking about the Big Energy picture.

Most of the women live in and around the San Francisco Bay Area, and the psychic heart of the whole enterprise seems to be the Biofuel Oasis, a women-owned collective that runs a biodiesel fueling station in Berkeley, Calif. The calendar is the brainchild of Sienna Wildwind, who runs Green Means Go, a used car brokering service that specializes in locating cars that can run on biodiesel.


This is not your typical calendar, with its women posed as Kali-esque goddesses astride their biodiesel-chugging cars, or dressed in saucy nurse uniforms and dreaming of "zero-emission electric vehicles fueled by solar power" or simply smiling slightly as they look across the open hood of car's engine with socket wrench in hand. If you're the kind of person who has a toxic reaction to earnest statements about empowerment and "honoring humanity's ability to respect and protect the earth," you may want to content yourself with just looking at the pictures. But this calendar can't be reduced to easily dismissed hippie hype. These women know that biofuels on their own, are not the solution to the world's energy problems. As Gretchen Zimmerman, co-worker-owner of the Biofuel Oasis, notes, "there is an unrealistic desire in this country to replace petroleum with an alternative fuel that will allow us to continue our current lifetstyle. No way can the planet produce enough biofuel to do that. We've been living beyond our means and we need to drastically reduce how much energy we use regardless of the source."

Andrew Leonard

Andrew Leonard is a staff writer at Salon. On Twitter, @koxinga21.

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