Green Grease Monkey

In the face of climate change and energy challenges, what creative ways are you finding to forge healthy and durable lives and communities? Send submissions — five hundred words or fewer — to Orion, 187 Main Street, Great Barrington, MA 01230, or via {encode=”” title=”e-mail”}. Submissions become property of Orion.

We started our organization, Green Grease Monkey, in April 2004, with the goal of converting as many diesel engines as we could to run on waste vegetable oil (WVO) — an idea first conceived by the inventor of the diesel engine, Rudolf Diesel himself. It’s a fairly straightforward process that involves adding a different fuel system and heating it up with the waste heat that all cars generate. There are dozens of companies, big and small, doing similar work around the country, and hundreds (if not thousands) worldwide. From that modest beginning, however, we’ve expanded our mission to include educating people about not only the benefits of embracing Doctor Diesel’s invention, but also the risks of consuming energy at current levels.

Since day one, Green Grease Monkey has been open about our reasons for doing what we do. Recycling WVO as fuel has environmental benefits, helps local businesses by saving them disposal costs, and provides an inexpensive option for people struggling with ever higher fuel costs. In addition to all that, though, we feel there is another important reason to embrace this technology. On our home page we state the following: “The U.S. economy’s heavy reliance on oil from other countries has led to disastrous foreign policy decisions by our government. Get the U.S. out of the Middle East — burn vegetable oil for fuel!” It’s clear that the military-industrial complex that runs our country has dedicated itself to controlling the world’s remaining oil reserves. But as we watch large corporate interests moving aggressively into bio-fuels, we’re left wondering if we’re not trading one group of profit-driven overlords (ExxonMobil, Chevron Corporation) for another (Cargill, Monsanto, Archer Daniels Midland).

Our strategy for avoiding such an outcome is to bring fuel production down to the level originally intended by Doctor Diesel. He saw his invention as a way for communities to provide for their own power needs. Through local production of fuel crops, Diesel believed, people could generate their own sources of energy. Decisions about how to best allocate the resources would be decided at the community level. So our work at Green Grease Monkey includes not just converting diesel engines, but converting people’s minds to force them to rethink how we get the energy we burn.

Every time we give a workshop, we remind people that as a mere 5 percent of the world’s population, Americans consume 26 percent of its energy each year. We encourage people to ride bikes, walk, or take public transportation whenever possible, and to drive only as a last resort. We work closely with the Northeast Organic Farming Association (NOFA) to educate people about biofuels, but also to financially support NOFA’s work to revive sustainable local agriculture in the region. We also support the Boston Workers Alliance (BWA), a group of unemployed workers from Boston’s inner city who are struggling to find jobs. Our strong belief is that our long-term energy needs can be met by reducing consumption and by growing local fuel crops. This would in turn generate the jobs desperately needed by individuals like those in the BWA.

While most people don’t want to hear that they have to change their way of living, there’s no doubt that the path we’re on right now is unsustainable. And when organizations as diverse as NOFA, the Boston Workers Alliance, and Green Grease Monkey begin working together to confront the biofuels dilemma, we’re equally certain that a cleaner, greener future is well within our collective grasp.