Cool Bus: ancient hulking bus, or futuristic eco-transport

We had a philosophical dilemma.  How do we move large groups of children to the ranch or to explore wilderness without destabilizing the climate and squandering precious fossil fuel resources? 

The solution: 1) carpool, and 2) use trash as fuel.

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Meet the Cool Bus.  Sure she only gets 8-10 miles per gallon, worse than a Hummer, but this beast weights 13 tons and seats 84!  If we take 50 people on a river trip, that's 500 passenger miles per gallon.  Moving the same number of people in an average car would require 10 trips, and would burn four times the fuel.  Plus we can fit all the boats in the back and sing songs together on the way.  Now that’s carpooling! 

This bus is a dinosaur.  New buses certainly get better fuel economy, but 50% of any vehicle’s pollution comes from embodied energy (the energy used to build the vehicle), so running a 1985 bluebird is far less destructive than making a new more efficient model from scratch.  We do have a state of the art fuel system.

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Cool Bus runs on Waste Veggie Oil (WVO).  The first diesel engines where designed to burn peanut oil.  This engine eats whatever can be found in local restaurant deep-fryer dumpsters.

WVO is a carbon neutral fuel.  Of course burning fryer grease makes smoke.  In fact, emissions measured at the Cool Bus tailpipe are not much better for the climate than petrol-diesel.  The question is: where did that carbon come from? 

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RWCS students prepare to paint the cool busPetroleum was created 350 million years ago by organisms that sucked huge amounts of carbon from the air and sank to the bottom of the ocean.  This dramatically changed Earth’s atmosphere, and allowed for the evolution of oxygen breathers such as us.  Digging up crude oil carbon and putting it back into the sky is forcing the whole world back in time.  This may be a bad idea, since we didn't exist back then.

Proponents of biofuels claim that burning plant-based fuel is better for the climate because it is part of a "closed" carbon cycle.  Plants scrub carbon out of the air and convert it into things like canola oil, which can run polluting busses, and eventually be reclaimed from the atmosphere again by plants as fuel.  The problem is that modern agriculture consumes more fuel to produce the plant than the plant produces.  Biofuels are therefore net energy losers.

No crops are grown to produce WVO.  Used fryer grease, which would otherwise be incinerated, is diverted from the waste stream and reused with minimal processing.  We’re cruisin’ cash and carbon free!

comparison of biofuel emissions