Bathtub Biodiesel

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It's a far cry from the Etsy store jewelry and fighting robots that typify the Maker movement, but homemade biofuels have become popular enough to gain attention from consumers beyond the DIY-fringe.

While the recipe for making homebrew biodiesel has been available for some time to anyone with the requisite curiosity and drive (Make Magazine has a 17 step process one can do at home), recently incorporated production collectives have changed the DIY fuel landscape. Groups such as the Baltimore Biodiesel Co-op take the process out of the home garage, producing enough of the stuff that they can sell it for a nominal profit.

According to the Economist, and entire industry has sprouted up around homemade biodiesel. Companies sell machines and kits to make it easier for individuals to brew their own fuel, while societies and coopts have brought likeminded people together in a way that allows them to benefit from an economy of scale.

The process is fairly simple, although it does require some chemical handling. Brewers use lye and methoxide (both strong alkaline chemicals) to separate the vegetable oil into diesel and glycerin. The diesel can then power a car, while the glycerin can get thrown out.

Homebrewing biofuels has risen in popularity, no doubt, but that rise has merely brought it from the hobby of millennial survivalists to the public profile of say, organic heritage pork. From a purely technical standpoint, even at an elevated level of prominence, DIY biofuels cannot have a significant impact on the world's energy economy. However, the message that everyone has power over their own fuel consumption habits could prove a more potent catalyst of wider change.

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