Earth Day celebration at Lake Tahoe powered by biofuels | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Earth Day celebration at Lake Tahoe powered by biofuels

Jeff Munson / Tahoe Daily Tribune

LAKE TAHOE ” Though it was officially observed on Wednesday, Earth Day at Lake Tahoe brought out hundreds to MontBleu Resort Casino and Spa on Saturday to learn and participate in the official celebratory mantra: “think globally, act locally.”

With music, food and vendors, the annual spring celebration brought out an abundance of environmental education-related booths that outlined what is being done in our own back yard to protect the planet and Lake Tahoe.

Perhaps the most ambitious program in the region is the Bently Biofuels project in the Carson Valley.

Bently Biofuels is dedicated to the research, development, production, and distribution of renewable fuels in order to preserve the environment and free the nation from the problems of imported energy. The project was engineered by Don Bently, founder of Bently Nevada Corporation, considered the world’s leading supplier of rotary engine technology.

Most recently, Bently has committed resources within Bently Agrowdynamics to research and develop biofuels. Crops such as canola and sunflowers, as well as waste vegetable oil from 50 area restaurants, are being used to make biodiesel which can be used in conventional diesel engines with little to no modifications. Sudan grass and wheat straw can be converted to ethanol, replacing gasoline in automobiles.

Such commitment to sustainable agriculture is key to his planning the longevity of the Bently Agrowdynamics organization, said Carlo Luri, general manager.

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A test of exactly what Bently Biofuels can do was found at the Lake Tahoe Earth Day celebration. The entire operation, including the sound stage, was powered by about five gallons of biofuel tied into a generator.

“All of it powered on biodiesel and it smells like barbecue,” Luri said.

The technology will obviously grow over time as the market allows it to grow. The goal is to get the U.S. completely off foreign oil by moving over to biofuel, Luri said.

“There are many factors involved, but Mr. Bently is one who looks 6 to 10 to 20 years down the road. His vision is to have plans for when the oil does run out,” Luri said.

Oil independence has been on the mind lately of Steve Brown of South Lake Tahoe, who brought his nine-year-old daughter, Hannah, to the celebration.

Brown considers himself like most Americans; he wants to believe changes are on the way in how engines are powered, but, remains skeptical as to when and how we do it.

“There is a tipping point and we’ve been talking about it for a long time. I remember when there were gas rations in 1973. We thought then there were going to be all these changes, but, as we’ve seen, nothing has really happened,” Brown said.

The process of energy changes, however, appears to be real as Americans feel the rollercoaster in their pocketbooks when it comes to gas prices. A year ago, gas was around $4.50 a gallon in Tahoe. Today it is around $2.50.

“Are we going to completely cut ourselves off of oil? No. But with Bently and others, are we putting the technology in place to wean ourselves off of it? Yes. And that’s a good thing,” Brown said.

Chris Plants of Sacramento also stopped by the Bently booth and had questions about grain biofuel technology and engine conversions. The cabinet company he works for is looking at buying new vehicles and he wanted to know if fueling the diesel engines with biofuel would require much modification.

Luri assured him that as far as diesel engines go, biofuels don’t require the expensive modifications. This pleased Plants, who said he’s been watching, with great interest, the evolution of biofuel technology.

“When you take the politics out of it, if we all take responsibility to reduce our dependence on oil, and everyone takes part in it, besides the warm fuzzy we get by helping the planet, maybe we can make a transition that won’t be as painful as some think.”