Synopses & Reviews
Is it possible to drive coast-to-coast without stopping at a single gas pump? Journalist Greg Melville is determined to try. With his college buddy Iggy riding shotgun, this green-thinking guy who's in love with the idea of free fuel sets out on an enlightening road trip. The quest: to be the first people to drive cross-country in a french-fry car. Will they make it from Vermont to California in a beat-up 1985 Mercedes diesel station wagon powered on vegetable oil collected from restaurant grease Dumpsters along the way? More important, can two guys survive 192 consecutive hours together?
Their expedition on and off the road includes visits to the solar-powered Google headquarters; the National Ethanol Council; the wind turbines of southwestern Minnesota; the National Renewable Energy Lab; a visit to one of the first houses to receive platinum certification for leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED); an "eco-friendly" Wal-Mart; and the world's largest geothermal heating system.
Part adventure and part investigation of what we're doing (or not doing) to preserve the planet, Greasy Rider is upbeat, funny, and full of surprising information about sustainable measures that are within our reach.
"Early on in this eco-travelogue, mechanically-disinclined magazine writer Melville notes, 'I simply needed to look at my reflection in the rearview mirror to realize that nearly anyone can operate and maintain a french-fry car.' Indeed, it turns out Melville is easily able to convert a diesel-engine Mercedes into a vehicle powered entirely on fryer oil, collected (usually for free) from restaurant grease dumpsters. Joined by his college friend, Iggy, Melville embarks on the first oil-powered cross-country road trip. There isn't really much suspense to the quest, especially once it's clear that they can use oil purchased at the supermarket. Unfortunately, greasy restaurant backlots don't make for great anecdotes, and the duo's banter isn't as funny or insightful as Melville seems to think. What keeps it from reading like a padded magazine article are Melville's side trips: he learns how Fort Knox has converted to geo-thermal heating and cooling, investigates just how eco-friendly Al Gore's mansion really is, and talks to representatives of various 'green' U.S. Government agencies. These insights, and the simplicity of his grease-powered transport, propel an otherwise slight read into a thought-, and perhaps action-provoking lesson in alternative fuel." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"An amusing and informative look into alternative fuels, conservation, and what individuals and corporations . . . can do about climate change." Audubon
"Melville's tale of a cross-country drive in a decades-old Mercedes converted to run on used cooking oil is... a hopeful, goodhearted portrait of those he meets--be they Minnesota wind farmers or hippie diesel mechanics -- who are getting a head start on building the post-carbon future, a tomorrow fueled by a refreshing optimism, as well as by grease."
-- Newsweek Newsweek
"Melville has a breezy, unpretentious style as well as the ability to work in the occasional edifying digression-a brief history of wind power, for instance, or a discussion with a professor about cellulosic ethanol-without disrupting the book's brisk, novelistic pace. At trip's end, Melville explains to his pal that they have proven something important: "If two goobers like us can actually get in a car and drive across the country without fossil fuels or putting a lot of carbon into the air, the answers for sustainability are easier than people think."
-- Audubon Magazine Audubon
"From its punny title, to its unique premise (a man decides to drive from coast to coast in a car powered by used French fry oil), to its serious message (you, too, can be more environmentally conscious), to its easygoing writing style, this is just a splendid book. . . .An exciting and occasionally nail-biting adventure. . . .[Melville] is a lively stylist, and the book is both entertaining and educational."--Booklist, starred review New York Post
"An entertaining combination of On the Road and An Inconvenient Truth."--New York Times Book Review
"A lot of interesting data . . . about renewable energy's promise and pitfalls."-- New York Post
About the Author
Greg Melville is a freelance journalist who's written for such publications as Men's Journal, Outside, Popular Science, Popular Mechanics, the Wall Street Journal, Money, and National Geographic Adventure.
Table of Contents
Burlington, Vermont to Waterloo, New York
Waterloo, New York to Chicago, Illinois
Errand 1: The Ultimate Green Home
Chicago, Illinois, to Worthington, Minnesota
Errand 2: Wind Power
Worthington, Minnesota, to North Platte, Nebraska
Errand 3: Ethanol
North Platte, Nebraska, to Golden, Colorado
Errand 4: Find "Fence Swingers"
Golden, Colorado, to Little America, Wyoming
Errand 5: Heat
Little America, Wyoming, to Lovelock, Nevada
Errand 6: Green Wal-Mart?
Lovelock, Nevada, to Berkeley, California
The Final Errand: The Letter