Thursday, February 03, 2005

Biodiesel: Farmers v. "Backyarders"?

Wired News reports today on some of the internal conflicts and politics in the young but rapidly growing biodiesel industry:
Farmers in the heartland are trying to cash in on America's growing infatuation with biodiesel, the replacement for petroleum diesel that can be made from vegetable and animal oils and fats.

The farmers, soybean growers from Midwestern states, are enlisting the help of environmentalists and celebrities, to give them the hip, eco-friendly image they need to reach young adults and baby boomers.

The relationship between soybean growers and environmentalists is proving a rocky one, however.

Many environmentalists have been making biodiesel in their backyards, basements and bathtubs for years, and promoting the fuel at a grass-roots level.

But the backyarders, as they are known, are also among the leading critics of the soybean growers' practices, particularly their use of GMO crops and herbicides.

On the other side, farmers are concerned that the non-standardized "homemade" biofuel produced by the "backyarders" is dangerous to the future of the industry itself: "The growers, for their part, fear backyarders and co-ops are selling an unreliable product that could turn off American consumers, if a few of them get a bad batch of the stuff."

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