Organic Oil?
Sun, 22 Nov 1998 23:23:05 EST

I found this tidbit in the October issue of Discovery Magazine. It
reminds me of the old sotry of how the electronics industry was married to
using huge quantities of toxic cleaning solvents in their manufacturing
processes. When this became a bit environmental issue they worked hard to
find a substitute, and what the eventually found was that clean water worked
even better.
Sometimes we look to complicated solutions where simple ones are
better....but I suspect it is our economic system that seeks more profitable
solutions that does this.

Stephen Suess


DUANE JOHNSON may have developed the world's cleanest motor oil. He is so
sure of the safety of his product that he submits it to an unusual test: he
eats it. 'When I go to meetings and have an engine running on this stuff, I'll
pull the dipstick out and lick it.' Petroleum-based motor ails cause a
significant amount of the pollution a car releases, says Johnson, an
agronomist at Colorado State University. His motor oil, made from canola and
other vegetable oils, not only
produces no air pollution of its own but cuts overall engine emissions by up
to 30
Johnson's motor oil is easy to make. He heats canola seeds and then
them to release the oil. He then mixes in small amounts of other oils,
sunflower, soybean, and castor oil to get the right consistency. 'This is
tabletop technology," he says. 'We use a paint mixer to mix it and it's ready
to go.'
This simple processing, says Johnson, is what makes the oil work so cleanly.
Previous tries at using vegetable oils in cars started with refined oils with
all the natural antioxidants removed. Without them, the hot oil turns into a
stringy goop after about 12 hours in an engine. 'We didn't strip out the
natural antioxidants," says Johnson, "so a normal oil-change period of 4,000
is not a problem.'
Johnson has made preliminary tests of his oil in several car models. He first
runs regular oil through the cars and does a standard emissions test,
repeats the process with canola oil. In his tests a 1971 Volkswagen's
were cut by 30 percent a 1970 Mustang's by 15 percent. Thanks to clean-air
laws, more recent models are less polluting, says Johnson, but canola oil
still reduces hydrocarbon emissions from brand-new vehicles. 'Vegetable
Oils have always been better lubricants than petroleum," says Johnson. "They
reduce the friction inside the engine so it works more efficiently. You got
less pollution from the gas as well as from the oil."
Petroleum motor oils are hazardous waste, costly to dispose of properly.
Canola oil, on the other hand, biodegrades quickly and won't pollute
groundwater, so it can be disposed of in a regular landfill. "it has about
the same toxicity as maple syrup," says Johnson. He now sells the oil for
$1.50 a quart - about the same price as regular motor oil. The city of Fort
Collins, Colorado, is already trying out the oil in one of its official
vehicles. And the Wisconsin State fleet might soon have 300 of its cars
running on the stuff. "They'll test it for six months,' says Johnson. "if it
works - which it will they will mandate it for all their vehicles."