Tuesday, September 30, 2008

The death knell for solar and wind power in America?

The only reason why building energy efficient homes and offices, and putting up solar panels and wind turbines is even remotely cost-effective is because of huge tax incentives provided by the federal government. Without these incentives, the solar and wind industries (and the green building industry) will essentially die on the vine in the US. (The thought is that these industries will--some day soon--be more than self-sufficient, but not until prices go down through economy of scale.) The incentives are sheduled to expire at the end of this year. After some wrangling in Congress, it appears that there will be no extension or renewal. The Democrats want to pass one. The Republicans are blocking it, because they want it tied to extensions of the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy. By letting the renewable energy tax incentives expire, we're basically giving foreign oil suppliers an even tighter headlock over our country and economy. Think about that every time someone says "Drill, baby, drill."

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Tempers flare in Asheville

So the gas crunch continues here in Asheville. People waiting two hours in line for gas. Police officers standing guard at stations. Mass panic. Dogs and cats, living together! Rumor has it that some guy driving an old Mercedes wagon with Vermont plates has been driving past gas stations, slowing down so the people in line can get a long whiff of the french-fry scented exhaust billowing from his tailpipe, and yelling "Grease is the Word!" Obnoxious. (And the obnoxiousity is compounded when he honks and waves after the people in line flip him the one-fingered salute.) Honestly, though, this whole situation is putting a real strain on the city. Hopefully relief will come soon.

Giving Greasy Rider props

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution ran a story about the gas crisis down there, and they quote me, Greasy Rider, and this very blog. Not that I pay much attention to the damned liberal media. The article is a prime example of their distortion and dirty tricks: in it, they make me seem almost sensible and (dare I say it?) mainstream.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Edifying digression for Friday

The problem with ethanol made from corn: when energy and food producers compete for the same crop, everyone loses--because the price skyrockets. Corn's price has shot through the roof in the last year. And a recent University of Iowa study says that corn ethanol raises overall food prices in America by $14 billion a year.

Page 115 in Greasy Rider.

Dude, who needs a dealer when you can get it from the faucet?

So my son had his tonsils out a couple of weeks ago. He's better now, but he had a ton of hard core drugs left over. As tempting as it was for me to keep his vicodin, I didn't (I'm much more of an oxycontin man, myself). My original thought was to flush the stuff down the toilet. But it turns out that sewer treatment plants aren't equipped to handle pharaceuticals, and the drugs eventually seep back into the drinking water supply (or into local lakes and streams). In fact, according to the Associated Press, the drinking water of 46 million Americans, "contain minute concentrations of pharmaceuticals, including antibiotics, anti-convulsants and mood stabilizers." No exact word on what it does to wildlife. (I do admit, though, that I'm intrigued by the whole mood-stabilizer-in-my-drinking-water thing. In fact, I've been making quite a few more trips to the faucet, glass in hand, since learning of this.) Next week, California is even kicking off a "Don't Flush Your Drugs" week. People are advised to drop off their old prescriptions at collection centers, or throw them in the trash. (The garbage truck has already picked up my vicodin.)

Suspending the suspension

When Dr. Wife, MD, came home yesterday, she noticed that the dog had peed twice inside the house because I had suspended all of my daily activities. She then respectfully requested that I suspend the suspension. The dog, and his bladder, are much happier this morning. But I'm worried that Congress won't be able to come to a bailout agreement without me.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

New personal web site

My new personal web site was launched today, at www.gregmelville.com. It was created by the ever-talented Christine at www.studio180.com. The book launches October 7. Preparations are gearing up!

Pressing the panic button

I have an announcement to make:
I am suspending all activites in my life, and focusing all of my mental energy on sending positive thoughts to Washington, in order to resolve the current financial crisis as quickly as possible. I will TiVo the presidential debate on Friday night, if it is held, and postpone watching it until sometime late next week, at the earliest. I may cancel watching the vice presidential debate altogether. In the name of putting country first, I hope that all of you will do the same.

The dog is barking downstairs right now. He needs to go outside. Too bad I can't take him for a walk--with all my activities being suspended, and all. He'll just have to hold it until Dr. Wife, MD comes home tonight.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Drill baby, drill!

Under the cover of the biggest financial crisis since the Depression, the Dems quietly caved yesterday on offshore oil drilling--taking the topic off the table as a campaign issue. I could care less about off-shore drilling. Most states say they won't allow it, anyway. Most oil companies aren't crazy about drilling past the continental shelf for potentially limited returns. It'll have no effect on gas prices in the long (or short) term. And it won't impact our dependence on foreign oil in the least. It was a nothing measure.

Gas, gas anywhere?

You may not have heard, but the Southeast is experiencing a severe gasoline crisis. Unleaded has slowed to a trickle through the pipelines to this region from the Gulf of Mexico as a result of the recent hurricanes. Seriously. I’m not making this up. Nashville is running out of gas. Stations (the ones that have gas) in Atlanta are experiencing long lines. And here in Asheville, we’re nearly plum out of gas. Not a drop could be found in town yesterday afternoon. Truly. Everyone is freaking out. Relief isn’t expected to come until early next week. Which means that whatever is in people’s tanks right now is just about all they’ve got. Except for me. I’ve got a whole bunch of veggie oil, just sitting in the garage.

Now, a small, petty man who drives a grease-powered car would be smug right now. He would have already pictured a scenario like this one—or worse—a million times in his head. A tiny part of him would have been secretly hoping that some day, the electrical grid would be knocked out of whack and the gas pipelines would stop pumping, and the mountains of Western North Carolina would turn into Mad Max. As other people would resort to walking the earth, he, the Road Warrior, would lord over the vast strips of empty pavement, driving his Mercedes wagon, immune to the collapse of society—as long as people were still willing to eat the occasional french fry. He would be happy. Yes that small, petty man happens to look a lot like me.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Repair update

The car is back. I had to sell the dog and hock half the furniture in our house to pay for it. (Don't tell Dr. Wife, MD, but those gold earrings I got her for our third anniversary--that she's never liked or worn--may kind of be missing from her jewelry box now, too.) But the car is back. And it's ready for the thousand-mile East Coast drive in October. More about that soon...

Edifying digression for Tuesday

The US produces 375 million gallons of waste fryer grease a year. Though this is a lot (enough to power 625,000 vehicles), our gas consumption is even more: 53 billion gallons a year. So come on, start eating more jalapeno poppers and onion rings people!

Page 87 in Greasy Rider.

The Sunny Awakening: Baghdad's solar-powered street lights

From an NPR piece yesterday: Sick of getting only one hour of electricity for every seven hours without, a highway official in Baghdad has begun powering street lights with solar panels atop them. The plan is expected to expand to other cities across Iraq.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Rooftop wind turbines

The New York Times recently ran a story on whether or not rooftop wind turbines will generate enough power to pay for themselves. The answer: they're not sure--but your neighbors sure will be jealous.

Recipe for making Freedom Fries

A French friend of mine was recently asking me to explain what Freedom Fries are. Well, here you go Pierre.

The Recipe for Freedom Fries
You'll need
1 potato. (Or, as Dan Quayle likes to say, "potatoe.")
1 vat of non-hydrogenated vegetable oil (soybean is preferrable).
1 teastpoon salt
1 Extra Large can of Whoop-Ass

Peel the potato, and cut it into wedges. (The size of the wedges are up to you.)
Heat the oil in a Fry Daddy deep fat fryer.
Drop the potato wedges into the fryer, and cook until they're crispy brown.
Shake the salt onto it.
MOST IMPORTANT INSTRUCTION: Spread the whoop-ass unilaterally.

As the French would say, "voila!" Once the vegetable oil has cooled down, don't throw it away. Send it to me so I can use it in my car.

Friday, September 19, 2008

7th Grader Invents Revolutionary Solar Cell. Seriously.

So the federal government's entire annual budget for the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (our primary lab for researching wind and solar energy, and biofuels) is one-tenth the cost of a single Stealth Bomber. (Or, make that one-four hundredth what bailing out AIG cost this week.) As a result, we need to rely on goofballs in their garages building grease-power conversion kits for cars, and a 7TH GRADER WHO INVENTS THE NEXT GENERATION OF SOLAR CELL to lead us forward on sustainability. How difficult is it to understand that if we create the leading technology for cheap fuel and power, the entire world will be banging at our doors trying to buy it from us? How many jobs would that create? What would that do to our trade deficit? How much would that strengthen our economy? What would it do for our national security? This isn't rocket science. Heck, it's barely 7th grade science.

Edifying fact for Friday

The mighty Colorado River is not really a river anymore. So much of it is diverted in the US that it dries up in Mexico before reaching the Pacific. (By definition, a river is a body of water that empties into a lake or ocean.)
Page 216 of Greasy Rider.

Repair update

I called the mechanic this morning to ask if the repairs are finished on the wagon. He was laughing so hard, I couldn't exactly hear what he was saying--but I got the distinct impression he was telling me "no."

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Never getting the hang of it

We haven't used our clothes dryer since June. It's getting lonely, and I miss it.

Dr. Wife, MD, insists that we hang all of our laundry to dry. Her point is understandable: the clothes dryer is the single-biggest energy sucker in a house--even bigger than a fridge. We can reduce our energy bills by up to 10 percent by hanging. And the greenhouse gas reduction of going without a dryer for a year is the same as taking one car off American roads for seven weeks. Intellectually, I understand this. But darnit, I like my clothes to have that chemically-induced, fabric softener-fresh scent. Now when I pull them off the line, they're a little wrinkled, and feel crusty. For the sake of my marriage, and I guess the environment, I'm willing to make this sacrifice. But the day Dr. Wife, MD, insists that we start recycling the toilet water, we're gonna need to have a serious talk.

Grease rustler busted

A man was arrested in California for liberating grease without specifically asking for permission. Maybe it's time for me to rethink my own collection methods. And I hope the police in North Platte, Nebraska don't read Chapter 9 in Greasy Rider.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Auto inspection

In Vermont, I didn't worry about the annual state inspection for my grease-powered 1985 Mercedes wagon. Every spring, I'd just take it to the auto center at the big department store at the mall, and they'd miss all of the tiny things that could cause it to fail--like the broken turn signals and hazard lights, and the gaping hole in the muffler--and slap a shiny new inspection sticker on the windshield without question. Now that I've moved to North Carolina, I don't know of any reliably incompetent mechanics who could do the same for me down here. And I'm about to switch my license plates and registration, so I'll need to get the car inspected. As a result, I had no choice but to get the car fixed at a Mercedes specialist. It's been at the shop for three days, with no sign of returning to my driveway anytime soon. But at least the hazard lights and turn signal will work, and that gaping hole in the muffler will finally be gone--among many, many other things. Looks like my kids can kiss their college funds goodbye.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

GM finally gets it

GM once belittled companies investing in hybrid technology. They said hybrids were a stopgap solution, and the real next-generation car would be hydrogen powered. GM's vice chairman Bob Lutz even called global warming a "total crock of shit." Then Toyota passed them in sales. Today, the company officially unveiled the 2011 Chevy Volt, with Lutz behind the wheel--as the announcement was made that "GM's second century starts now." Entering its second century of business, GM gets it now: green technology, energy efficiency, and sustainability can translate into profits.

Bush tours America to survey the damage from his disastrous presidency

The commander in chief has recently become much more responsive to mass disasters--like the one his presidency has wrought on the country. This Onion news video shows how admirably he has responded in the face of such adversity. Heckuva job, Mr. President.

Bush Tours America To Survey Damage Caused By His Disastrous Presidency

Monday, September 15, 2008

Name that Car Part, Chapter 2

Here's the latest unidentified piece of my grease-powered 1985 Mercedes 300TD wagon to drop onto the driveway. Any ideas what it might be? A brake line maybe? I'll give the brakes a thorough test when I'm driving the kids home from school later today. We'll be hitting some good downhills.

Edifying fact for Monday...from the pages of Greasy Rider

The Google headquarters in California receives 30 percent of its power from 9,212 solar panels recently installed on building roofs and above a few parking lots. The panels produce enough energy to power 1,000 American homes--and they will completely pay for themselves within eight years, through savings on the company's electricity bills. Page 171

Dick Cheney does not approve this message

As we all know, the real key to our energy future lies in DRILLING FOR MORE OIL OFFSHORE! Papa EXXON-Mobil will give us the loving care we need, if only we let it! But bear with me as I address solar power for a moment...

The biggest hurdle with installing solar panels on your home, even if you live in a really sunny place, is financing. Although the panels could very well eliminate your electricity bills--and eventually pay for themselves in savings--you still have to borrow the $22,000, or whatever it is (depending on the state), to pay for them. And what happens if you want to sell the house before the loan is paid off?

The city of Berkeley, California has found a solution. If you're a resident, they'll give you an ultra-low interest loan for the solar panel installation, and you pay them back over 20 years, in conjunction with your property tax payments. If someone buys your house, the new owners take on the payments with the city. It basically makes solar energy a no-brainer for people in Berkeley. Because now, in many cases, the cost of paying for a solar panel loan will be less per month for homeowners than their electricity bills were. (In Berkeley, the loan payments will be $180 per month, on average. This is a place where most heating and cooling is done through electric heat pumps, so the average power bill at least matches that. And consider: electricity bills will continue to rise quite a bit over the next 20 years, while the monthly rate on this loan won't. What's the total monthly cost of your electricity and heating bills?)


Friday, September 12, 2008

Left on the cutting room floor, part I

There were some stories from our trip that didn't make the book. Occasionally, I'll share them here. Like our trip to Vegas.

When Iggy and I were driving east from California, he insisted on making two stops: the Grand Canyon, and Las Vegas. The first one being the nation's great environmental wonder, and the second being a hard-core tree hugger’s version of hell (given how unsustainable a sprawling city built in the desert is). Of course, Iggy is far from a hard core tree hugger—and even talking about the prospect of watching the dancing waters of the Bellagio in person literally choked him up. For those of you who haven’t been to Vegas, the dancing waters are maybe the city’s most alluring spectacle. There’s an 8.5-acre cement-bottomed “lake” in front of the Bellagio, filled with 20 million gallons of water that has been sucked from the Colorado River. (I have no idea how much evaporates each day, but it's got to be a lot.) Every 15 minutes—starting at 3 p.m. and ending at midnight—a series of fountains in the middle shoot water 245 feet into the arid desert air, in rhythm with Italian music blaring through loudspeakers. Thousands of passersby will stand and watch at one time. When the sun goes down, the whole show is illuminated by 4,792 lights. To environmentalists, witnessing this spectacle is probably the same as watching a spotted owl get strangled. (I have to say, the whole thing makes me squirm.) But since Iggy wanted to go to Vegas, we were going to Vegas.
The problem was crossing the mountain-filled desert. We were encountering two problems with the Mercedes: it was nearly overheating on steep climbs, forcing us to turn on the heater inside the car, on occasion, to cool it off while we were driving; and the air conditioner had stopped working altogether. Oh, and the temperature on the desert floor was about 107 degrees on the day we were driving through it.
More to this story next week…

Rooftop wind turbines

Some day these windmills like these Architectural Wind Turbines by Aerovironment, Inc., could be as common on rooftops as satellite dishes, especially in places like the Northeast where the sun isn't as strong and there are a good number of cloudy days--so solar panels don't work as well.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Edifying fact for Thursday...from the pages of Greasy Rider

Tourists spend a half-billion dollars each year between September and April at the indoor water parks of the Wisconsin Dells. That's right, a half-billion dollars to travel to the middle of Wisconsin in the winter. Someone desrves to go into the marketing hall of fame for that one. Also, it takes 15.7 million gallons of water to fill these parks--enough to satisfy the water demands of the entire city of Green Bay for a day. Page 79.


In 1989 Bill McKibben wrote about the predicted rise of super-hurricanes in his respected book "The End of Nature." He says the intensity of a hurricane is determined by how low the air pressure gets. The lower the air pressure, the more intense the hurricane. Simple enough. Under 1988 water temperatures, scientists calculated that no hurricane in the Atlantic could possibly drop below 885 millibars in air pressure (which equates to 200 mile per hour winds). But if the temperature of the water were to rise only a couple of degrees in the tropics, the air pressure for storms would be able to drop much lower. The result: stronger, super Category 5 hurricanes. Well, in 2005, Hurricane Wilma shattered the 885 millibar barrier (with a reading of 882--and a few millibars make a HUGE difference, apparently). It struck shortly after Katrina, and was the fourth category 5 hurricane that season. Oh, did I mention that water temperatures in the tropics are, in fact, warmer now than in 1988?

Yet despite these scientific predictions from two decades ago, people today still refuse to add 2+2 when determining whether global warming has any link to stronger hurricanes. Fortunately, Ike is only supposed to be a category 3 when it hits land again.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Edifying Fact for Wednesday...from the Pages of Greasy Rider

A 100-foot wind turbine outside a new LEED-certified home can provide enough power to cover the entire home's heat and electricity. The cost to pay for that wind turbine in many states: $150 a month (if tacked onto a 30-year mortgage, and including interest). My average cost for utilities a month: $300, and it's getting higher all the time. I can't even imagine what it'll be in 20 years, compared to the green home owner, who is still only paying $150 a month. Page 67 in Greasy Rider.

See how this whole "environmental" thing is totally going to wreck our economy? Me neither.

Chevy Volt, unveiled

Photos of the plug-in electric car Chevy Volt were accidentally put on the Internet yesterday for 12 minutes--enough time for carconnection.com to get a hold of this one, and several more. GM CEO Rick Wagoner has said that his company is literally pinning its fortunes on this car. This version, which kind of looks like a four-door Honda Accord, is different from the beefy, low-riding, two-door concept Volt that Chevy had shown the press a while back. It's supposed to get 40 miles on a single charge, and if the battery runs low at that point, a gasoline engine turns on and will take the car a total of 400 miles. The car can be plugged in to a regular outlet. (Charge time takes 10 hours.) The company that "killed" the electric car could be the one that brings it back. It's supposed to hit showrooms in late 2010. Hopefully, production will run smoothly--and maybe in a couple of years I won't need grease power anymore. Of course, the only problem is that right now most of my electricity comes from a coal-fired power plant, which means if I own an electric car, I'd be using coal to charge it. Plus it's not like Chevy would take a 25-year-old Mercedes wagon as a trade-in, despite its obviously pristine condition. (See: "name that car part" below.)

What accountability?

I've found an awesome new way to pay bills--without actually having to pay any money, while potentially earning billions (yes, billions) of frequent flyer miles. I've got a bunch of credit cards, all of which accrue frequent flyer miles. This month, I'm paying for everything I buy with American Express (and getting lots of miles). Then next month, I'll pay for everythig with my Visa, including my complete American Express bill. The month after that, I pay for everything with my Master Card, including the Visa bill. (In the process, every single frequent flyer mile I earn on Amex this month will earn me another mile on Visa next month, and another mile on Master Card the month after that, etc.) So not a dime of money is ever coming out of my bank account, and my frequent flyer miles suddenly start multiplying exponentially. Whenever my cards hit their credit limit, which should be a very long time from now, I've got three options: first, use my billions of frequent flyer miles to flee the country and pay for me to stay in a Ramada in Borneo for the rest of my life; second, file for bankruptcy and sponge off my doctor wife for the rest of my life, as if nothing ever happened; or three, sell my billions of frequent flyer miles, and pay off the cards. Of course, if I'm really, really lucky, I can live high on the hog forever, and simply leave the bills for my kids.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

A zillion Facebook messages

If you just received a zillion messages from Facebook, my sincere apologies. Facebook kept telling me there was an error, and to try again. So I did. Sorry about that. It'll be a long, long time before I send another message.

Name That Car Part...Revealed!

I've found the origin of the mystery car part that fell onto my driveway last week. Follow these pictures, and you'll be able to solve the mystery yourself. Hint: it's not a flux capacitor. (By the way, another piece fell off over the weekend. I'll be showing it in a post soon.)

Clue #1: The piece.

Clue #2: The right side of the car, just in front of the rear tire.

Clue #3: The left side of the car, in front of rear tire. What's missing here?

The answer: the piece flipped over! It belongs on that rusted-out spot in front of the wheel.

Edifying fact for Tuesday

To dispel the myth that wind turbines kill birds: half of all bird fatalities in the US come from crashing into homes or other buildings, one in ten are caused by household cats, and one in ten thousand from wind turbines, according to Greenpeace. Page 105 in Greasy Rider.

Monday, September 8, 2008

A sensible alternative

In the next week or two, congressional leaders will inevitably cave on the issue of offshore drilling. Yet beyond the political pandering, there is one true solution for curtailing the world's skyrocketing demand for oil (which is driving up the prices at the pump): stop the culprits. If we bomb all countries with rapidly growing economies (hello, Asia), then demand will be seriously curtailed. (And in the process, we'll stop all those nasty coal-fired power plants from being created. An added bonus.) Then, maybe we can get back to $1 a gallon gas. I'm a firm believer that all serious policy solutions can be found through good ole fashioned shock and awe.

What crisis?

Edifying fact of the day: In 2006, the federal government allocated less money to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (America's main lab for renewable energy and alternative fuel research) than the New York Yankees did for paying their players. Page 156 in Greasy Rider.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Cody's great (wimpy) CNN adventure

Has anyone been following "Cody's Great Adventure" on CNN? Notice how CNN masterminded this idea after they interviewed me? Never trust that liberal media! Anyway, Cody courageously tries to drive across the country in a diesel car, REFUELING ONLY AT BIODIESEL PUMPS. That's right, he bought all of his gas from the pump, the entire way--yet he makes himself out to be some sort of great pioneer. Cody, I knew Lewis and Clark (or at least I knew of them) and you sir, are no Lewis and Clark. Left unmentioned is the fact that biodiesel, and ethanol, made from virgin vegetable products are largely responsible for the dramatic spike in worldwide food prices in the last year. (When fuel producers start competing for food crops, everybody loses. Bigtime.) Of course, Cody, you'll learn all about that if you read "Greasy Rider." And dude, Iggy and I didn't stop at a single gas pump, on our waste oil adventure. We were much more like Lewis and Clark. Except we had satellite radio, and the Interstate highway system, and climate control, and a McDonald's every few miles or so, and no hostile enemies.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Next week's posts

Curious about how, exactly a grease-powered car works? You won't be by the end of next week. Stay tuned here for videos! Photos! Pithy explanations! Tell your friends!

Boots on the ground

Word has it that the National Enquirer has sent its "John Edwards Team" of investigators in Alaska to dig around. I'm hoping the day arrives when I can get enraged at the Enquirer for digging through my trash. We all have our dreams.

Everybody Hates Iggy (Or at Least You Should, for My Sake)

Iggy is the college buddy who was kind enough to drive cross-country with me in the Mercedes, begging for waste freedom fry oil from restaurants along the way. He was co-pilot and fix-it guy, and is a central figure in Greasy Rider. So why does he deserve to be hated? Namely because of his powder-blue truck. Before the trip, he was a petro-guzzling, environment-ignoring, tree-slaugthering everydude. Afterward, he bought this diesel F-250 and converted it to run on fry oil. It gets 12 glorious miles to the gallon, the bed can hold five tons of weight, and he's thinking of putting a snow plow on it. (He can have a side business of plowing driveways, and not have any fuel costs. Imagine! Reason number 10 gazillion why renewable energy will help, not hurt, our pocketbooks.) Meanwhile, my rear-wheel-drive Mercedes doesn't like the snow, can barely fit my son's tricycle in back, and if more than two people are sitting in it, the rear-end sags hopelessly. Oh yes, I hate him. (You can see him standing next to the truck. See how smug he looks?)

Thursday, September 4, 2008

My friends,...

...drilling at home for oil is a pander we can believe in.

Recycled toilet paper, part 2

Now, to return for a moment to the not-so-cottony-soft toilet tissue (made from unbleached, recycled paper) that Dr. Wife, MD., makes us use in our house. The question of whether Al Gore too has a chapped butt has been haunting me. So being an professional journalist, I have decided to ask him myself. Here is the e-mail I plan to send. (Note the green font. I think he'll like that.)
Dear Mr. Gore,
Dude, congrats on that peace prize. A lot of war and strife has been put to rest all over the place thanks to your work on the environment. Oh, and sorry about that electoral college thing from a while back. I'm TOTALLY sorry that I voted for Nader. I'll never do it again, I swear. If I'd have lost the election the way you did, I completely would have packed on the pounds, too. What's your biggest vice, Klondike Bars? Mine is Ben & Jerry's. By the way, you might remember seeing my face on security photos from outside your mansion in Nashville recently. I'm sorry you couldn't come to the door. (Shameless plug alert:) If you read chapter 2 in my book, Greasy Rider, available in bookstores early next month, you'll find out what I wanted to talk to you about. Anyway, I have a question for you. Do you use regular toilet paper, or that ultra-green recycled stuff that they sell at those organic stores? I use the organic stuff. My wife makes me. It's a little rough. Now I sit kind of funny. Please tell me I'm not alone. You talk about how we all have to make personal sacrifices in our lives, for the sake of the earth, and for the sake of our kids and grandchildren. I've followed your advice because I know you're making those everyday sacrifices, like how you and Tipper...um...uh...um. Exactly what sacrifices do you make? Maybe you can jot down a list during some idle time on your private jet. In fact, maybe your private jet's bathroom has organic toilet paper! Like, I'm thinking that maybe you and Tipper hang your laundry from clothes lines on your mansion's Great Lawn. Or you scrape food scraps into a compost bin after dinner. I bet you totally ride your bike everywhere on your estate's property, too. What kind of bike do you own? You and I both know so well that the only way this movement can get off the ground is for our leaders to show us through their own example of the decisions and small sacrifices we must make. Well, that's about all for now. I'm looking forward to hearing from you.
Your pal,
I'll inform you as soon as Al writes me back.


I have received a few e-mails from people who say they disagree with the Audubon reviewer who called me unpretentious. Well here's my return message: you lowlifes wouldn't know an unpretentious guy if he bit you in the nose. I bet you don't even understand what the word means, because it has more than two syllables. Now, I think I'm going to pour myself a glass of sherry as I leaf through a few volumes of Kant to calm down.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

First review of book, and it's actually positive.

Audubon magazine reviews Greasy Rider in its newest issue.

Money quote: “Melville, who has written for Outside and Men’s Journal, 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.”

Euro Trashing

So, some European guy creates a car rally from London to Athens, with cars powered by freedom fry oil. He calls it the "Grease to Greece." (So clever!)
"I think we can safely say that this is the first long-distance car journey in Europe that has relied on restaurants and burger bars as an informal network of filling stations," he told the fawning Euro-media. (Clearly, he was inspired by the Greasy Rider mania raging here across the pond.) But let's get something straight: those cars only went 2,500 miles! (For all of you overseas and Canadian readers, I think that works out to be 1,293,274,249,342,800 kilometers.) Iggy and I drove 3,900 miles across THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA on our adventure, way before your car rally. Dude, talk about a day late and a franc short.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Country First!

In the name of all that its patriotic and anti-evildoer, I have decided that from this moment forward, this blog will forever refer to french fry grease as freedom fry grease.

Pushing 300,000 miles

Here's the odometer on the Mercedes. (If you can't read the number, it says 293, 165.) During the cross-country trip I took with my buddy Iggy, powered solely by fry grease, I met with one of the big biodiesel muckety mucks at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden Colorado. No fan of straight veggie power, he told me that I was shortening my engine's lifespan by going grease. Does that mean it won't live to reach 500,000 miles?

He suggested I switch to a mix of 80 percent petro diesel, and 20 percent biodiesel to power the car. Let's just say that the folks over there aren't exactly swinging for the fences when it comes to creating new energy solutions. You can read about the whole encounter--and how a dog peed on my leg the next day--in Greasy Rider. (Release date is now a mere five weeks away!)

Good news for the shipping industry!

For the first time in recorded history, the North Pole is no longer landlocked--as this year's ice melt has opened up North-West and North-East passages. (Poor Henry Hudson. He spent his whole life looking in vain for the Northwest Passage. Alas, he was 400 years ahead of his time.)