The Satisfying Hum of a Diesel Engine

Once upon a time, I lived at the Center of the Universe, also known as Berkeley, CA. There, in the outlet store adjunct of a now long-gone Real Goods store, I first read about biodiesel fuel. The subject of that inkjet-printed, spiral bound early edition of From the Fryer to the Fuel Tank captured my imagination, and I began dreaming on a trip around the country in a biodiesel-powered VW camper pulling a mini fuel production rig. Like a child, I drew a little picture of this fantasy and posted it on the wall of my small studio apartment.

Years went by and I never stopped relying on Berkeley’s excellent public transportation system. When I needed a car, I borrowed one from my brother or my folks. My carbon footprint was excellent! But my stress level was through the roof as I realized that city life was too fast for me- I am a country mouse.

In 2000, an opportunity arose that landed me in Mendocino County where the cost of living is lower and the pace of life is slower. Unfortunately, the vast open spaces that drew me to the country also meant that I would need to get a car. I thought about a Prius, but Toyota was talking out of both sides of their mouth, praising the environmental aspects of the car at one point, then telling me that they need to sell me this car that they ordered because the longer it sits on the lot, the more the battery suffers. Also, I couldn’t actually own the Prius. At the end of the lease, I’d have to give it back.

I called my dad for advice, and he steered me back to biodiesel. He’s a CPA, and the numbers made sense. For a mere fraction of what I would pay to lease the Prius, I could own an old diesel Mercedes outright and use that non-petroleum fuel I had been talking about so much. “Screw Toyota,” I thought, and I went and got a 1984 Mercedes diesel station wagon and filled it up on walnut oil biodiesel made by a friend.

Using the alternative fuel was anticlimactic- blissfully so. Everything simply worked. You know that poem by T.S. Eliot that goes, “This is how the world ends, not with a bang but with a whimper”? Well, that was how my world changed. With the satisfying hum of a diesel engine, I was hooked.

I became a proponent, and then in 2001, I started my own company, Yokayo Biofuels. I had two goals: to someday sell 1,000 gallons of fuel per month, and to talk about biodiesel on my favorite radio show, Democracy Now! By late 2002, both goals had been accomplished. So this is what it feels like to catch a wave. Over a decade later, I’m still hooked, and my company sells over 30,000 gallons of fuel a month, all made right here in Mendocino County from recycled deep fryer oil!
Kumar Plocher
CEO, Yokayo Biofuels, Inc.
fueling ♺ evolution since 2001

Kumar is the President for Life of the Piedmont Biofuels Fan Club.  And he has long been an inspiration to all of us…

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"With unbelievable commitment, acerbic wit, and a bona fide love for the down-home roots of the biofuel movement, Lyle Estill has chronicled, like no other, the complex and often entertaining dynamics of the burgeoning world of biodiesel."
Daryl Hannah, actress and biofuel activist