The Grease Experiment

Courtesy of Chris Dixon
by Maggie McGuane - South Carolina - June/July 2010

How Jimmy Buffett is helping shrimpers with a slick idea

Jimmy Buffett has a vision for his golden years. “My dream,” explains the musician, “is to get a big ole tanker truck, with huge holding capacity, and drive it up and down the Eastern seaboard collecting used cooking oil.” This from a man who’s built a mini-empire of concert tours, best sellers, and restaurants, and who could probably rest on his laurels somewhere besides the cab of a semi. “I want to collect all that used grease and distribute it to commercial fishermen along the coast to use as fuel for their boats.”

Buffett’s food-centric epiphany came from a green tomato. Actually, the Green Tomato, his giant green surf van converted to run on used cooking oil, a process that is actually relatively simple compared with using biodiesel. The van is hard to miss, and driving around the United States in search of swells, Buffett found himself acting like an ambassador for the grease engine movement. “I felt like a teacher because I was giving lectures everywhere I went about the benefits of burning grease,” he says.
 
Along with the usual suspects—surf bums and eco-hippies—commercial fishermen were anxious to hear his pitch. “These guys are always being screwed by the high cost of diesel,” Buffett says. And among fishermen, no one is more familiar with being screwed by high fuel costs and measly returns than the American shrimper. While shrimp prices have declined due to the flood of farmed shrimp onto the market, most of it imported from Asia, the same cannot be said for fuel.
 

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