Regulation for thee, but not for me...

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There's an interesting article at Wired about the development of (this time, legal) biodiesel co-ops. Biodiesel is still often a sort of moonshine fuel that people take it upon themselves to mix up for their own use. Of course, I have no real opposition to that, other than the fact that production can be highly dangerous in large quantities. (It can be dangerous in small quantities as well, but as a fan of personal responsibility, I worry less about someone blowing themselves up while trying to turn the run-off from last night's fried chicken into fuel than when they are trying to scale up and making enough to power a KFC, the explosion from which could take out a pretty decent radius.)

What I find most compelling, however, are some things that are pretty much side comments through the article. To wit:

Anyone wanting to sell biodiesel to the public must also get approval from state and federal environmental agencies, Alovert said.

"It's against the law for people to sell fuel or fuel additives to the public without registering with the EPA," said Alovert [a "Berkeley, California, activist who teaches classes on making biodiesel]. "That is a difficult process for small-scale producers to go through."

What's that you say? Regulation is often hardest to overcome for the small entrepreneur? It isn't an unalloyed good for society that makes us all safer and only really costs some of those big companies a few dollars profit? Color me gobsmacked! But if this, this theory is true, then wouldn't I have to accept that regulation could possibly be a bit of a stopper on the wellspring of new ideas and innovations? After all, if some small-scale producers find the process difficult, and don't have the time and money to wade through the process, who should we expect to live through it besides the more capital-rich companies? My God, the implications of this would be...

Well, enough of that. Let's see how people are trying to cope with the presence of EPA regulations:

Politicians in several cities, meanwhile, are eagerly passing pro-biodiesel resolutions to show they are doing something about the environment and America's fossil-fuel addiction.

"We have to start looking at more environmentally friendly options," said Boston City Councilor Maura Hennigan, who announced her run for the mayor's office this week. "People are going to look to the city government for leadership if this is going to take off."

Well, I suppose there's potential here of "working for change from the inside". But you'll pardon me if I'm skeptical of this, seeing as time and energy was spent on getting a governmental body together so they could be "pro-" something just to look like they're active. Who ever said I really want to see government doing more?

But there might be another piece of this puzzle.

"Most of the people enforcing codes regarding fuel production have a safety mentality evolved from the dangers of petroleum manufacturing," said Brian Winslett, director of Blue Ridge Biofuels, a co-op in Asheville.

Blue Ridge wants to set up a biodiesel production plant in Asheville's River District, an old industrial area that is gradually being reclaimed by artists, according to Winslett.

But the codes for industry in urban areas have become so strict that "you cannot thread one pipe or seam yourself," Winslett said. "It all has to be done by certified engineers. Those requirements can be crippling."

You don't say.

1 Comment

But the codes for industry in urban areas have become so strict that "you cannot thread one pipe or seam yourself," Winslett said. "It all has to be done by certified engineers. Those requirements can be crippling."

Errr.... What is a "certified engineer"? Perhaps he means "Professional Engineer" (PE) but then what would a PE be doing threading pipes.

I think what he wants is a licensed plumber to do pipe threading. If I were anywhere nearby, I would want him using a licensed plumber to fit up dangerous piping.

As well as a PE designing it.

John Henry


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This page contains a single entry by published on March 15, 2005 2:56 PM.

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