The Green Scene

A different kind of freedom fryer

Biodiesel gas station
photo by Jonathan Welch

There’s a singular aroma that emanates from veggie-powered vehicles, and as any cyclist who’s been stuck behind idling traffic can attest, it’s a welcome whiff compared with the exhaust of standard gasoline-fueled engines.

“It smells like a fryer,” James Young, who recently began fueling his truck with biodiesel, observes. If Young had his way, that french-fry stench would permeate roadways everywhere as a signal of independence from Middle Eastern oil — not a vision you’d expect from a typical gas-station owner. But the Kounty Line BP on Hendersonville Road in Arden is not your typical service station: Thanks to a partnership with Asheville-based Blue Ridge Biofuels, its newest pump began dispensing B20, a biodiesel blend, on Aug. 25.

Young, who has owned the BP station since 1983, hopes the rising cost of fuel will prompt Americans to seek out alternatives to oil. “We’re not going to get out of our addiction to petroleum overnight,” he comments. “But making biofuels more available is a start.”

Blue Ridge Biofuels, meanwhile, has been hinting that several other area service stations may be ready to jump on the veggie-oil bandwagon. The company is gearing up to start a permitting process for a B100 pump in Black Mountain and hopes to secure several more locations within the next year.

Shaping public space at the crossroads

A crew of around 30 workshop participants gathered in West Asheville on Sept. 9 and 10 to redesign a “problem intersection” where Westwood Road, Waynesville Road and Michigan Avenue come together. A joint effort of the N.C. School of Holistic Herbalism, Southeast Ecological Design and Earthaven, the community-planning session focused on developing surrounding green space to remedy the safety risk posed by high-speed traffic.

Instructor Peter Waskiewicz led the group in sketching out a master scheme guided by permaculture and ecological-design principals. Projects to flower in coming months include a medicinal herb garden, a neighborhood information kiosk, a bike rack, benches and sculpture gardens. The city of Asheville has granted preliminary approval for “intersection improvement” measures including installing crosswalks, extending the curb and relocating stop signs to make them more effective, and has already approved lowering the speed limit from 25 to 20 m.p.h.

“The city has been very cooperative and supportive of this project,” says Waskiewicz. “They’re really happy to have a neighborhood take initiative on a project like this. The best designs are created by the people who will use them.” The intersection-repair concept is based on a pioneer initiative called The City Repair Project, based in Portland, Ore. For information on past workshops, visit www.cityrepair.org.

Inching toward tree museums

You’ve heard of genetically engineered foods and their effects on neighboring organic crops, but what about GE trees?

According to the Dogwood Alliance, an Asheville-based nonprofit, industrial plantations of genetically engineered pine trees pose major threats to rural communities, wildlife habitat and forest bio-diversity.

“When GE tree pollen makes its way to a natural forest, it starts an ecological collapse,” explains Eva Hernandez, organizing director at the Dogwood Alliance. “The Southern U.S. has the most bio-diverse temperate forests in the world, yet the South is leading the world in research and development of GE trees, with more test plots of planted genetically engineered trees than anywhere else on Earth.”

In an effort to raise awareness about the social and environmental effects of GE trees, Dogwood Alliance has joined forces with the STOP GE Trees Campaign, ForestEthics and the Global Justice Ecology Project to launch a speaking tour throughout North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia. The kick-off will be this Sunday, Sept. 17, with a screening of the Endangered Forest Slide Show, a presentation detailing the impacts of GE trees on endangered forests in the southeastern U.S., Chile and Brazil. The event will be at 7 p.m. at UNCA’s Highsmith Student Union, Room 104.

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