Fill ‘er up — with coconut

Every time I pull into my favourite gas station and spend $10 dollars at the self -serve pump I can’t help but think – ‘There must be a better way?’ My $10 barley moves the gas gage needle and the next day it’s another $10 and the following day the same.

Well I could get a bikeā€¦but that’s too dangerous (just ask the Minister of Education). In old days gone by locals used to ride a donkey to George Town. I could try that; however the poor beast would be minced meat with the lunatic drivers we have on our roads. So what’s the alternative?

How about coconut oil?

Now for you folks who think I’ve gone completely mad – think again. In the South Pacific, on the island of Vanuatu, entrepreneur, mechanic and car rental owner Tony Dean is giving the Arabs the old ‘up-yours’ by modifying his vehicles to run on coconut oil.

According to Mr. Deamer coconut oil burns slower, it does not make black smoke, it is an environmentally friendly fuel and best of all it costs less to fill up your tank (at least in the South Pacific).

Like Cayman, in Vanuatu importing fuel is a heavy burden on the consumer and the economy and considering that island’s average per capita income is about US$1,200, it makes coconut fuel look that much more appealing.

The coconut tree offers endless usage in the South Seas. In the more rural areas the fronds are still used for making roofs, hats and mats.

The meat (copra) of the nut is used for making cooking and cosmetic oils, lotions and conditioners. The husk is used for burning to keep bugs away. The hard inner shell is used for making soup bowls, buttons and souvenirs.

The trunk is used for making stools, benches, boats, drums, and posts to support a thatched home. And for the average tourist a coconut tree is the symbol of the tropics. And now we add to its list of diversenessā€¦.. Automobile fuel.

Mr. Deamer has some dozen vehicles running on pure coconut fuel oil and as recently as June 2003 over 200 mini-buses were mixing coconut oil with diesel.

‘For every ton of diesel fuel that we can offset, we can put back some $200 into the local economy. And at those prices, people could earn a very good living cutting coconuts,’ said Deamer.

Mr. Sela Milisa, the Minister of Finance and Economic Management for Vanuatu, figures his country could save about US$5 million in fuel by going the coconut way, and for Vanuatu that’s a lot of money.

Of course an idea so simple would have problems. The coconut fuel is thicker – more viscous than other fuels and it usually contains more water and other impurities.

However this has not stopped Tony who has developed a small, cheap pre-heater that lowers the viscosity of the oil before it enters the engine and is working to develop a filtration system to remove water and other grime.

Vanuatu is northeast of Australia with a population of approximately 200,000 people. With some 80 islands it is not short of coconuts, in fact they harvest annually around 50,000 tons of nuts.

Would this concept work in Cayman?

I doubt it.

First of all we are too spoiled to pick coconuts and second, considering the destruction of trees by Ivan and over- development we might as well get used to the ever increasing cost of fill-ups, electricity and everything else.

For more info on coconut fuel -Google coconut fuel for cars.

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