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Editorial Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, February 1, 2007

Make a difference, one engine at a time

As we hunker down against winter’s cold — yes, this is the way it’s supposed to be in the Northeast — it’s easy to forget about global warming. But we shouldn’t.

The buildup of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere continues to threaten to melt the polar ice sheets and irreversibly change our climate. As we go on using fossil fuels that create greenhouse gases, scientist warn of drastic climatic change.

The National Academies of Sciences of the eight major industrialized nations issued a joint statement in 2005: "The scientific understanding of climate change is now sufficiently clear to justify nations taking prompt action."

Our nation is not taking prompt action.

But some individuals are, and we can be inspired by them.

The license plate on Barbara Floeser’s diesel Volkswagon Jetta proudly proclaims "Fryride." The Altamont resident has converted her engine to run on vegetable oil, which is carbon neutral and therefore less harmful for the environment. It’s also free.

The conversion kit sells for about $800, but is paid for in gas savings. Floeser used to spend as much as $70 a week to fill the tank of her minivan. Now her husband stops by a restaurant every week to pick up used cooking oil, for free, which the restaurant would otherwise have to pay to discard.

The car performs just as if it were fueled with gasoline, the Floesers say. They see their conversion as a step in the direction of something better. Joseph Floeser believes hydrogen cars will probably replace gas-powered cars as the standard, just as CDs have replaced records.

"This would be like the eight-track thing," he said. "A good idea on the way to the cassette."

We admire the Floesers for taking a step in the right direction and we urge others to follow. Individuals, if there are enough of them acting responsibly, can make a difference.

While the federal government is slow to take leadership on environmental issues, we praise local municipalities that have done so.

The Greene County Highway Department has used a waste-oil-burning furnace for years. Superintendent Gary R. Harvey says he thinks it has saved the department money.

More importantly, though, it has provided a safe means of disposing of used oil, while reducing the need for more virgin oil. The furnace, marketed as a "recycling center," burns used crankcase, transmission, and hydraulic oils. This keeps used oils from polluting the environment or contaminating water supplies.

Individuals can contribute here, too. John Foley, owner of Foley’s Garage in New Scotland, has had a waste-oil furnace for his business for over 15 years. He says he has had "absolutely no problems" and has saved "serious money."

The town of Rensselaerville, to its credit, is considering purchasing a use-oil furnace for its highway department. But the politically-divided board has argued about the purchase for more than six months.

We don’t fault council members for raising questions and concerns, but surely six months is enough time to get answers and come up with solutions.

We urge Rensselaerville to proceed with the purchase of a waste-oil furnace and we urge other municipalities to follow suit, especially when old furnaces need to be replaced.

Little government can accomplish what big government won’t — help residents find a safe place to dispose of oils while protecting the environment and saving money to boot.

— Melissa Hale-Spencer, editor

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