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Paul Wellman

A Non-Hippie Goes Bio

Meet Melissa Davis, an Unlikely Convert to Biodiesel


The choice has been around for years now, but for whatever reason, those who choose to fuel their vehicles with earth-friendly biodiesel gasoline tend to hail from the “hippie” set. Catch a car puttering past on biodiesel and there’s a good chance the driver will have a big beard, a taste for tofu, and a Grateful Dead album playing at high volumes rather than a three-piece suit, a $60 haircut, and a healthy stock portfolio. But with fresh blood splattered daily in the name of oil and Mother Nature getting close to taking a permanent sick day due to our fossil fuel addiction, there are more and more decidedly un-hippie people calming their conscience by empowering their lives with renewable energy.

Take, for example, Melissa Davis, a 25-year-old, attractive, professionally motivated woman gainfully employed in Montecito’s big money real estate industry. In a Coast Village Road parking lot stuffed with the gas-guzzling SUVs of her colleagues and clients, Davis, depending on the day, adds either one of two things to the mix: a bicycle or a dark blue 1979 biodiesel-fueled Mercedes-Benz station wagon. Laughing about the juxtaposition, Davis explained, “They [her colleagues] definitely think I’m weird, but it’s okay. : I definitely don’t know too many people like me who are into it.”

It hasn’t always been this way for Davis, who just over a year ago was the proud owner of two gas-suckers, a Toyota Tacoma and a BMW convertible. But then her environmental and political sensitivities-not to mention the heaps of money she was pumping into the gas tanks-got the best of her. “It wasn’t entirely political,” said Davis, “but not wanting to be dependent on foreign oil certainly had a lot to do with it.”

Before she could follow her convictions, though, Davis had to wade through the heaps of propaganda surrounding the bio versus gasoline debate. “Everybody thinks you need an expensive conversion kit, but that isn’t true at all,” she learned. “Any car that runs on diesel can also run on biodiesel.” It’s as simple as that.

And while it’s true that cars firing on the biodegradable, non-toxic biodiesel often require more frequent filter and hose changes than traditional petroleum eaters, Davis hardly notices the inconvenience. “I pretty much get everything I need with my regular oil change,” she said, adding, “It’s easy enough that soccer moms could be driving biodiesel cars if they wanted to. There aren’t really any more excuses.” And with your average biodiesel engine emitting about 60 percent less carbon dioxide than a typical petroleum car, the lack of excuses are joined by a bevy of incentives.

After finding her new car in Los Angeles, Davis returned to Santa Babylon to join the fast-growing ranks of biodiesel drivers. She started out by joining the bio co-op in the Funk Zone and occasionally purchasing the more expensive biodiesel available at the pumps of McCormix gas stations in Goleta and Santa Barbara. Despite being in a minority as a young female biodiesel convert, Davis said everyone she’s encountered has been more than helpful, even impressed. When the new U.S.A. Petroleum conveniently opened up on the Westside corner of San Andres and Carrillo streets several months ago, it just made her choice all the easier.

With the hot summer months approaching, Davis plans to leave all pumps behind and run her rig on straight canola, which can be done without any additional mechanical tweaking if the mercury’s high enough. And that’s a liberty Davis proudly proclaims would allow her to “continue driving my car even if the whole world falls apart tomorrow.”

Despite the fact that she’s filled up only once in the past year with traditional diesel, Davis doesn’t really see her choice as being that momentous-to her, going bio was merely a logical “stepping-off point” toward the next level of sustainable energy. Alluding to the big cloud of smoke that chokes out of her tailpipe every time she starts her car, Davis said, “I don’t really know how much of an impact I’m making by driving this thing. I definitely feel better when I ride my bike.”

That being said, you cannot help but note a hint of pride when she tells you, completely straight-faced, about her new car club, Sexy Bitches Who Roll Biodiesel. “I’m not sure who else is in the club with me,” she laughed, “but I’m looking for new members all the time. Don’t be scared.”

4•1•1

Go biodiesel, and then get your gas at McCormix gas stations in Goleta (55 Depot Rd.) and Santa Barbara (22 N. Calle Cesar Ch¡vez) and U.S.A. Petroleum (636 W. Carrillo St.).

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