From the corridors of prestigious universities, government bureaus and her hard-working desk at the Worldwatch Institute, bioenergy researcher Suzanne Hunt is having a break from the hectic institutional setting to hit the road and drive 4,500 miles on grease power from the USA to Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and Costa Rica.
Together with 12 other enthusiasts promoting the use of renewable fuels, Hunt is competing in the Greaseball Challenge, a charity biofuel car rally from the United States to Central America to promote sustainability and the use of renewable fuels. Sponsored by the IDB, Hunt is driving a 1981 Volkswagen rabbit pickup powered by biodiesel fuel.
What makes this rally a challenge is that the five cars racing will collect waste grease along the route from biodiesel producers, diners, fast-food outlets, supermarkets, factories and farms. At the end all the vehicles will be donated to raise money to support small-scale biofuel projects in Central America–grassroots initiatives providing cheap, clean, and green fuels to local communities. The fundraising target is $20,000.
This rally is intended to raise awareness on the use of renewable fuels across the region and support grassroots initiatives. The drivers will visit bioenergy projects all along the way in order to learn from the field the obstacles and challenges in this developing sector, Hunt said. The knowledge will be share with institutions that have the leverage and resources needed to develop sustainable energy projects, Hunt added. “Hopefully, we could connect grassroots initiatives with the resources,” she said.
“We need to build this new energy sector from the bottom-up, taking into account environmental and social issues to make sustainable investments,” Hunt said. Institutions like the IDB can help a lot, she added.
“This rally is a great way of publicizing in our region the potential for biofuels, which have the potential not just as an energy alternative but also as a development tool,” said IDB Executive Vice President, Daniel Zelikow.
He added that there is a tremendous opportunity for biofuels in Latin America, and each country has different possibilities and challenges on this field. “One of the tasks of the Bank right now is to work with each country to come up with a biofuels plan as part of a broader sustainable energy commitment that we have,” he said.
President Luis Alberto Moreno will review the Bank’s renewable energy strategy and its work plan in member countries with strong biofuels potential, during an IDB public meeting on April 2 at Bank’s headquarters in Washington, D.C. Moreno will also discuss the particular challenges facing smaller Latin American countries that are launching biofuels industries and review the IDB’s role in the implementation of the biofuels cooperation agreement between Brazil and the United States. Also addressing on the subject at the event will be former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and former Brazilian Minister of Agriculture Roberto Rodrigues.
The briefing will include a first-look presentation of “A Blueprint for Green Energy in the Americas, ”a comprehensive study of biofuels markets through 2020 commissioned by the IDB.
All these Bank efforts, such as the sponsorship in the Greaseball Challenge and the new study, go hand in hand with the IDB’s Sustainable Energy and Climate Change Initiative (SECCI).