Pedal Power and Sustainable Communities

Pedal power is helping the people of Kinchlingi, India to be a self sufficient, sustainable community. Only three to four hours of pedaling can produce a month’s supply of biodiesel fuel which pumps water to supply the drinking and sanitary needs of the 75 inhabitants of the village. Their hope is to generate electricity for lights and fuel small farm machines. Since the biodiesel is produced locally, food and fuel security is not an issue. Local entrepreneurs can benefit from using the biodiesel fuel by selling services like irrigation, oil expelling, lighting and machine operation. Secondary products from the pedal powered production of biodiesel fuel are oil cake which can be used as fertilizer in the community and glycerin which can be used to make soap.

The process is interesting. Oil is first pressed from local seeds using a manual press, leaving the residual oil cake for fertilizer use or animal feed. The pedal powered biodiesel reactor produces the fuel in 5 litre batches. Five minutes of pedaling combines the alcohol and lye and this is added to vegetable oil. Another hour of pedaling converts the oil-lye-alcohol mixture into biodiesel and glycerin. In two hours the glycerin and biodiesel have separated and voilà….fuel to run all kinds of machines and soap to clean up after!

To quote Ivan Illich the Austrian philosopher, “while being under mechanized is frustrating, over industrialization enslaves people to the tools of industrialization, and leads to inequity.”
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