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The Green Life: Q + A with Doug Fine: Mmm, Kung Pao Fuel

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April 25, 2008

Q + A with Doug Fine: Mmm, Kung Pao Fuel

Authorphotofms Journalist, goat herder, and Sierra contributor Doug Fine hits Leno tonight to talk about going green and his new book, Farewell, My Subaru. This onetime suburbanite now grows much of his own food (at "Funky Butte Ranch"), drives on vegetable oil, and generally makes an adventure out of low-impact living.

Green Life: You've said Farewell, My Subaru was in part an exploration of whether an American could live green without becoming overwhelmed by contradiction. What did you find?
Doug Fine: It IS indeed possible, though my own Hypocrisy Reduction Project is still continuing (witness the ongoing carbon-neutral misadventures I blog about at dougfine.com). But after two years at the Funky Butte Ranch, I have gotten most petroleum out of my life, while still enjoying the comforts most Americans take for granted. My washing machine, laptop, booming stereo speakers, fridge -- all are powered by the sun, and I drive on waste vegetable oil, for example.

GL: What's it like driving the R.O.A.T.? While you're at it, what the heck is it?
DF: Well, the R.O.A.T. is the Ridiculously Oversized American Truck I had to buy once I bid farewell to the Subaru. I needed a diesel vehicle to drive on vegetable oil, and I needed four wheel drive because the road to the Funky Butte Ranch is maintained with the frequency of the highway system in Somalia. So the result was a 2001 Ford F-250 3/4 ton monstrosity, that actually drives great on vegetable oil -- more fuel efficient than on diesel. I get almost 20 highway MPG on vegetable oil and the veggie oil tank is 80 gallons. So that's over 1500 miles per fill-up. The down side is the exhaust smells like Kung Pao Chicken, so I always have a bad case of the munchies.

GL: Any memorable experiences from your time as a Sierra intern?
DF: It was what started it all! I was blessed with great, supportive editors, including Paul Rauber, who is still there and is a rare combination of talented and humble. But one super important event for me was when I faxed the Alaska State Tourism Department from my Sierra cubicle asking for maps for an upcoming trip I was taking. Thinking I was some important Sierra writer, the folks in the Last Frontier turned me on to several cool Alaska stories, one of which (Katmai National Park) resulted in my first assignment for the magazine.

Want more Doug Fine? Read an excerpt from his book here or in our May/June issue.

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