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Anyone on the lookout for information on gasohol would be well advised to locate an expert for advice first of all. But shopping for an expert -- the expert -- on alcohol production is a bit like Diogenes search for an honest man. The fog surrounding this quest is the sheer mass of data available supporting both sides of the controversy. Is alcohol suited for fuel? The authoritativeness attributed to any given source on that question seems to depend mostly on how many lips speak that given name at a given time.
A name you hear more frequently perhaps than any other when alcohol fuels are discussed is Scott Sklar, 34, director of the Washington, D.C. offices of the National Center of Appropriate Technology. Born and raised in Manhattan, educated at Washington's George Washington University, Sklar spent six months as director of research and development at the center's headquarters in, of all places, Butte, Montana. Then he was kicked up to what he jokingly refers to as "our embassy" less than a mile from the White House.
The lanky Sklar has an Amish-style beard and a scholar's zest for the minutiae of alternative fuel production. Virtually all the people contacted in the course of preparing the accompanying feature on alcohol fuels had heard of Sklar or knew him personally. The mention of his name elicited an occasional "harrumph" from critics of alcohol fuels and more than a few "sure, I know Scott well" replies from others all over the loose-knit college of alternative fuels zealots.
Since production of gasohol, or more accurately ethanol, methanol and (Sklar's personal favorite) butanol, will likely be an expanding industry for the foreseeable future, Sklar seemed to be a worthwhile expert to approach for recommendations on the best literature available.
One of the earliest and still one of the best sources available, to Sklar's thinking, is "The Small Fuel-Alcohol Distillery: General Description and Economic Feasibility Workbook," by Robert S. Chambers of the ACR Corporation, 808 South Lincoln Avenue, #14, Urbana, Illinois b1801.
Sklar has written that the book is "still the best resource for such a low price" -- it's free -- and adds that "I highly recommend it ... This 21-page workbook systematically walks you through the economics of the technology and marketing."
Sklar speaks just as highly of another ancient -- as gasohol literature goes -- alcohol fuels book, written way back in 1976. "Methanol and Other Ways Around the Gas Pump," by John Ware Lincoln, published by Garden Way Publishers, Charlotte, Vermont 05445, covers methanol conversion for automobiles, but the principles can be applied to ethanol, which is now the more acceptable motor fuel.
For the beginner, Sklar likes "Forger the Gas Pumps -- Make Your Own Fuel," by Jim Wortham and Barbara Whitener, Love Street Books, P.O. Box .S8163, Louisville, Kentucky 40258. This 84-page book, costing $3.95, covers most of the fundamental steps for using a pressure cooker to heat the mash, building your own solar still, modifying your automobile, and applying for a Department of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms permit. It was published in 1979 and includes full page illustrations.
"Brown's Alcohol and Motor Fuel Cookbook," written by Michael Brown in ]97Q and available from Desert Publications in Comville, Arizona 86325 for $6.95, is "the most well photographed, easy-to-understand book on car conversion yet printed," says Sklar.
Sklar converted his 1963 Rambler Classic to pure alcohol combustion several years and 10,000 miles ago. "I wish I had this book (then). The author includes full page pictures with technical illustrations and step-by-step instructions."
Brown covers carburetor modification, increasing engine compression, ignition and cold starting. The second half of this 140-page manual covers the basics of alcohol production, from the five gallon moonshine stills to 50 gallon batch production along with column design, stripper plates and solar stills.
Says Sklar, "All in all, this is a great publication and should be read by every- one interested in this field."
"Makin' It on the Farm," by Micki Nellis, and available for $2.95 from the American Agricultural Movement, P.O. Box 100, Iredell, Texas 76649, is "a really fine, concise, usable energy primer on alcohol production... ," Sklar says. Nellis's book covers enzyme use, solar stills, methanol and engine conversions as well as giving a little color on the pioneers of alcohol production -- the Gene Schroders, Al Turners, and Lance Crombies. "This book is a must for anyone who intends to produce ethanol, methanol or convert their , car," is Sklar's final word on Nellis's work.
Lately, Sklar has come across Larry Carley's book, "How to Make Your Own Alcohol Fuels," a 195-page manual available for $9.95 from the How-To Book Club, TAB Books, Inc., Blue Ridge Summit, Pennsylvania 17214.
"It's not as nicely illustrated as some," Sklar says, "but I recommend it because it has a good appendix, along with 13 chapters covering virtually every facet of production. Carley covers the brewer's basics, choice of feed stocks, four different basic stills as well as rules and regulations and engine conversions.
"But another one I kind of enjoyed is written by a guy named Raymond Wells. It's called 'Recipes and Excerpts from an Ex-Moonshiner's Memoirs'. It's published by Campbell, Inc. Box 1668, Knoxville, Tennessee 37901. It's only 10 pages long and sells for $1.25, but the guy describes a great moonshine still built out of a 50 gallon drum, a keg and a moonshine furnace."
In addition, Sklar has a list of considerably more technical papers written by such credible groups as the Solar Energy Research Institute (SERI) in Golden, Colorado and published by the Technical Information Center, U.S. Department of Energy, P.O. Box 62, Oakridge, Tennessee 37830. The book "Fuel from Farms -- A Guide to Small Scale Ethanol Production," is free. Sklar describes it as a valuable "textbook for the beginner, a community college or training organization.'
Sklar has dozens of other papers and thousands of pages of esoteric studies to recommend. If you're up for the Herculean task of absorbing every word on alcohol production, or are of a mind to do your own editing of available material, contact Sklar at NCAT, 815 15th Street, N.W., Suite 624, Washington, D.C. 20005, or call (202) 347-9193. -- Brian Lambert
Home Energy Digest, Summer 1981, Pages 139, 140
This material provided under "Fair Use" guidelines.