Sunday, November 1, 2015

Bonzo Goes to Topeka

Bonzo Goes to Topeka

Great time with great folks at the Mother Earth News Fair in Topeka, October 24, 2015  Bonzo demonstrated how not much skill with snips, hammer, punch and drill can be translated into: 

Clean, Sustainable Home Electric Power.. 8 Hours After the Grid Goes Down, Using Only Local Materials

Bonzo's introduction to wood powered vehicles was a Mother Earth News article in the mid-70's, so this was a great opportunity to give back.

That historical MEN article found a mind receptive toward alternatives to gasoline.  An oil embargo had nearly stranded my dad a few hundred miles from home.  About the time of my first driver's license, gas prices were on the way to doubling, then doubling again.  And I was cutting and selling wood.  In cord wood production, there is a fair amount of waste, that is piled up and eventually burned.  At that time, woodgas seemed do-able, but complex.

About thirty years later, in 2007, a huge ice-storm in Southwest, MO, re-ignited interest in wood energy.  Square miles of trees and tree canopy were broken and twisted to the ground, making forests almost impassible for anything bigger than a squirrel.

Clearing wood debris was my young son's first introduction to the power of internal combustion engines.  He ran the four-wheeler as I ran the chain saw.  Together we cleared hundreds of acres of debris for friends and family, cutting it to the ground so it would rot faster.

Seeing the smile on his face as he experienced the power of a 4-wheeler, simultaneously feeling the sting of yet another round of almost doubling gasoline prices, I began pondering his energy future.  In my early teens, farm work was available a short walk in any direction, paid about $2.00 per hour.  Gasoline was about twenty cents a gallon.  So an hours work was worth about 10 gallons of gas.

In order for him to enjoy the same degree of energy freedom, he would have to be able to walk to a job that pays $20 per hour.  Putting pencil to paper, looking at raw btu numbers, we were using expensive energy to destroy clean energy, almost to the tune of the value of the land per acre.

That began a renewed search for the most effective ways to convert wood to useful energy, including wood power for internal combustion engines.

Since then, have personally met many modern masters of woodgas energy.  The group includes Dr. Tom Reed, forty year head of the Biomass Energy Foundation, Dr. Paul Anderson - DrTLUD, a world champion clean cook stove builder, and Wayne Keith, world leader in miles traveled on wood.  Insights gleaned from them and others were compiled into a book "Make Smoke, Burn Smoke".  The book contains basic information and understanding that can only come from first-hand meeting with experts.

"Make Smoke, Burn Smoke" continues to be the best way to gain basic understanding of the promise and practice of biomass energy.  But a whole lot of people had requested a hands-on practical "recipe" style format as a basis to begin their own experimentation.

That request led to the demo and presentation at Mother Earth News Fair.  By any measure it was a resounding success.  Thank you Mother Earth News and their sponsors for putting the event together. Thank you all who showed up, expressed interest and asked questions regarding the awesome power of clean, constantly renewing, stored solar energy - wood that is.   
"In the world of alt-energy, the wind does not always blow, the sun does not always shine, but smoke always rises." - SolarJeff

David Kaiser of CharGen, and Raymond Rissler of Missouri Gasification Systems visit in front of a commercial pyramid kiln, at Mother Earth News Fair in Topeka during grid-down to home power demo. (Tom's woodgas Ford Pickup in the background )

For PDF version of the presentation handout, or to schedule a demo in your neighborhood, contact freedombiomass at

1 comment:

  1. thanks