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Tailgating the hybrids

Biodiesel goes luxe

Prius too plebian? Not on the Lexus RX Hybrid waiting list? Call Biobling.

Based in Culver City, Colette Brooks’ Biobling specializes in cars that run on biodiesel, a biodegradable, clean-burning mixture of vegetable oil, lye and alcohol. Since new diesel cars can’t be sold in California (diesel exhaust is classified as a toxic air contaminant and carcinogen), Brooks scours the country for pre-owned diesel cars, pimps one to your specifications and sets you up with a soybean oil source like LA Biofuel in Santa Monica. All for a 20% finder’s fee, plus the cost of the bling.

Brooks has sold everything from a 1979 Cadillac El Dorado Biarritz (only 100 were made) to a slew of Mercedes and Jettas. Her favorite is a 1993 Mercedes 300 SD that looks like it just rolled out of the showroom.

“It’s this unique blend of unapologetic Rolls-Royce luxury mixed with old-school bling,” says Brooks, whose “green” ad agency Big Imagination Group provided celebs with chauffeured Prius hybrids at the 2003 Academy Awards.

Still, veggie cars face unique hurdles. Pure biodiesel spits out more smog-causing nitrogen dioxide than regular diesel. And diesel fuel with more than 20% vegetable oil can negate a manufacturer’s warranty.

Then there’s the problem of where to pump. Only 450 American gas stations offer biodiesel, including Willie Nelson’s BioWillie in Carl’s Corner, Texas. Biobling is in the process of setting up a fuel co-op that will allow drivers to buy into a large gallon tank of fuel.

However, some say it’s worth the effort.

“We have to get off the dinosaur tit,” says Woody Harrelson, who lives virtually car-free in a solar-powered community in Maui. “Hybrids are good, but we don’t really need to be using petroleum at all.”

The ultimate green car comparison

2005 Toyota Prius
MPG city/highway: 60/51
Greenhouse gas emissions per year: 3.5 tons
Eco factor: High celebrity factor.

2005 Volkswagen Jetta manual 5-speed diesel
MPG city/highway: 38/46
Greenhouse gas emissions per year: 5.2 tons
Eco factor: Long-lasting engine; California has the cleanest diesel fuel in the nation.

2005 Volkswagen Jetta B20 biodiesel (estimated)
MPG city/highway: 37/45
Greenhouse gas emissions per year: 4.4 tons
Eco factor: 10 times less toxic than table salt; in water, degrades by 88% in 28 days.