USHUAIA, Argentina (Reuters) - When the squat, red firetruck, smelling of greasy french fries, reached the literal end of the road, two young Americans jumped out and gave each other “high fives.”
Nine months after they set off from Alaska to spread the gospel of biofuels, Seth Warren and Tyler Bradt completed their journey on Sunday at the end of Highway 3, which dead-ends at the southern tip of South America.
Along the way, the twenty-something buddies made hundreds of stops on two continents to ask for people’s used frying oil and animal fat, which powered their truck.
“What do people at the restaurants say when you ask them for the used oil? Do they think you’re crazy?” Osvaldo Colombero, a passerby, asked the men in Argentina’s Tierra del Fuego National Park.
“No, they think it’s super funny,” Bradt responded, standing beside the small Japanese fire truck that covered about 21,000 miles since July 2006.
The trip was part of the Oil and Water Project, created by Warren and Bradt to raise awareness of biofuels while taking them on a kayaking and surfing adventure through the Americas.
“People out in the world right now are starving for other sources of energy. With the (high) prices of petroleum, I’d say the economic benefits are astounding,” Warren said. “People need fuel for their lifestyles and this trip right here is just an example of how we fuel our lifestyle.”
The truck, baptized “Baby” by a Rastafarian in Belize, is packed with tanks to clean the waste vegetable oil or lard and turn it into fuel for its standard diesel engine.
In Alaska, the duo ran the truck on fish oil. In Mexico and Central America, they used pig fat from the Chicharroneras -- stands that serve fried bits of pork.
They fueled up with palm oil in Colombia and Ecuador and soy oil in Bolivia and Chile.
Along the way, they coordinated with U.S. embassies to organize seminars for children and university students about their trip and the use of biofuels.
The idea is to find alternatives to burning fossil fuels, which release gases like carbon dioxide that are linked to global warming.
The United States, the world’s biggest emitter of such gases, pulled out of the Kyoto Protocol, which binds most industrialized nations to cut harmful emissions.
“We’re trying to set an example of maybe how Americans should behave and how our country should act, and how we as a nation should provide a role model for the rest of the world to use alternative fuels,” Bradt said.
The men performed cartwheels at the national park sign which reads: “Alaska 17,848 km.” Warren grabbed a towel and headed for the nearby bay, where he planned to skinny-dip.
“How do I feel being at the end of the world? Well, in all honesty, it feels like just the beginning,” he said.