Wood gas is an alternative fuel created by burning wood (or other biomass) in a machine called a gasifier. During World War II, wood-gas-powered generators and vehicles provided a way to get around the petroleum shortage. According to Richard Freudenberger’s article in Mother Earth News, there were over one million wood gas civilian vehicles in Asia and Europe by the end of the war.
One of our patrons was building their own gasifier and hoped to find some resources at the library. They checked out The Homeowner’s Energy Handbook by Paul Scheckel, which had a small section of information, but they were hoping for building plans. We looked in some of the other books about sustainable and off-the-grid living, including Chris Peterson’s Practical Projects for Self-Sufficiency, and we checked our collection of Foxfires and even some of our history books, but we couldn’t turn up anything.
We moved on to searching our online research databases. Typing “wood gas” into Academic Search Premier, one of the multidisciplinary databases available through CLEVNET, brought up a multitude of articles. Some were from scholarly journals, and one was “Wood Gas Wizard,” Freudenberger’s Mother Earth News article from April 2012. Freudenberger interviewed Wayne Keith, an Alabama farmer who was unwilling to pay more than $1.50 a gallon for gasoline. Keith started powering his vehicles with wood gas in 2004. His website, www.driveonwood.com, provides plans and other resources for others looking to do the same.